Elementary Science:
Online, Interactive, Standards-Based

Physical Science

Why teach our youngest learners about physical science? Isn’t physical science really advanced, covering things like E=mc2 and Newton’s laws of gravity?

Yes, physical science can be really advanced, but a lot of physical science has to do with how the world around us works. Kindergarten through Grade 2 students may not understand Einstein’s theories, but they know from experience how gravity works–even if they don’t know the name for it.

At this early level, students can be helped to put a name and a reason behind concepts such as gravity, energy, friction, and perspective.

In fact, physical science taught in a developmentally appropriate way is perfect for the youngest learners. That’s because children naturally learn by experiencing the world around them. Even without being taught, children watch the world around them and how things work. They play with things or situations that interest them, often doing the same thing over and over again. Sometimes when they do something again, they change how they do it to see what will happen. Children tell others what they see and do or draw pictures of their experiences.

All of these things children do naturally are things that scientists also do in their work, though scientists use different names for these activities and may do them in a more organized manner. When scientists watch, they call it observing. When they play with something, they experiment. When scientists change something, they modify the experiment by changing the variables. And finally, when scientists tell others or draw pictures of what they've done, they record results and present their findings.

Teaching physical science to children can be very effective when we follow certain practices:

  • Treat students as scientists. As we've shown above, children naturally follow many of the same practices as scientists do.
  • Access student knowledge when introducing a new subject. Tie new learning to things students already know.
  • Give students scientific vocabulary for things they know. For example, students know that a pencil falls to the floor when knocked off a desk, but they may not know that gravity is the reason.
  • Make science learning fun with hands-on activities, games, and interactive lessons.
  • Relate science learning to other topics kids might be interested in. Involve stories, characters, math and the arts.

Kindergarten through Grade 2 students are natural scientists. If we teach science to them in the ways they learn best, they will build a strong foundation for future science learning.

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