What Science Is Taught In First Grade?

Written by Dan

Last updated

Are you the parent of a first grade student, curious about what science topics are covered in their classroom? If so, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this blog post, we’ll closely examine some of the science topics typically taught in first grade classrooms. We’ll provide an overview of different scientific concepts explored and teachable moments brought up during class time.

By understanding more about what your child is learning in Science class, you can become better equipped to help them with any assignments they may bring home or answer questions. Still, it also gives you as parents exciting opportunities to explore these concepts together either inside or outside of school!

Related: For more, check out our article on How To Improve Writing In First Grade  here.

Overview of Science in the First Grade Curriculum 

First grade marks a significant milestone in a child’s education, as it is many students’ first year of formal schooling. Science plays a critical role in the first-grade curriculum, providing an essential foundation for future learning and fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural world.

The first-grade science curriculum is designed to introduce students to various scientific concepts, processes, and skills. This overview will highlight the key focus areas in first-grade science education, helping parents and educators understand what to expect.

Life Science

Students explore living organisms’ characteristics, needs, and habitats in the life science unit. They learn about the differences between living and non-living things and basic plant and animal classification. Key topics include:

  • Identifying the basic needs of living organisms (food, water, air, and shelter)
  • Recognizing the different parts of plants and understanding their functions
  • Comparing and contrasting various animal habitats and adaptations
  • Understanding the life cycles of various animals, such as insects, amphibians, and mammals

Earth Science

The earth science unit introduces students to the earth’s natural resources, weather patterns, and seasonal changes. Students learn how these factors influence the environment and living organisms. Key topics include:

  • Identifying different types of natural resources (air, water, soil, minerals)
  • Understanding the water cycle and its impact on weather patterns
  • Exploring various weather conditions and how they affect the environment
  • Observing and describing seasonal changes and their effects on plants, animals, and humans

Physical Science

In the physical science unit, first graders delve into the properties of matter and energy and the basics of motion and force. Students participate in hands-on activities and experiments to help them understand these concepts. Key topics include:

  • Identifying and describing the three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas)
  • Investigating the properties of materials (color, texture, size, shape)
  • Exploring the concept of energy, including heat, light, and sound
  • Understanding the basics of motion and force, such as pushing and pulling

Scientific Inquiry and Skills

Throughout the first-grade science curriculum, students develop essential scientific inquiry and skills. These include observing, questioning, predicting, investigating, and communicating their findings. Students are encouraged to:

  • Make observations using their senses and describe what they notice
  • Ask questions to guide their learning and seek answers through investigation
  • Make predictions based on prior knowledge and test them through experiments
  • Collect and analyze data, concluding their findings
  • Share their discoveries with peers and teachers, using various forms of communication

The first-grade science curriculum aims to spark a lifelong love for learning and curiosity about the world around us. By introducing students to life, earth, and physical sciences and developing essential scientific inquiry skills, young learners are well-equipped to tackle more complex scientific concepts in the future.

Introducing Scientific Inquiry to Young Learners 

Scientific inquiry is a powerful tool that can spark young learners’ curiosity and critical thinking skills. By introducing scientific inquiry to first graders, teachers can lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and exploration.

What is Scientific Inquiry?

Scientific inquiry is a process that involves asking questions, making observations, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, and drawing conclusions based on evidence. This learning method encourages students to think critically, collaborate with others, and develop problem-solving skills.

Strategies for Introducing Scientific Inquiry to First Graders

  1. Start with Questions: Encourage students to ask questions about the world around them. Provide opportunities to explore their curiosity and foster a classroom environment that values questions and open discussion. This can be done through daily question prompts or open-ended projects that allow students to explore topics they are interested in.
  2. Introduce Observation Skills: Teach students to observe their surroundings and record their observations. This can be done through nature walks, examining objects up close, or using magnifying glasses and microscopes. Encourage students to notice patterns, changes, and similarities between different objects.
  3. Teach Hypothesis Formation: Help students understand the concept of forming a hypothesis, an educated guess based on their observations. Guide them through making predictions about what might happen in a given situation and encourage them to experiment with their hypotheses.
  4. Design Simple Experiments: Engage students in hands-on activities that allow them to test their hypotheses. These experiments should be age-appropriate and safe, such as testing the buoyancy of different objects in water or observing the effects of sunlight on plants. Please encourage students to record their findings and discuss the results.
  5. Draw Conclusions: Teach students to analyze their data and draw conclusions based on their observations and experiments. Please encourage them to consider whether their hypotheses were supported or refuted and discuss possible explanations for their findings.
  6. Foster a Growth Mindset: Emphasize the importance of perseverance and learning from mistakes. Encourage students to view challenges as opportunities for growth, rather than as failures. This mindset will help them develop resilience and adaptability, essential scientific inquiry skills.

Tips for Engaging First Graders in Scientific Inquiry

  • Use age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts to ensure students fully understand and engage with the material.
  • Incorporate hands-on activities and real-life examples to make learning more engaging and relatable.
  • Provide opportunities for students to work in small groups or pairs, as this promotes collaboration and communication skills.
  • Please encourage students to share their ideas, questions, and discoveries with the class, fostering a sense of community and mutual support.

Exploring Physical Science in First Grade 

Physical science is essential to early education as it allows young learners to develop a strong foundation in scientific concepts. Introducing physical science concepts to first graders can spark their curiosity and encourage a love for learning that will last a lifetime.

Why Teach Physical Science in First Grade?

First grade is a critical time for children to develop their understanding of the world around them. Physical science, which includes topics like matter, energy, and forces, provides the basis for understanding how things work in our daily lives. By introducing these concepts at an early age, we can:

  1. Foster curiosity: Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and physical science provides a framework for answering their questions about how things work.
  2. Develop problem-solving skills: Physical science encourages children to think critically, make observations, and draw conclusions based on evidence.
  3. Build a strong foundation for future learning: A solid understanding of physical science concepts will help prepare students for more advanced science courses in later grades.

Engaging Activities for Teaching Physical Science in First Grade

The key to teaching physical science effectively is to make it fun and engaging for young learners. Here are some hands-on activities that you can use to introduce physical science concepts in your first-grade classroom:

  1. Sink or Float: This classic experiment helps children understand the concept of density. Provide a variety of objects (e.g., small toys, coins, fruits) and a container filled with water. Have students predict whether each object will sink or float, then test their predictions by placing the objects in the water. Discuss the results and explain how the density of an object determines whether it sinks or floats.
  2. Magnet Exploration: Introduce the concept of magnetism by providing students with different types of magnets and objects (e.g., paper clips, coins, plastic toys). Encourage students to explore which objects are attracted to the magnets and discuss why some objects are magnetic while others are not.
  3. Shadow Play: Teach first graders about light and shadows by setting up a simple shadow play station. Place a flashlight or lamp on one side of a large piece of paper or a whiteboard, and have students create shadows using their hands or small objects. Discuss how the size and shape of the shadow change as the object moves closer to or further from the light source.
  4. Ramp Races: Introduce the concept of forces and motion by setting up a ramp using a long piece of cardboard or a book. Provide toy cars or marbles and have students race them down the ramp. Experiment with different inclines and discuss how the ramp’s angle affects the objects’ speed.
  5. States of Matter Dance: Help students understand the difference between solids, liquids, and gases by engaging them in a fun movement activity. Assign each student a state of matter and have them move around the room accordingly (e.g., solid: slow, rigid movements; liquid: flowing, smooth movements; gas: fast, erratic). Switch roles and discuss the characteristics of each state of matter.

By incorporating these activities into your first-grade curriculum, you can create a fun and engaging learning environment to help your students develop a strong foundation in physical science concepts. Remember, the key is to make learning enjoyable and interactive, so don’t be afraid to get creative and adapt these activities to suit the needs of your classroom.

Investigating Life Science in the First-Grade Classroom 

As young learners enter the fascinating world of life science, first-grade classrooms are perfect for sparking curiosity and providing hands-on experiences. Teachers can help students develop a lifelong love for biology and the natural world by incorporating engaging and age-appropriate activities.

The Importance of Life Science in First Grade

Life science is essential to early education, as it introduces children to the basic concepts of biology, ecology, and the environment. By exploring life science in first grade, students will:

  1. Develop an understanding of living organisms and their characteristics.
  2. Recognize the interdependence of living things in ecosystems.
  3. Gain an appreciation for the natural world and the importance of conservation.
  4. Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through inquiry-based learning.
  5. Build a foundation for future scientific study and STEM-related careers.

Engaging Life Science Activities for First Graders

Observing Living Things

One of the best ways to introduce life science to first graders is by observing living organisms up close. Teachers can bring in plants, insects, or small animals such as fish or snails for students to watch and discuss. Please encourage students to ask questions, make predictions, and record their observations in a science journal.

Growing Plants

Growing plants in the classroom is an excellent hands-on activity that teaches students about plant life cycles, photosynthesis, and the importance of sunlight and water. Provide each student with a small pot, soil, and seeds to grow their own plant. Throughout the process, have students document the plant’s growth and changes in their science journals.

Animal Habitats

Creating small-scale animal habitats in the classroom allows students to learn about different ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them. Divide students into groups and assign each group a specific habitat, such as a desert, rainforest, or ocean. Have each group research their assigned habitat’s plants, animals, and environmental conditions, then create a diorama or poster to present their findings.

Life Cycles

Teaching students about life cycles is a fundamental aspect of life science education. Use visuals, such as diagrams and videos, to explain the life cycles of various organisms, including plants, insects, and animals. Incorporate hands-on activities, like raising butterflies or observing the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs, to give students a deeper understanding of these processes.

Food Chains and Food Webs

Introduce first graders to food chains and food webs by discussing the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers in an ecosystem. Use visual aids, such as posters or interactive online resources, to help students understand energy flow within ecosystems. Engage students in creating their food chains using pictures or drawings of various organisms.

Assessing Student Learning

Assessment is an essential part of the learning process, as it allows teachers to gauge student understanding and adjust instruction accordingly. To assess first graders’ knowledge of life science concepts, consider using a combination of formative and summative assessments, such as:

  1. Observations and anecdotal notes during hands-on activities.
  2. Science journal entries documenting student observations, predictions, and reflections.
  3. Group projects or presentations on topics such as habitats or food chains.
  4. Short quizzes or tests covering key vocabulary and concepts.

By incorporating engaging, hands-on activities and age-appropriate assessments, first-grade teachers can help their students develop a strong foundation in life science that will serve them well in future scientific endeavors.

Examining Earth and Space Sciences at This Level 

Introducing young learners to the fascinating world of Earth and space sciences is essential to their educational journey. By doing so, we can spark their curiosity, encourage critical thinking, and lay the foundation for a lifelong interest in science.

In first grade, students are eager to explore and make sense of the world around them. This provides the perfect opportunity to delve into Earth and space sciences basics.

Exploring Our Planet

First-graders can begin by learning about the Earth’s structure, its landforms, and various natural resources. They can explore different types of rocks and minerals and understand the importance of soil for plant growth. They can also be introduced to the water cycle and its role in shaping the Earth’s surface.

Hands-on Activities

  • Rock Collection: Encourage students to collect and examine rocks in their surroundings. They can then sort them based on color, texture, or size.
  • Soil Investigation: Have students observe and compare soil samples from different locations, discussing the characteristics and how plants might grow in each type.

Investigating Weather and Climate

First-graders can also learn about weather patterns and how they affect our daily lives. They can observe and record temperature, precipitation, and wind direction using simple tools like thermometers, rain gauges, and windsocks. Introducing the concept of climate helps students understand how weather patterns change over time and vary across different regions.

Hands-on Activities

  • Weather Journal: Students can maintain a daily weather journal, recording temperature, precipitation, and general observations.
  • Create a Windsock: Have students create their own windsocks and use them to observe wind direction in their schoolyard or backyard.

Discovering the Solar System

At this age, students can be introduced to the wonders of the solar system. They can learn about the Sun, Moon, and other celestial bodies and how they move about one another. First-graders can also begin to grasp the concept of day and night, the changing phases of the Moon, and the Earth’s rotation and revolution.

Hands-on Activities

  • Phases of the Moon: Use a flashlight and a small foam ball to demonstrate the different phases of the Moon.
  • Planetarium Visit: Organize a field trip to a local planetarium or set up a classroom “planetarium” with posters and models of celestial bodies.

Examining Earth and space sciences at the first-grade level can foster a sense of wonder and curiosity in young learners. Through hands-on activities and engaging lessons, students can develop a strong foundation in scientific concepts and an appreciation for the natural world around them.

Fostering an Appreciation for Nature with Outdoor Exploration

Outdoor exploration is vital to a first grader’s education, as it encourages a love and appreciation for nature while providing hands-on learning experiences. Teachers can help students develop essential skills such as observation, critical thinking, and problem-solving by engaging them in outdoor activities. Here are some ways to foster an appreciation for nature with outdoor exploration in first grade.

