Kindergarten | 1st Grade | 2nd Grade | 3rd Grade | 4th Grade | 5th Grade

The Wellesley Public Schools is in the midst of a science curriculum review. In conjunction with the adoption of new MA Science and Engineering frameworks, new science units will be rolled out in K-5 classrooms over the next few years. The information below represents the units currently being taught and will be updated as new units are implemented.

Kindergarten Units of Study

Exploring My Weather

Students use their senses and the tools of meteorologists to explore temperature, precipitation, wind, and cloud cover. Through their observations and investigations, students develop weather vocabulary as they explore how water changes between its forms and how weather affects humans and other animals. Students engage in engineering activities to design roofs and hats to protect against weather. They conclude by discussing seasonal changes and the importance of weather forecasting.

Exploring Forces & Motion –  new winter  2018

From pushing open the school door, to kicking a ball across the field, to riding a bike, forces are a part of our daily lives. In this physical science unit, students investigate how pushes and pulls are responsible for the motion of objects. They model the effects of applying forces of different strengths and in different directions while exploring what happens when objects collide or connect, the effects of slope, and what happens to an object when subjected to equal and unequal forces from different directions. Through creative writing, creative dramatics, and play, students begin to develop emerging ideas about fundamental physics concepts.

Exploring Living Things: Comparing Plants and Animals

In Kindergarten Life Science, students explore the needs and life cycles of plants and animals. Through planting seeds and building animal habitats, students investigate what living things need to survive and grow. As they witness firsthand the life cycles of living things, students use personal observations to describe patterns in the natural world. Kindergarten scientists compare and contrast different types of living things, create scientific drawings of real plants and animals, and learn to utilize descriptive language to communicate their observations and ideas with others.

First Grade Units of Study

Seasonal Patterns of Change –  new fall 2017

Building on their Kindergarten experiences observing and describing daily weather, First Grade scientists use their senses and tools to study seasonal changes throughout the year. They learn how to make careful observations and collect data in order to identify patterns in the natural world. Through repeated outdoor explorations, and with careful analysis of the data they collect, students recognize we experience four distinct seasons and all life around us is impacted by seasonal changes we can observe. Students begin to make predictions based on evidence they have collected and develop their ability to share their thinking with others.

Balance and Weighing

The Balance and Weighing unit is an integrated math/science unit that provides activities that help children explore the relationship between balance and weight.  These activities reinforce the learning goals of the first grade math unit, Bigger, Taller, Heavier, Smaller.  By manipulating objects on a balance beam, students learn how weight affects balance and how the fulcrum can be moved to compensate for unequal weights.  Using balance boards, and/or pogo sticks, and/or games such as Twister™ and Don’t Break the Ice™ or Jenga™, students construct knowledge of balance as a result of equal forces.  The concept of weight is reinforced using equal arm balances and manipulating objects on the balance.

Exploring Relationships: Plants, Animals and their Offspring

Building on their Kindergarten studies, first grade students explore, observe, describe and discover structures of plants and animals. Students continue exploring the life cycle of plants by growing plants in a variety of ways, learning not all new plants must start from seeds. Students learn what plants and animals need to survive and use information from first-hand observations to identify similarities and differences among individual plants or animals of the same kind. As they begin looking at animal behaviors and habitats, students investigate the relationship between animal parents and their offspring and the activities animals engage in to help ensure survival.

Second Grade Units of Study

Exploring Habitats: Meeting Needs Where you Live

Students’ exploration of habitats deepens in second grade as our young scientists investigate how plants and animals depend on their surroundings and other living things for survival. Through matching plants and animals with various habitats, students learn plants and animals have structures and behaviors that help them live in their habitat. After discussing the needs of living things, they identify how habitats provide for these needs.  Second grade scientists then apply this knowledge to two particular habitats: the Wellesley woodlands and the tide pool.  Through hands-on experiences with organisms that live in the local wood and studies of tide pool organisms, students discover how various local and marine animals are adapted to their environment and meet their needs where they live. 


The Structures unit focuses on the ideas that all objects, both living and non-living, are structures. The type of strength a structure has depends on its shape and the material it is made from.  Through engaging explorations, students learn that form follows function; that a structure is designed for a specific purpose and the purpose dictates the type of strength the structure must have.  Understanding of these concepts can be used as connections to the Exploring Habitats and Plant Growth and Development units.  For example, many animals that live in the intertidal zone have a strong muscle, known as the foot, to firmly grasp rocks. This is so that they do not get washed away by the waves and can remain in the tide pool as the tide moves in and out.  Discussing the structures of plants and animals and the purposes they serve extends the concepts of the Structures unit to all areas of the second grade science curricula 

Water, Wind and Earth’s Landscape– new fall 2017

In Second Grade students begin to apply two aspects of weather that can have a dramatic impact on the world around us: the effects of water and wind on shaping the land. In conjunction with their geography studies in social studies, students learn that water is found everywhere on Earth and takes different forms and shapes. They map landforms and bodies of water and observe that flowing water and wind shape these landforms. Students model the effects of wind and water on Earth materials and study the effectiveness of natural and human-made solutions to problems of erosion. Taking this new knowledge, second grade scientists and engineers design, test, and compare the effectiveness of different solutions to slow or prevent water from changing the shape of the land.

