Skip to toolbar

What to Teach in Second Grade

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

NGSS has positively shifted the way we think about science teaching. Our science standards are now more comprehensive, coherent, and integrated across science disciplines. However, these changes present challenges in terms of time constraints. Oh wait, which teacher or homeschooler doesn’t have time constraints?

If you are not familiar with NGSS, this website will help you get acquainted. In general, the current science education standards are grouped into three distinct groups about teaching and learning. The first category is practices. In this set of standards, the overarching goal is for children to understand how scientists and engineers go about investigating phenomena and problems.

There are eight practices are:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The second category is disciplinary core ideas. These are the minimum scientific ideas children should master in each of these disciplines:

  1. Physical sciences
  2. Life sciences
  3. Earth and space sciences
  4. Engineering, technology, and application of science

In each discipline, the standards gives list of concepts/ideas children should be able to explain using age appropriate sources of evidence.

The third category is crosscutting concepts. These are the standards that guide instruction to help learners notice patterns and concepts/ideas across multiple disciplines. In other words, this category is the thread that joins practices and disciplinary core ideas.

What should children learn in second grade?

If you are teaching second grade science you want to focus on activities that emphasize constructing models and arguments. Specifically, children should be presented key experiences to deeply think about changes over time and how that impacts materials, Earth, and biodiversity. We recommend building the whole second grade science around three units or themes.

The first theme is Earth‘s Systems. You can focus on ideas of Earth’s changes over time due to natural causes such as wind and water that are tracked with tools such as maps. The minimum learning expectations for this theme is for students to be able to:

  • Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly. 
  • Compare multiple solutions designed to slow or prevent wind or water from changing the shape of the land.
  • Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area. 
  • Obtain information to identify where water is found on Earth and that it can be solid or liquid.

These practices mean that regardless of the activities and/or experiments the child does, they should be able to explain scientific concepts while meeting minimum expectations. Download the NGSS summary for this theme below.

The second theme is Matter. The scientific core ideas in this theme directly connect to theme one: Earth’s Systems through ideas of cooling and heating materials. So the goal is, for children to have key experiences in defining what materials are and how we can observe, describe, manipulate, and classify materials. Once these key experiences are given to the child, they can apply these scientific core ideas further into Earth’s materials.

The last and third theme is Ecosystems. This theme creates a cohesive science storyline for the grade and emphasizes those cross concepts we mentioned earlier. Once children have met the performance expectation of analyzing different kinds of materials, they are ready to analyze different kinds of living organisms. In this theme, we guide children’s learning with three main key experiences to meet learning objectives.

  • Living things have fundamental needs.
  • We can observe, describe, manipulate, and classify living things.
  • There is an interdependence between Earth, matter, and ecosystems.

Writing Chillax Science Lessons

You are ready for your lesson planning! We recommend planning science classes by using these three guiding questions:
–What is the phenomenon that centers the theme?
–What evidence is needed to make the claim?
–What scientific claim(s) I want children to formulate?

Although NGSS recommends to start with the phenomenon, we have found that it is much easier to go backwards in the planning. That is, start with the scientific claims you want the child to write and talk about.

If you are still not sure how to do create activities for each theme make sure to subscribe to our website so you receive a notification of when a new Chillax Science activity has been shared.

Finally, if you want to know what science children should learn in first grade make sure to check this blog post.

Published by Reizelie Barreto, PhD

Reizelie is a former homeschool parent and a trained science and Montessori teacher with a passion for curriculum development. She loves learning and teaching and on her spare time she helps families create home environments that enrich a child's learning. Reizelie has a PhD in science education and has been working in the field of education for the last 19 years. She loves helping teachers, schools, and homeschooling families improve their science curriculum in ways that are authentic to scientists' work.

One thought on “What to Teach in Second Grade

%d bloggers like this: