Science Curriculum

Elementary Science

Science Curriculum

The newly adoption Seattle Public Schools K-5 science curriculum is Amplify Science. It is the product of a collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science and the instructional technologists at Amplify, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the National Science Foundation.

Since their release in 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have raised the bar for science education. Moving the focus of instruction away from memorization and toward active engagement and critical thinking, the standards aim to teach students to think like scientists and engineers and grapple with core scientific principles, in addition to supporting deep learning of concepts that cut across science domains. Amplify Science has been designed from the ground up to meet the Next Generation Science Standards and respond to the instructional shifts called for by the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 science education (2012).

Amplify Science Instructional Model

Amplify Science’s instructional model allows students to access their prior knowledge and to connect past learning experiences to the present. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and define problems about the natural and designed world, design investigations in which they collect and analyze trends and patterns in their data, engage in argument form evidence in both writing and through discourse with their peers, develop conceptual scientific models of physical phenomena, and to communicate their findings from their investigations.

Learn More about the Amplify Science K-8 Curriculum

Assessment

The Amplify Science curriculum was constructed to develop deep science knowledge and understanding, not merely touching on each science standard, but allowing for a depth of coverage in a variety of learning style for each. The program’s system of assessments provides an innovative means of supporting all students in developing this deep understanding. By aligning instruction to focused, meaningful, and standards-based learning goals every student is achieving the level of understanding required by each unit.

Assessment opportunities include:

  • Pre-Unit Assessment: Drawn and written responses (K–5). We want to know what understanding students are bringing to the classroom.
  • On-the-Fly Assessments: Are designed to help a teacher make sense of student activity during a learning experience (e.g., student-to-student talk, writing, model construction) and to provide evidence of how a student is coming to understand core concepts and developing their use of the other dimensions in our state standards.
  • End-of-chapter assessments: Variety of tasks, intended to assess student progress, occurring at the end of each chapter. Examples include written scientific explanations, argumentation, developing and using models, and designing engineering solutions.
  • Student Self-Assessments: One per chapter; brief opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning, ask questions, and reveal ongoing thoughts about unit content.
  • Critical Juncture Assessment: Occurring toward the end of each chapter (K–5), these help teachers to ensure all students are ready before moving on to a new phase of instruction.
  • End-of-Unit Assessment: Targeted conversations (K–1), written responses (grades 2–5). These assessments for each unit are designed to provide valid, reliable, and fair measures of students’ progress and attainment of three-dimensional learning.
  • Investigation Assessments: Embedded in one unit at each grade level, these summative assessments provide students with an open-ended opportunity to show what they’ve learned by planning and conducting their own scientific investigation of a scientific phenomenon. Across K-5, these assessments occur in the units: Sunlight and Weather(Kindergarten); Light and Sound (Grade 1); Plant and Animal Relationships (Grade 2); Balancing Forces (Grade 3); Vision and Light (Grade 4); and Patterns of Earth and Sky (Grade 5). 

Below are descriptions of the three units in kindergarten Amplify curriculum. 

Needs of Plants and Animals: Milkweed and Monarchs. Students help a group of children figure out why there are no more monarch caterpillars in a community garden and how to bring them back. Students conduct hands-on investigations to figure out what plants need in order to live and thrive. They ask questions and learn about the system of plants and animals that live together in a habitat. They figure out patterns in the life cycles of living things by reading and analyzing photographs. 

Pushes and Pulls: Designing a Pinball Machine. Students take on the role of pinball machine engineers as they explore the effects of forces on the motion of an object. They consider cause and effect and structure and function as they design and build their own pinball machines. They analyze data from their tests using mathematical thinking. Students also gather evidence of forces at work in their school. 

Sunlight and Weather: Solving Playground Problems. Students work to solve the problem of why students at one fictional school are too cold during morning recess while students at another school are too hot during afternoon recess. They develop and use models to gather evidence about the effect of sunlight (energy) on Earth’s surface (matter) and how flooding during wet weather can be avoided. They gather local weather data and use concepts of scale, proportion, and quantity to make sense of it. 

Below are descriptions of the three units in 1st grade Amplify curriculum.

Animal and Plant Defenses: Spikes, Shells, and Camouflage. Students advise an aquarium director by helping answer young visitors’ questions about Spruce the Sea Turtle, who will soon be released back into the ocean. They investigate how Spruce and her offspring can survive in the ocean, particularly since sharks live in the area. Students obtain information from videos and science books about how plants and animals survive and about parents and offspring. Students make physical models and write explanations to show what they learn about the structure and function of animal defenses.

Light and Sound: Puppet-Theater Engineers. Students act as light and sound engineers to design and create a scene for a puppet show. Students ask questions and work to define the design problems they are asked to solve. They figure out cause-and-effect patterns related to light, shadows, and sound by conducting hands-on investigations and reading science books. They use both firsthand evidence and evidence from books to support their ideas.

