What’s Happening in Fifth Grade Science?

Modeling Matter: The Chemistry of Food. In the role of food scientists, students work to identify a potentially hazardous food dye in a food coloring mixture, then to create a good-tasting and visually appealing salad dressing. They engage in hands-on investigations and use physical and digital models to gather evidence about mixtures at the observable scale and at the scale of molecules. They develop visual models and write explanations about mixtures, including whether they are likely to change or remain stable.

The Earth System: Investigating Water Shortages. In the role of water resource engineers, students ask questions and investigate what makes East Ferris, a city on one side of the fictional Ferris Island, prone to water shortages while a city on the other side is not. Students develop and use system models that help them figure out how water cycles through parts of the Earth system at the nanoscale and at the observable scale. They apply their understanding of condensation and evaporation to design freshwater collection systems as a possible solution for East Ferris’ water shortage problem.

Ecosystem Restoration: Matter and Energy in a Rain Forest. Students take on the role of ecologists to figure out why a reforested section of the Costa Rican rain forest ecosystem is failing—the jaguars, sloths, and cecropia trees in the area are not growing and thriving. Students use a digital model and terrariums as models to figure out the ways that animals and plants in an ecosystem get the matter and energy they need to grow. They analyze data about the ecosystem, and use evidence to make scientific arguments about what is causing the problem and to design restoration plans to address it.