NGSS in 1st! Building off of K understandings and taking your students deeper into the world of science. Right now is the perfect opportunity to introduce science and STEM to our younger students. You can still keep it playful but full of valuable learning experiences. The first grade science standards include four units you can check out below and see how much fun they will be to share with your kids. Let’s make science and STEM cool.
Let’s dive into the first grade science standards with teacher Jacki! She has provided some amazing articles on NGSS so far, and will continue to do so throughout the school year. Make sure to read through the series in order! Read all about Jacki in the first article, Demystifying and Understanding NGSS
YOU CAN STILL PLAY WITH SCIENCE STANDARDS!
Consider yourself lucky and one step ahead of the game if you’re a first grade teacher! You get the benefit of working with excited little scientists, technology experts, engineers, and mathematicians that have already been exposed to the foundational skills necessary for NGSS success!
Your students will be coming to you hot off an exciting year of kindergarten, where academics and play have been splitting in class time about 50/50 (hopefully!) But now, we all know, it’s time to focus more on the academics and it’s harder to find time for play outside of recess and P.E in first grade.
WORRY NOT! You can still get your students “playing” and working in exciting and engaging ways, and therefore preserve the nature of early-childhood education by tapping into the way our young students learn best – through hands-on work. Let’s get your STEAM train rolling (pun intended) and get chipping away at those NGSS standards.
Kindergarten science standards set the framework for first grade science standards!
The first grade NGSS standards are much like CCSS standards (that many of us are more familiar with) in the way that they are vertically aligned to the kindergarten standards, allowing us to build off of our students’ schema and teach them deeper content in this second exposure to some of the units.
We also get to dive deeper into our students inquiry skills, questioning, and opportunities for student discourse! So let’s do the same. Let’s dive a little deeper into the specific standards you will be expected to teach this year, and I’ll share a few ideas for how to meet these standards simply along the way!
FIRST GRADE SCIENCE STANDARDS
Below you can read about the four main units that make up the first grade science standards for NGSS.
SCIENCE STANDARDS UNIT 1
Your first (and most challenging) standards bundle in first grade is all about waves (no not those kind of waves!) and how they are used in technology to assist in the passing of information from one source to another. Your students will specifically be exploring light and sound waves in this unit. Students will explore how light illuminates and allows us to see.
TO meet the standards, they will need to work to prove that things are only seen when illuminated, which can actually turn into a really fun activity for your whole class. Turn all of the lights off and close the blinds in your room. Block off any other light sources, and discuss with the students what can be seen, (spoiler alert: it won’t be much!!)
You can then use a flashlight or hand flashlights out to your students and discuss what they can see now, now that they have light to illuminate. They will be able to see the actual light waves while doing this, if the room is dark enough, so make sure you point that out to your students too!
To further extend this activity and meet even more of the standards in the unit, pass out different materials to students that are transparent (plastic wrap, glass plate), translucent (wax paper, tulle fabric), opaque (construction paper, cardboard) and reflective (reflective tape, a mirror) and have them explore and discuss what happens to the light waves when they are shined through the different materials.
Record this as a whole class on an anchor chart and you’re good to go with light waves!
Pair science and music for first grade science standards too!
To meet your sound wave standards, include your schools music teacher and his/her tuning fork and instruments, or work in your class with small instruments like drums or guitars (make your own out of recycled materials if you don’t have access to these!)
Strum them, bang on them and observe. What do you see/notice when the instrument in making noise? Together, discuss how sound waves vibrate and the vibrations make sounds.
Help your students notice the speed of vibrations in comparison to the sound i.e. fast vibrations = higher pitched sound, slower vibrations = lower pitched sounds. You can also demonstrate sound waves by using a speaker and music with paper or a tissue in front of it. The students will be able to see the movement of the paper caused by the sound waves!
Another fun activity is putting sand on top of a drum and watching its movements while the drum vibrates, for another visual experience with sound waves. Now you’ve done it! You’ve integrated the arts into your science lesson, and taught the kids about waves!