Spinning Earth: Investigating Patterns in the Sky. In the role of sky scientists, students work to understand why the sky looks different to a young boy and to his grandma when they talk on the phone in the evening. Students plan and conduct investigations and find patterns in data to figure out what causes nighttime and daytime, and the changing position of the sun in the sky. Thinking in terms of systems helps students make sense of the Earth/sun system.

Below are descriptions of the three units in 2nd grade Amplify curriculum. 

Plant and Animal Relationships: Investigating Systems in a Bengali Forest. What is the connection between chalta fruit, elephants, and droppings? Students find out as they investigate an authentic mystery that occurred in a broadleaf forest habitat in northeastern India. They plan and conduct investigations to figure out what plants need to grow and ways that many plants rely on animals to disperse their seeds. Students use mathematical thinking and concepts of proportion and quantity to make sense of their measurements and other data. They construct scientific explanations about how the parts of the Bengali forest work together as a system.

Properties of Materials: Designing Glue. Students take on the role of glue engineers and design and test a glue for use at their school. They figure out cause-and-effect relationships related to heating and cooling materials, and find patterns in the properties of substances and mixtures. Students make arguments about effective glue recipes using the evidence they have gathered from investigations and science texts.

Changing Landforms: The Disappearing Cliff. Students act as geologists helping a recreation center director understand what is happening to a nearby cliff, which appears to have changed. They ask questions about landforms, water, and wind, and use hands-on models to figure out how small-scale changes to landforms can add up to large-scale changes over long periods of time. As they obtain information about erosion, they figure out how rock that appears stable in the short-term can actually change a lot over time. They create diagrams to communicate their findings.

Below are descriptions of the three units in 3rd grade Amplify curriculum.  

Balancing Forces: Investigating Floating Trains. Scientists and engineers have figured out a way to build a train that actually floats on air as it goes cruising down the track at high speeds. Students work to explain how this train works in order to reassure residents of a town that the train is safe. Students figure out ideas about magnetic force, gravity, and how forces can cause an object’s movement to change or stay stable. They communicate their ideas by making digital and physical models and by writing explanations.

Environments and Survival: Snails, Robots, and Biomimicry. Students play the role of biomimicry engineers studying a population of snails. They analyze data to figure out why some organisms are more likely to survive in their environment. They think about the systems made of organisms and the environment in which the organisms live to understand how the environment affects organisms’ likelihood of survival. Students apply what they learn about the structure and function of animals’ body parts to plan, make, and test designs that solve problems, such as a robot that can remove and grind up invasive plants.  

Weather and Climate: Establishing an Orangutan Reserve. In the role of meteorologists, students investigate weather and climate patterns in order to make scientific arguments about where to establish an orangutan reserve. They use mathematical thinking to find patterns in weather data, and consider scale, proportion, and quantity as they learn to make reliable measurements of weather. They also define and work to solve an engineering problem related to natural hazards.

Below are descriptions of the three units in 4th grade Amplify curriculum.

Energy Conversions: Blackout in Ergstown. Students take on the role of systems engineers for Ergstown, a fictional town that experiences frequent blackouts, and explore reasons why an electrical system may fail. They obtain information from science books and system models to learn about types of energy, energy sources, energy transfer, and energy conversion. They define engineering problems related to the town’s electrical system and design wind turbines using what they have learned about energy and matter.

Earth’s Features: Mystery in Desert Rocks Canyon. In the role of geologists, students investigate a fossil and the geologic history of the area where the fossil was found. Students write scientific arguments about how the fossil formed and what the environment of that area was like in the past. They gather evidence for their arguments by finding patterns in rock layers, reading science books, and using digital and physical models. They analyze rock layers to draw conclusions about times of stability and times of change in the environments of a particular place.

Waves, Energy, and Information: Investigating How Dolphins Communicate. Students take on the role of marine scientists investigating how bottlenose dolphin mothers and their calves use patterns of sound to communicate across distances. Students ask questions about sound and gather evidence from physical models and a digital model. They investigate sound waves at the nanoscale and also investigate observable properties of sounds, such as volume and pitch. They use mathematical thinking to make sense of the wavelength and amplitude of waves.

Below are descriptions of the three units in 5th grade Amplify curriculum. 

Patterns of Earth and Sky: Analyzing Stars on Ancient Artifacts. Students take on the role of astronomers, helping a team of archaeologists explain the illustrations on a recently discovered, thousand-year-old artifact with a missing piece. Students use mathematical thinking to make sense of patterns in the sky, which they figure out by using physical and digital models and obtaining information from science books. They plan and conduct investigations to figure out how the spin and orbit of our planet are the cause of the daily and yearly patterns of stars we see in the sky.


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.

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.