What Science Is Taught In Fourth Grade?

Written by Dan

Last updated

For many parents of fourth graders, the feeling is all too familiar. You finally have a moment to sit down and take stock of what your budding scholar has been learning this school year.

But when you look at their course syllabus, it can all seem a bit overwhelming! Is your child studying punnett squares and human anatomy already? If science has intimidated you in the past – don’t panic!

There are plenty of fun (and educational!) approaches to teaching science in fourth grade, allowing young minds to explore and grow without the stress or pressure that may have come with prior grades.

Read on for more information about what science is taught in fourth grade – from Earth Science basics to problem-solving activities related to forces and motion!

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

What Science Is Taught In Fourth Grade?

1. Overview of Fourth-Grade Science Curriculum

The fourth-grade science curriculum is designed to introduce students to various scientific concepts and develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The curriculum is typically divided into several core areas: life science, physical science, earth and space science, and the scientific process. Below is a brief overview of each area and its topics.

Life Science

In this section, students will learn about the characteristics and processes of living organisms. Topics covered include:

  1. Ecosystems: Students will explore the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers in the food chain, as well as the concept of food webs.
  2. Adaptations: Students will learn how plants and animals adapt to their environments and how these adaptations help them survive and reproduce.
  3. Life Cycles: The stages of life cycles for various organisms, such as insects, amphibians, and mammals, will be covered, along with the concept of metamorphosis.

Related: For more, check out our article on What Language Arts Are Taught In Fourth Grade here.

Physical Science

This area focuses on the properties of matter, energy, and forces. Topics covered include:

  1. Matter and its Properties: Students will learn about the states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) and the properties of each, as well as how temperature affects these states.
  2. Energy: The different forms of energy, such as kinetic, potential, and thermal energy, will be explored, along with the conservation of energy and energy transfer.
  3. Forces and Motion: Students will study the relationship between forces, motion, and speed, and learn how forces like gravity and friction affect objects.
Science TopicKey ConceptsLearning Objectives
Life Science– Ecosystems and habitats– Understand the interdependence of organisms and environments
– Plant and animal adaptations– Learn how living things adapt to their surroundings
Earth Science– Weather patterns and climate– Comprehend the basics of meteorology and climate zones
– Geological processes and the rock cycle– Explore how Earth’s surface changes over time
Physical Science– Properties of matter and states of matter– Grasp the concepts of solids, liquids, and gases
– Basic principles of force and motion– Learn about gravity, friction, and energy
Space and Astronomy– Solar system and the planets– Identify celestial bodies and their characteristics
– Earth’s rotation and revolution– Understand day and night cycles and seasons
Scientific Inquiry– The scientific method– Develop skills to ask questions, make observations, and conduct experiments
– Data collection and interpretation– Learn to analyze data and draw conclusions
Engineering and Technology– Simple machines and design processes– Apply scientific knowledge to solve problems
– The role of technology in society– Recognize the impact of technological advancements

This table provides an outline of the fundamental science concepts covered in fourth grade, along with the educational goals associated with each topic, which can be included in your article.

Earth and Space Science

In this section, students will explore the Earth and its relationship to the solar system. Topics covered include:

  1. Earth’s Systems: Students will learn about the geosphere (rocks and minerals), hydrosphere (water cycle), atmosphere (weather and climate), and biosphere (living organisms).
  2. Earth’s Resources: The importance of natural resources, such as water, soil, and minerals, will be discussed, along with the concept of renewable and nonrenewable resources.
  3. Solar System: Students will study the components of the solar system, including planets, moons, asteroids, and comets, as well as the role of gravity in shaping the solar system.

Related: For more, check out our article on What Grammar Is Taught In Fourth Grade here.

Scientific Process

Throughout the curriculum, students will develop important scientific skills, such as:

  1. Observation and Measurement: Students will learn to make accurate observations and measurements using tools like rulers, thermometers, and balances.
  2. Data Collection and Analysis: Students will collect data through experiments and analyze the results to conclude.
  3. Scientific Communication: Students will practice communicating their findings through written reports, oral presentations, and visual representations like graphs and diagrams.

The fourth-grade science curriculum aims to spark students’ curiosity and interest in the world around them while providing a solid foundation in key scientific concepts.

Engaging students in hands-on activities and encouraging critical thinking, they will develop a deeper understanding of science and its relevance to their everyday lives.

2. The Difference Between Physical and Life Sciences

The main difference between physical and life sciences taught in fourth grade lies in the focus of their study.

Both subjects are important branches of science but examine different aspects of the natural world. Here’s a brief overview of each:

Physical Science:

Physical science is the study of non-living systems and phenomena. It is primarily concerned with the properties and behaviour of matter and energy. In fourth grade, students learn about various topics within physical science, such as:

  1. States of Matter: Students learn about solids, liquids, and gases and how matter can change from one state to another (e.g., melting, freezing, evaporation, condensation).
  2. Properties of Matter: Students explore the physical properties of materials, such as mass, volume, density, and temperature.
  3. Forces and Motion: Students study the basic principles of forces (e.g., gravity, friction) and how they affect the motion of objects.
  4. Energy: Students investigate different forms of energy (e.g., kinetic, potential, thermal) and learn about energy transfer and conservation.