Third Grade Units of Study

Exploring Variation:  Diversity and Adaptation in Plants and Animals

In third grade life science, students continue investigating the amazing diversity of living things. As they watch the unfolding life cycle of Painted Lady butterflies, students examine the ways organisms change over time to adapt to their environment. Utilizing the world-renowned Denton Butterfly Collection at the Wellesley Historical Society, students witness firsthand the amazing variety of butterfly colors, patterns, and shapes. Using evidence from direct observation, students construct explanations for how the myriad of variations, from mimicry and disguise to startling color and sacrificial wing design, provide advantages to ensure butterflies’ survival.

Understanding Weather & Climate – new fall 2017

Third grade scientists develop and sharpen their skills at obtaining, recording, graphing, and analyzing data in order to understand the world around them. Students build on their Kindergarten and 1st grade studies to review what is weather? and deepen their understanding of the interactions between humans and the natural world. Using graphs and tables, students apply  weather data to understand how “typical” weather conditions vary in different places and at different times in the year, extending their learning by moving beyond our local climate to    research and synthesize information about different climate zones. Students conclude their study by donning their engineering hats to explore human-made solutions to weather related hazards: how can they save the apple orchard from the effects of hail?


Using activities from the FOSS Physics of Sound Module and additional sound activities, students learn about sound discrimination, what causes sound, and how sound travels.  Students conduct investigations to determine what causes changes in pitch and amplitude and how sound travels differently through different substances.

Fourth Grade Units of Study

Exploring Structures: Form and Function in the Natural World

Fourth grade scientists become animal detectives as they explore how the physical structures of organisms help them survive in their environment. Students are challenged to determine the identity of five mystery mammals by studying their skulls, teeth, fur, feet, tracks, and scat. Carefully examining and analyzing the component parts of each animal, students explore how the structure matches its function. As forensic zoologists, students make close observations, collect and analyze data, formulate hypotheses, and by reasoning from the evidence, come to conclusions about the identities of the five mammals. 

States of Matter

The States of Matter curriculum poses the following questions to students: What is matter and what forms does it take on earth?  What is a liquid, a solid, and a gas?  Students are guided through scientific investigations that assist them in developing scientific definitions of the states of matter.  How matter changes from one state to another is a major focus, with concentration on one of our most valuable resources on Earth: water. Students investigate properties of water and how it cycles on the Earth.

Earth’s Changing Surface  – new fall 2017

Fourth grade students expand their understanding of forces that change our Earth’s surface. Building on their second grade investigations of the effects of wind and water on Earth materials, fourth grade scientists are introduced to the scope of geologic time. Using scientific modeling and research, they study changes to the surface of the Earth, from those that change landscapes over long periods of time (weathering, erosion, and deposition and the effects of glaciers), to those that can happen in an instant (landslides, earthquakes and volcanoes). Students apply their understanding of these slow and rapid changes through hands-on experiences, culminating in finding evidence of slow changes as they explore geologic features in Wellesley (the Geology Field Investigation), and evaluating solutions to reduce the impact of natural events (fast changes) as they design and test earthquake resistant buildings.

Fifth Grade Units of Study

Exploring Interdependence: Ecosystems

Culminating their study of our living world, fifth grade scientists integrate their elementary experiences to explore ecological interdependencies. Students build terrariums and aquariums and combine them to create a self-sustaining ecocolumn. While carefully observing the plants and animals in their healthy ecosystems, students simultaneously design experiments to test the effects of everyday pollutants such as salt, acid rain, and fertilizer run-off on unpopulated ecocolumns.  Students apply what they have learned as they study the cycling of water through a watershed and develop a simple system designed to filter particulates out of water and propose design changes to improve it.

Light & Science Explorations

Students continue to develop their skills of scientific investigation. Through exploration, experimentation, and discussion, students learn about the properties and behavior of light and engage in week-long explorations of magnets & magnetism and energy & energy transfer.

Sun & Earth  – new fall 2017

Fifth grade scientists begin to leave the boundaries of Earth as they explore our place in the universe. Students make observations and construct explanations for why we experience day and night, the reasons for changing shadows over the course of a day, and the causes of changing hours of daylight over the year. As they explore the complex interactions between the Sun and Earth, students consider whether our Sun is any more or less bright than other stars, the effects of gravitational forces, and begin to think how Earth and Sun interactions affect how we see the moon.