What Science Is Taught In Third Grade?

Written by Dan

Navigating the school system as a parent can be challenging, especially when understanding what topics are taught in each grade level. The third grade is an essential step in students’ educational journey, and many parents have likely asked themselves: what science is taught in third grade?

As modern education has shifted focus to lay a stronger foundation for higher-level learning, much of the material that children learn during this age is essential for their growth and developing of critical problem-solving skills they will use throughout life. In this blog post, we’ll cover all the basics you need to understand precisely what kinds of scientific concepts kids explore and discover during their formative years !

Overview of Third Grade Science Curriculum 

The third grade science curriculum is designed to build on the foundational knowledge students gained in earlier grades and introduce new concepts to help them develop a deeper understanding of the natural world. The curriculum fosters curiosity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and scientific literacy.

While specific topics may vary depending on the state or country, the following are common themes and subjects covered in a third-grade science curriculum:

1. Life Sciences

In this area, students explore the characteristics of living organisms, their life cycles, and the various habitats in which they live. They learn about the needs of plants and animals, their roles in ecosystems, and how they adapt to their environments. Third graders may also investigate food chains and webs, as well as the concept of interdependence among living things.

2. Earth and Space Sciences

Third-grade students delve into Earth’s structure, including its layers, landforms, and the processes that shape our planet. They study natural resources, weather patterns, and climate zones. Additionally, they explore space concepts such as the solar system, constellations, and the relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun. Students may also learn about the importance of conservation and ways to protect our planet’s resources.

3. Physical Sciences

In the physical sciences, students learn about matter and its properties, including states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) and physical and chemical changes. They investigate forces, motion, and energy, exploring concepts like gravity, magnetism, and simple machines. Third graders may also be introduced to electricity, light, and sound principles.

4. Scientific Inquiry and Skills

An essential component of the third-grade science curriculum is teaching students how to think and work like scientists. This includes developing observation, measurement, data collection, analysis, and interpretation skills. Students learn to ask questions, make predictions, design experiments, and draw conclusions based on evidence. They also practice communicating their findings through various formats, such as oral presentations, written reports, and visual displays.

5. Technology and Engineering

Many third-grade science curriculums incorporate elements of technology and engineering, encouraging students to apply their scientific knowledge to real-world problems. Students may engage in hands-on activities, such as designing and building simple machines, creating models of ecosystems, or exploring renewable energy sources.

Life Science Topics such as Habitats and Adaptations 

Life science is a fascinating subject that helps young students understand the world around them. In third grade, life science topics often focus on habitats and adaptations. This area of study enables children to learn about the diverse ecosystems on our planet and the unique ways in which organisms have adapted to survive in their environments.

Here are some key topics related to habitats and adaptations that are typically taught in third-grade life science classes:

Habitats and Ecosystems

A habitat is the natural environment where a plant or an animal lives. It provides the organism with food, water, shelter, and other resources needed for survival. There are various types of habitats, such as forests, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, and oceans.

Ecosystems are communities of living organisms (plants, animals, and microorganisms) interacting with one another and their non-living environment (air, water, and soil). Third graders learn about different ecosystems and the various plants and animals that inhabit them.


Forests are home to a wide range of plants and animals. Students learn about the various layers of a forest – the canopy, understory, and forest floor – and how each layer supports different types of organisms.


Grasslands are vast areas covered primarily by grasses and small plants. These habitats support diverse animals, including grazing herbivores like zebras and bison, and predators like lions and wolves.


Deserts are characterized by their arid climate and scarcity of water. Students learn about the unique plants and animals that have adapted to survive in these harsh conditions, such as cacti and camels.


Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil either permanently or seasonally. Third graders explore the variety of plants and animals that inhabit wetlands, such as mangroves, waterfowl, and alligators.


Oceans are vast bodies of saltwater that cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. They support diverse marine life, from tiny plankton to massive whales. Students learn about different ocean habitats, like coral reefs, kelp forests, and the deep sea.


Adaptations are specific features or behaviors that help plants and animals survive and thrive in their environments. Third-grade students learn about various types of adaptations, including physical, behavioral, and physiological adaptations.

Physical Adaptations

Physical adaptations are changes in an organism’s body structure that help it survive in its habitat. Examples include the long neck of a giraffe for reaching high branches, the thick fur of a polar bear for insulation in cold temperatures, and the streamlined body of a fish for efficient swimming.