Life Science:

Life science, on the other hand, focuses on living organisms and their interactions with the environment. In fourth grade, the study of life science typically covers topics such as:

  1. Structure and Function of Living Organisms: Students learn about the basic units of life, including cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems. They explore the functions and structures of plants and animals.
  2. Ecosystems: Students are introduced to the concept of ecosystems and learn about the relationships between living organisms and their environments. They study food chains, food webs, and the roles of producers, consumers, and decomposers.
  3. Adaptations and Evolution: Students investigate how living organisms have adapted to their environments over time and how these adaptations influence their survival and reproduction.
  4. Reproduction and Life Cycles: Students explore the life cycles of various plants and animals, focusing on the processes of growth, development, and reproduction.

3. Emphasis Placed on Natural Phenomena and the Scientific Method

In fourth grade, a significant emphasis is placed on natural phenomena and the scientific method to encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

By introducing these concepts at an early age, educators aim to foster curiosity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in young minds.

Natural Phenomena

Natural phenomena are events or processes that occur in nature without human intervention. Examples include weather patterns, plant growth, animal behavior, and geological processes like erosion.

The fourth-grade science curriculum often focuses on these phenomena to help students better understand the natural world and its interconnected systems.

By studying these events, students learn about the Earth’s processes, ecosystems, and the impact of human activities on the environment.

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a systematic approach to investigating questions and solving problems in science.

It involves making observations, asking questions, forming hypotheses, conducting experiments, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions.

In fourth grade, students are introduced to the scientific method as a way to explore the natural world and develop their critical thinking skills.

By learning the scientific method, students:

  1. Understand the importance of asking questions and seeking answers through observation and experimentation.
  2. Develop the ability to think critically and analytically about the information they gather.
  3. Learn how to design experiments and control variables to test their hypotheses.
  4. Gain experience in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data.
  5. Discover the importance of sharing their findings with others and building upon existing knowledge.

Benefits of Emphasizing Natural Phenomena and the Scientific Method

There are several benefits to emphasizing natural phenomena and the scientific method in fourth grade:

  1. Fostering curiosity: By exploring natural phenomena, students develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. This curiosity drives them to ask questions, seek answers, and continue learning throughout their lives.
  2. Building critical thinking skills: The scientific method teaches students how to think critically and analytically, skills that are essential for success in various aspects of life, including academics, personal decision-making, and professional careers.
  3. Promoting problem-solving abilities: By learning to use the scientific method, students develop problem-solving skills that can be applied to a wide range of situations, both within and outside the realm of science.
  4. Preparing for future learning: Introducing students to natural phenomena and the scientific method in fourth grade lays a strong foundation for more advanced middle and high school science courses. It also prepares them for a lifetime of learning and scientific inquiry.

4. Core Concepts of Energy, Motion, Force, and Waves

In fourth grade, students will explore the fascinating world of science by delving into the core concepts of energy, motion, force, and waves. These topics are essential for building a strong foundation in physics, and understanding them will enable students to connect with other scientific disciplines as they continue their education.

1. Energy

In fourth grade, students will learn about the different forms of energy, such as kinetic and potential energy. They will explore how energy can be transferred from one object to another and how it can be converted from one form to another.

For example, they might study how a roller coaster’s potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy as it moves down the track.

Students will also learn about energy conservation, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another.

2. Motion

Motion is a fundamental concept in the study of physics, and fourth-grade students will begin to understand the basics of how objects move.

They will learn about the concepts of speed, velocity, and acceleration, and how these quantities can be used to describe an object’s motion. Students will also explore how forces can affect motion, leading them to the next core concept – force.

3. Force

Force is a crucial concept in understanding how objects interact with one another and their environment. In fourth grade, students will learn about the different types of forces, such as gravitational, frictional, and magnetic forces.

They will study Newton’s laws of motion, which describe the relationship between force and motion. For example, they will learn that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force (Newton’s first law), and that force equals mass times acceleration (Newton’s second law).

4. Waves

Finally, fourth-grade students will be introduced to the concept of waves. They will learn that waves are disturbances that transfer energy from one place to another, and they will explore the different types of waves, such as sound waves, light waves, and water waves.

Students will study the properties of waves, including wavelength, frequency, and amplitude, and they will learn how these properties affect the behaviour of waves.

5. Principles Of Chemistry And Matter

In fourth grade, students are introduced to the basic principles of chemistry and matter.

This foundational knowledge helps them understand the world around them and serves as a stepping stone for more advanced scientific concepts in later years.

