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Grade 4

“In grade 4, students observe and interpret patterns related to the transfer of ... energy on Earth, in physical interactions, and in organisms.” Fourth graders begin the year by interpreting “...patterns of change over time as related to the deposition and erosion in landscape formation. They study today’s landscapes to provide evidence for past processes” in the Earth’s Changing Surface unit. Students are introduced to modeling as a tool to both make meaning of abstract science concepts but also to communicate their understanding.

In both the Energy and Engineering and Waves units “students learn about energy—its motion, transfer, and conversion” (change) “—in different physical contexts… They work through the engineering design process, focusing on developing solutions by building, testing, and redesigning prototypes to fit a specific purpose.”

Finally, in the Environments and Living Things unit, students learn that animals’ internal and external structures support life, growth, behavior, and reproduction” and that some of these structures allow for greater success in changing environmental conditions. (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 51)

Unit Description Essential Questions
Earth's Changing Surface
The Earth is always changing; sometimes changes happen over long periods of times and sometimes changes happen quickly.

Since geological features are created through geological processes, scientists use landform and fossil evidence to understand how the Earth has changed over time.

Multiple models are needed in order to help scientists think about and explain complex patterns and interrelated processes.
Why is the earth’s surface shaped the way it is?

How do models inform our understanding of the shape of the earth’s surface?
Energy and Engineering
There are many forms of energy all of which come from other energy and cannot be created from nothing.

There are predictable outcomes when energy is changed from one form to another or transferred from one object to another or one place to another.

There are tradeoffs between the renewability of an energy source and its ability to generate enough energy.
What happens to energy on earth?

How do people choose which disadvantages they can live with?
Waves Models help us understand how waves transfer energy and explain the predictable patterns of how waves move matter.

Words and images can be encoded or digitized using simple patterns in order to make them easier to transmit and communicate over longer distance.

Technology changes over time in response to people's needs and wants and their demands for new and improved technologies.
How can models help us understand and explain the world around us?

How does understanding our world make our lives better?

How do people choose which disadvantages they can live with?
Environments and Living Things
There are a variety of structures (adaptations) that different plants and animals use to survive and reproduce in specific environments.

Changes to an environment affect how well an organism with specific structures and behaviors can survive and reproduce.

Fossils can show structures of plants and animals that lived in the past which provides evidence about how the environment has changed.
Why would a scientist say, “There’s no place like home.”?

What happens to organisms when environments change?

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2016). 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. Malden, MA: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.