Engaging in Nature Walks

Nature walks offer a simple yet effective way to introduce young learners to the beauty of the natural world. Teachers can plan guided walks through school grounds, local parks, or nearby nature reserves, encouraging students to observe and appreciate the various plants, animals, and habitats they encounter.


  • Nature Bingo: Create a bingo card with images of plants, animals, and natural objects that students will likely find during the walk. As they spot each item, they can cross it off their card.
  • Sensory Scavenger Hunt: Encourage students to use their senses to find items that are soft, rough, fragrant, or make a sound, such as leaves, tree bark, flowers, or rustling grass.

Incorporating Gardening

Gardening is a fun and rewarding way for first-graders to learn about plants, insects, and the environment. By participating in gardening activities, students can gain a deeper understanding of how plants grow, pollination’s importance, and decomposers’ role in nutrient cycling.


  • Planting Seeds: Have students plant seeds in pots or a designated garden area and observe the growth process over time.
  • Compost Exploration: Set up a compost bin and have students add food scraps and yard waste. Discuss decomposition and the role of microorganisms in breaking down organic matter.

Observing Local Wildlife

By observing local wildlife, first-graders can develop a sense of wonder and respect for living creatures. Teachers can help students learn about the various birds, insects, and small mammals that inhabit their surroundings and explore their habitats, behaviors, and adaptations.


  • Bird Watching: Set up a bird feeder near the classroom window and provide students with binoculars and field guides to identify the visiting birds.
  • Insect Investigation: Have students use magnifying glasses to observe insects in their natural habitats, discussing their unique features and roles in the ecosystem.

Encouraging Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is essential for young children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. It provides opportunities for exploration, social interaction, and the development of motor skills. By incorporating outdoor play into the daily routine, teachers can encourage students to connect with nature and develop a lifelong appreciation for the outdoors.


  • Nature Art: Collect leaves, twigs, rocks, and other natural materials for students to create art projects, such as collages, sculptures, or nature-inspired drawings.
  • Outdoor Games: Organize games that involve running, jumping, and climbing, such as tag, hide-and-seek, or an obstacle course using natural elements like logs and rocks.

Fostering an appreciation for nature in first grade through outdoor exploration helps young learners develop a sense of responsibility and care for the environment. Students can forge a strong connection with nature that lasts a lifetime by engaging in activities that promote observation, curiosity, and hands-on learning.

Science in first grade is a fun and unique way to introduce young children to the world of scientific exploration. From exploring life cycles to learning about living things, first graders can gain a sense of appreciation for the complexity of nature and the life around them.

Additionally, understanding cause-and-effect relationships helps children strengthen their reasoning skills and learn more about their environment. Science encourages creativity and curiosity, so it’s no wonder why it remains a favorite subject for students! All in all, teaching science to first graders can be a fantastic experience that opens up endless possibilities down the road. 

So if you’re looking to get into STEM fields as a career or explore the wonders of science during leisurely activities with your child – start exploring! And don’t forget to check out our other articles on this exciting subject!


1. What are the primary science topics covered in first grade?

In first grade, students are introduced to a variety of science topics, including life science (plants and animals), Earth and space sciences (Earth’s structure, weather and climate, and the solar system), and physical science (properties of matter, forces and motion, and energy). These subjects provide a foundation for further scientific learning in later grades.

2. How are first graders introduced to the scientific method?

First-grade students are introduced to the basics of the scientific method through hands-on activities and experiments. Teachers guide students through making observations, asking questions, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, and drawing conclusions. This helps students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

3. Are there any specific standards for teaching science in first grade?

Many countries and states have specific educational standards for teaching science in first grade. In the United States, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) guide educators to ensure that students receive a comprehensive and age-appropriate science education. These standards outline the essential concepts and skills that students should acquire at each grade level.

4. How can parents support their child’s first-grade science learning?

Parents can support their child’s science learning by engaging them in conversations about scientific topics, encouraging curiosity and exploration, and providing opportunities for hands-on experiences. This can include visiting museums, participating in nature walks, conducting simple experiments at home, or using educational resources such as books, websites, and apps.

5. Do first graders conduct experiments in the classroom?

Yes, first graders often participate in simple experiments and hands-on activities in the classroom. These activities help students develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts, practice the scientific method, and learn how to work collaboratively with their peers. Teachers typically design these experiments to be safe and age-appropriate for young learners.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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