Behavioral Adaptations

Behavioral adaptations are actions or habits that help an organism survive. For example, migrating birds travel to warmer climates during winter to find food and nesting sites, while some animals hibernate to conserve energy when resources are scarce.

Physiological Adaptations

Physiological adaptations involve changes in an organism’s internal processes to cope with environmental challenges. For instance, desert animals like camels have specialized kidneys that produce concentrated urine, helping them conserve water.

By exploring habitats and adaptations, third graders gain a deeper understanding of the incredible diversity of life on Earth. This knowledge helps them appreciate the importance of preserving ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future generations.

Earth Science Topics such as Weather and Rocks 

Earth science is an important subject that helps young students explore the natural processes and phenomena that shape our planet. In third grade, Earth science topics often focus on weather and rocks. These areas of study enable children to understand the various elements that influence our daily lives and the Earth’s geological history. Here are some key topics related to weather and rocks that are typically taught in third-grade Earth science classes:


Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, including elements such as temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind, and air pressure. Third graders learn about different aspects of weather and how they affect our daily lives.


Temperature is a measure of how hot or cold the air is. Students learn about the factors that influence temperature, such as the angle of the sun’s rays, altitude, and proximity to large bodies of water.


Precipitation refers to any form of water, such as rain, snow, sleet, or hail, that falls from the sky and reaches the ground. Third graders explore the different types of precipitation and the factors that influence their formation, like temperature and humidity.


Wind is the movement of air from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Students learn about the causes of wind, such as the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface, and how it affects weather patterns.

Air Pressure

Air pressure is the force exerted by the weight of air molecules on the Earth’s surface. Third graders discover how changes in air pressure can influence weather conditions, like the formation of high- and low-pressure systems that cause clear skies or cloudy weather, respectively.

Weather Instruments

Students are introduced to various weather instruments used by meteorologists to measure and predict weather conditions, such as thermometers, barometers, anemometers, and rain gauges. They also learn about weather maps and symbols used to represent different weather conditions.


Rocks are the solid, natural materials that make up the Earth’s crust. Third graders learn about the three main types of rocks – igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic – and how they are formed through various geological processes.

Igneous Rocks

Igneous rocks are formed when molten or magma cools and solidifies. Students learn about the two types of igneous rocks: intrusive rocks, which form below the Earth’s surface and have a coarse texture, and extrusive rocks, which form above the surface and have a fine texture. Examples of igneous rocks include granite and basalt.

Sedimentary Rocks

Sedimentary rocks are formed from the accumulation and compaction of sediments, such as sand, silt, or dead plant and animal material. Third graders explore the different types of sedimentary rocks, like sandstone, shale, and limestone, and learn about the process of sedimentation and lithification.

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks are formed when existing rocks undergo changes in temperature, pressure, or mineral composition, altering their original structure and appearance. Students learn about the different types of metamorphic rocks, such as marble and slate, and the processes of metamorphism.

Rock Cycle

The rock cycle is a continuous process through which rocks are formed, broken down, and transformed into new types of rocks. Third-grade students learn about the various stages of the rock cycle, including weathering, erosion, deposition, and metamorphism.

By exploring weather and rocks, third graders better understand the Earth’s dynamic processes and the factors that shape our environment. This knowledge helps them appreciate the natural world and fosters curiosity and critical thinking skills that will serve them well in their future education.

Physical Science Topics such as Force, Motion, and Energy 

  1. Force: Understanding the concept of push and pull, types of forces (gravity, friction, magnetic), and balanced and unbalanced forces.
  2. Motion: Introduction to motion, speed, direction, and distance; properties of motion such as acceleration and deceleration.
  3. Energy: Types of energy (potential and kinetic), energy transformations, heat and temperature, and sources of energy (renewable and non-renewable).
  4. Simple Machines: Learning about levers, pulleys, inclined planes, wedges, wheels and axles, and screws.
  5. Magnets: Understanding magnetism, magnetic and non-magnetic materials, magnetic poles, and the Earth’s magnetic field.
  6. States of Matter: Exploring solids, liquids, and gases; understanding the properties of matter, and changes in states of matter (melting, freezing, evaporation, and condensation).
  7. Electricity: Basic concepts of electricity, conductors and insulators, simple circuits, and static electricity.
  8. Sound: Introduction to sound, vibrations, pitch, and volume.
  9. Light: Understanding the properties of light, sources of light, reflection, refraction, and shadows.
  10. Scientific Inquiry: Encouraging students to ask questions, make observations, and develop hypotheses through experiments and investigations.