Here are some key principles of chemistry and matter taught in fourth grade:

  1. States of matter: Students learn that matter exists in three primary states: solid, liquid, and gas. They explore the characteristics of each state, such as shape, volume, and the arrangement of particles.
  2. Atoms and molecules: Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter, and molecules are formed when atoms combine. Fourth-graders are taught that everything they see, touch, and interact with is made up of atoms and molecules.
  3. Elements and compounds: Elements are pure substances made up of only one type of atom, while compounds are made up of two or more types of atoms chemically bonded together. Students learn about the periodic table and the elements that make up the world around them.
  4. Physical and chemical changes: Students explore the differences between physical and chemical changes. Physical changes involve changes in size, shape, or state of matter without altering the substance’s composition. In contrast, chemical changes involve a substance changing into a new substance with different properties.
  5. Mixtures and solutions: A mixture combines two or more substances that do not chemically bond, while a solution is a special kind of mixture where one substance dissolves in another. Students learn about the properties of mixtures and solutions and methods to separate them, such as filtration and evaporation.
  6. Conservation of mass: The principle of conservation of mass states that matter cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. Students learn that the total mass of the substances involved remains constant during any physical or chemical change.
  7. Density: Density measures how much mass is contained in a given volume. Students learn to calculate density by dividing an object’s mass by its volume and understand how it relates to an object’s ability to float or sink in a fluid.

6. Exploration of the Earth’s Structure, Weather Systems, and Ecology

In fourth grade, students are introduced to a variety of important scientific concepts that help them understand the world around them.

Among these topics are exploring Earth’s structure, weather systems, and ecology. By learning about these subjects, children better understand the planet they live on and how different elements interact with one another.

Exploration of Earth’s Structure

Studying Earth’s structure gives students an understanding of the various layers that make up our planet. They learn about the core, mantle, and crust and the different types of rocks and minerals found within these layers.

This knowledge helps students appreciate the geological processes that shape the Earth’s surface, such as plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

In fourth grade, students may also be introduced to the concept of the rock cycle. This cycle demonstrates how rocks can change over time through processes like erosion, melting, and solidification.

By understanding this cycle, students can appreciate the dynamic nature of Earth’s structure and the fascinating ways it has evolved.

Weather Systems

Weather plays a significant role in our daily lives, and fourth graders are taught about the various components that make up weather systems. They learn about temperature, precipitation, humidity, air pressure, wind, and how these factors interact to create different weather patterns.

Students also explore the water cycle, which is a crucial component of weather systems. They learn how water evaporates from the Earth’s surface, forms clouds, and eventually falls back to the ground as precipitation.

This understanding helps them grasp the role of water in shaping our planet’s climate and ecosystems.

Furthermore, students may be introduced to more complex concepts like fronts, air masses, and weather forecasting. These topics give students a deeper understanding of how meteorologists predict the weather and how different conditions can impact their local environment.


Ecology is the study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment. In fourth grade, students begin to explore the various ecosystems found on Earth, such as forests, deserts, and oceans.

They learn about the different plants and animals that inhabit these ecosystems and how they have adapted to their surroundings.

Students also examine the concept of food chains and webs, which illustrate energy flow through an ecosystem. By understanding how plants and animals depend on each other for survival, students can appreciate the delicate balance within each ecosystem.

Additionally, fourth graders are often introduced to human impact on the environment. They learn about pollution, deforestation, habitat destruction, and the importance of conservation efforts to protect our planet’s ecosystems.

In conclusion, fourth-grade science curricula provide students with a solid foundation in Earth’s structure, weather systems, and ecology.

These topics help students develop an appreciation for the natural world and the complex interactions that occur between its various components. As they continue their education, this knowledge will serve as a basis for deeper exploration into more advanced scientific concepts.


Q1: What are some effective teaching strategies for science education

A1: Some effective teaching strategies for science education include:
1. Inquiry-based learning
2. Project-based learning
3. Collaborative learning
4. Differentiated instruction
5. Use of real-world examples and case studies
6. Integration of technology
7. Hands-on experiments and demonstrations
8. Visual aids and graphic organizers
9. Formative assessment
10. Encouraging critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Q2: How can I make science lessons more engaging for my students?

A2: To make science lessons more engaging, consider the following tips:
1. Relate science concepts to real-life situations and current events
2. Include hands-on activities, experiments, and demonstrations
3. Use multimedia resources, such as videos, simulations, and interactive websites
4. Encourage group discussions and debates
5. Incorporate games and competitions to promote active learning
6. Design projects that allow students to explore their interests
7. Foster a positive and supportive classroom environment

Q3: How can I differentiate instruction in my science classroom?

A3: Differentiating instruction in a science classroom can be done by:
1. Adjusting the content or materials used based on students’ needs
2. Offering a variety of instructional approaches (e.g., lectures, discussions, hands-on activities)
3. Providing choices in assignments and assessments
4. Modifying the pace of instruction to accommodate different learning styles
5. Using flexible grouping strategies for collaborative activities
6. Offering extra support or challenges based on individual student needs

Q4: How can I encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in science education?

A4: To encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills, try the following strategies:
1. Pose open-ended questions and encourage students to think deeply about the concepts
2. Integrate real-world problems and case studies into lessons
3. Encourage students to ask questions and seek answers through research
4. Foster a classroom environment that values curiosity, creativity, and collaboration
5. Provide opportunities for students to analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate their findings

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.






Join our email list to receive the latest updates.

Add your form here