SCIENCE STANDARDS UNIT 2
“From molecules to organisms: structures and processes” is the second set of standards to be taught in first grade. What this simply means is you’re going to talk to students about animal physical features and plant parts and how they protect/help the animals/plants.
We’re going to build off of some of the Kindergarten standards and understandings in this bundle! There are some awesome books out there for this standard, most specifically the “What if you had animal teeth/noses/ears/feet?” series by Sandra Markle comes to mind!
Through the use of these books (or others) and your classroom discussions for this unit, students will explore why animals and plants have certain external parts like shells, thorns and feathers for example, and how these features help the organisms survive, grow and meet their needs.
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Then you can further meet those standards in a fun way! I’m talking about a fashion show! Have your students create outfits that feature one of the physical traits/external parts and walk the catwalk, pausing at the end to explain how their trait or part could help solve a human problem! Feathers could help a human to fly different places quickly, or shells would help protect bicyclists are strong examples of what students could wear and discuss with the class.
You will also need to talk about animals and their offspring during this unit to meet the NGSS standards laid out, so tap into what students love most of all, their families. Connecting that animals cry for their parents like humans do to communicate will be an interesting discovery for many of your “firsties”.
You can pull up NatGeo and play some baby animal sounds. Then discuss what the students think the animals are asking for based on the sounds! Tie this into survival, growing and meeting basic needs that you previously talked about and you have completed unit 2!
SCIENCE STANDARDS UNIT 3
Unit 3 asks your students to explore heredity!
Now, before you go out and by 20+ DNA swabbing kits, and start brushing up on the Punnett square, understand, that you’re going to keep this one simple. Continuing our work from unit 2, we’re going to talk more about animal babies and young plants here.
You’re also going to tap into the pre-operational, egocentric developmental stage (thank you Piaget) that most of our “firsties” are still in, and we’re going to talk about their families too! We’re going to also bring in some social studies work and do some family tree work (there’s more to come about this in a later article. Stay tuned…).
With your students you are going to discuss physical features of plants/animals/humans and their offspring. Students will explore how the “adults” and “children” may look similar but are not the same. You can talk to your students about size, shape, and eye/hair/fur color of different animals/plants/humans from the same family.
Through this exploration, our goal is to help students understand the only NGSS standard for this unit, which aims to have students “make observations to construct an evidence based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly alike, their parents”.
SCIENCE STANDARDS UNIT 4
The fourth and final NGSS unit for first grade focuses on Earth’s place in the universe.
You are not getting deep and theoretical here, nor are you going to get philosophical. You’re going to get on a first grade level and talk about concrete things we can see that help us understand where the Earth is in space. This will be a standard that you can teach throughout the year or in one fell swoop with ease.
The goal of this bundle of standards is to help students make observations surrounding the patterns that the sun, moon and stars create. Talk about when stars and the moon can be seen. Compare this to when the sun can be seen.
You can also discuss where the sun/moon rises and sets and how they appear to travel across the sky because of the movement of Earth. Take time to go outside and look at the sky, trace shadows on the pavement with chalk and notice the movement of the sun and Earth in a few different ways!
You are also going to explore how the amount of sunlight we get each day changes throughout the year. This concept may be one that you want to talk about over a longer period of time, so students can notice and discuss the changes from summer/fall to winter for example.
NGSS STANDARDS FOR A FUN FIRST GRADE!
With “firsties”, the NGSS standards definitely kick it up a notch, but hopefully these suggestions will help you feel confident in taking the liberty to keep these activities playful, hands-on and fun! Through the different activities suggested above, you will be able to meet the standards while also meeting the students on their level.
Keeping in mind that first graders are still young and want to be actively engaged in their learning, will be an important understanding to have while teaching the NGSS standards at this level.
Now get to it! Build off of those kindergarten understandings and take those little first grade scientists even further!
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