Fourth grade is a year when learning about science can really take off. Children are now competent readers and writers and can do a reasonable amount of calculations in math. As a result, they can handle the study of more complex subjects such as astronomy, motion and gravity, and the weather. As in earlier grades, however, it will be up to your child’s teacher to determine what to emphasize in the science curriculum.
A Multidisciplinary Approach
With so many demands on teachers, the only way to squeeze in adequate time for science is to “cross the curriculum” and integrate science into math, English, and even the arts. In addition to being a practical necessity for teachers, crossing the curriculum has many benefits for your child. Kids learn that in school, as in life, information is interconnected, and the skills that serve them well in one subject can help with problem-solving in another. What’s more, educators believe a multidisciplinary approach is more interesting for kids than a one-dimensional, single-focus approach, helping students to retain such lessons longer.
Springboard to Storytelling
Having children write about their science experiences is one common way that teachers combine science and language arts. Your child may have a science notebook in which he writes about the activities and experiments he conducted in class, including his predictions, procedures, and conclusions. But science writing doesn’t have to be strictly technical. Your child may also get a chance to write fiction and poetry based on field trips and observations of nature.
Reinforcing Math Skills
Math also flows naturally into science. A study of the weather, for instance, yields many opportunities for integrating math and science skills, including measuring barometric pressure, temperature, and wind speed.
Science can even be integrated with the creative arts, to great success. At Brookdale Avenue Elementary School in Verona, New Jersey, the 4th grade’s study of the solar system is capped off every year with a modern dance unit. Together with a choreographer and a percussionist who visit the school for several weeks, the children create a dance program in which they portray the motion and distinctive characteristics of the planets, while an interpretive poem is read about the creation and wonder of the universe. On the night of the final performance, parents narrate the poem while students perform as a group. Individually, the expressive dance movements the students have created portray their interpretation of the sun and planets.