Space Science Topics such as Planets and Stars 

Space is a fascinating subject that captures the imagination of children and adults alike. For third graders, it’s the perfect time to start exploring the wonders of our solar system and beyond.

The Solar System

Our solar system consists of the Sun, eight planets, their moons, and various other celestial objects such as asteroids, comets, and dwarf planets. The eight planets in our solar system, in order from closest to the Sun, are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Inner Planets

The four planets closest to the Sun – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – are called the inner planets. They are small, rocky, and have few or no moons. These planets are also known as terrestrial planets because they have solid surfaces.

  1. Mercury: The smallest planet in our solar system and the closest to the Sun. It has no moons and its surface is covered with craters.
  2. Venus: The second planet from the Sun and similar in size and composition to Earth. However, it has a thick atmosphere with clouds of sulfuric acid and extremely high temperatures.
  3. Earth: Our home planet, Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only known planet to support life. It has one moon, called Luna or the Moon.
  4. Mars: The fourth planet from the Sun, Mars is nicknamed the “Red Planet” due to its reddish appearance caused by iron oxide (rust) on its surface. It has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Outer Planets

The outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune – are much larger and are primarily composed of gases. These planets are also known as gas giants or Jovian planets.

  1. Jupiter: The fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system. It has a massive atmosphere with many storms, including the Great Red Spot, and at least 79 moons.
  2. Saturn: The sixth planet from the Sun, Saturn is famous for its beautiful system of rings made of ice and rock. It has at least 83 moons.
  3. Uranus: The seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus is a blue-green color due to methane gas in its atmosphere. It has 27 known moons and is tilted on its side, which causes extreme seasons.
  4. Neptune: The eighth and farthest planet from the Sun, Neptune is a deep blue color with the fastest solar winds. It has 14 known moons, including Triton, which orbits in the opposite direction of the other moons.


Stars are massive spheres of hot, glowing gas that produce light and heat through nuclear reactions in their cores. Our Sun is a medium-sized star called a yellow dwarf. Stars come in various sizes, colors, and temperatures, which can be categorized using the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram.

Life Cycle of a Star

Stars go through different stages in their lives, depending on their size and mass. Most stars, including our Sun, follow this life cycle:

  1. Nebula: A cloud of gas and dust where stars are born.
  2. Protostar is the early stage of a star where gravity pulls the gas and dust together, and the temperature rises.
  3. Main Sequence: The longest stage in a star’s life, where it burns hydrogen fuel in its core and produces energy.
  4. Red Giant or Red Supergiant: As the star runs out of hydrogen fuel, it expands and becomes cooler, turning red.
  5. White Dwarf, Supernova, or Neutron Star: Depending on the mass of the star, it will either become a white dwarf, explode in a supernova, or form a neutron star.
  6. Black Dwarf or Black Hole: The final stage in a star’s life, where it either becomes a cold, dark black dwarf or collapses into a black hole.

Third-grade space science topics provide a solid foundation for understanding our solar system and its celestial objects. Students can better appreciate the vast universe surrounding us by learning about planets, stars, and their life cycles.


What are the main topics covered in third grade science?

In third grade science, students typically learn about life science, earth science, and physical science. Topics may include plants and animals, ecosystems, weather and climate, forces and motion, and matter and energy.

What skills do third graders develop in science?

Third graders develop observation, classification, measurement, experimentation, and data analysis skills. They also begin to learn about the scientific method and the process of making predictions, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions.

How can I support my child’s learning in third grade science?

You can support your child’s learning by providing them with opportunities to explore and investigate the natural world. Encourage their curiosity, ask open-ended questions, and help them make connections between what they’re learning in school and their everyday experiences.

How can I support my child’s learning in third grade science?

You can support your child’s learning by providing them with opportunities to explore and investigate the natural world. Encourage their curiosity, ask open-ended questions, and help them make connections between what they’re learning in school and their everyday experiences.

What are some common science projects for third graders?

Common science projects for third graders include creating a solar system model, building a simple machine, growing plants from seeds, and observing changes in the weather.

What resources are available to help my child with third grade science?

There are many resources available to help your child with third grade science, including textbooks, online tutorials, educational games, and hands-on activities. Additionally, local libraries, museums, and nature centers often have materials and programs designed for elementary school students.

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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