Fifth Grade

Fifth grade emphasizes both group and individual responsibility, in preparation for the transition from Meridian to middle school.


5th GradeStudents strive to communicate effectively and responsibly with others as they work alone and cooperatively. By setting goals, evaluating progress, and managing their time, fifth graders develop the study skills needed for secondary education. Thematic studies wrap specific subject areas into big-picture learning.


Character education guides fifth graders to cooperate as a team and to demonstrate personal accountability. Appropriate listening, thoughtful responses, and constructive feedback are emphasized. Students practice good citizenship through social responsibilities such as volunteering at a food bank, serving as “buddy classes” for second graders, and taking leadership roles in school projects such as Friday Morning Meeting and organizing the school sock-hop.

Literacy promotes independent reading at personal reading levels, public speaking in summative presentations, writing comprehensive essays, and listening to classmates and speakers share information. Students engage in the full writing process, learning proper use of grammar, dialogue, powerful word choices, and reflection. Teachers guide thoughtful consideration of strategies for accessing text, crafting writing, and evaluating work. Fifth graders are encouraged to experiment, take risks, use language of many genres, and think of themselves as readers and writers.

Math engages all mathematical strands through mental math, hands-on activities, visual interpretations, and computation. Topics range from 3-D symmetry to algebraic thinking, manipulating fractions to multiplying multi-digit numbers, calculating area and volume to interpreting data from graphs and tables. Students are asked to explain their strategies and solutions and to demonstrate logical reasoning.  Fifth graders work with the Bridges in Mathematics curriculum.

Social Studies integrates United States history, service learning, global studies, and language skills into the fifth grade curriculum. Through our units on Lewis and Clark, family heritage, Westward expansion, and global studies students learn to master research and writing processes. Students write creative stories, personal accounts, research papers, and formal and informal inquiries to explore topics. Students take creative initiative to explore units through technology and project-based learning. For example, in the fall, students explore the Tilth garden with iPads to create a “Lewis and Clark plant identification journal.” In the winter, students learn to navigate Adobe Photoshop and premier elements as they create a personal poem of their family’s past and present and in the spring, students make Revolutionary War stop-motion animation movies using multiple iPad apps. These projects are student driven and promote teamwork and leadership. Each year global studies is creatively embedded into the curriculum to connect the themes of the year.


The inquiry process is a science focus in fifth grade. We begin the year leaning about scientific inquiry through the lens of Lewis & Clark’s discoveries. Students are taken through the inquiry process as they create their own experiment, changing one variable and conducting the experiment again. The inquiry process is explored through the study of load lines, water displacement, and maximum carrying capacity of canoes and blubber as insulation for whales are the vehicles.

Life Science: Students use background knowledge of the inquiry scientific process to conduct their own experiments with plants. This experiment features rapid-cycling Wisconsin Fast Plants as a vehicle for experimentation. These plants are especially well suited for classroom study because they are hardy, compact, thrive under artificial lights, and complete their life cycle in about 40 days. The main objective of “ Experiments with Plants” is to teach students how to design and conduct controlled investigative experiments. Students learn through discussion and readings to identify the key variables that affect the life, health, and reproductive capabilities of Wisconsin Fast Plants, and they learn they can manipulate these variables. Then, working in teams, students formulate a question they would like to attempt to answer through experimentation. They proceed to design and set up team experimental plans. After fertilization of the plants by cross-pollination the plants develop seed pods. With the life cycle of the plant complete, students reflect on their experiences and share their data and conclusions with the other students in the class.

Physical Science: Gases are often mysterious to children, because a gas may be invisible and yet have properties that can be observed. Students’ understanding of air and space increase greatly when they discover that air is made up of several kinds of gases and to think of ways to tell different gases apart. Balloons and Gases provide students with an opportunity to prepare and collect several common gases and to discover and work with some of their properties. Students begin to work with acids and gases to discover simple chemical reactions and to find the properties of acids and bases. Next, students generate gases that are “invisible,” differentiating these gases by weight and reactions of the gases. In this unit, students will be able to control many different chemical reactions. The ones by which the gases are generated and identified suggest a whole range of related questions and explorations.

Earth Science: Students investigate the interactions between land and water in this unit. Using a stream table as a model, they create hills, build dams, and grow vegetation. Miniature valleys, waterfalls, and canyons form in the stream table as water flows over and through the soil. From these firsthand observations, students discover how water changes the shape of land and how features in the land, in turn, affect the flow of water. This is a rich unit for students. They learn to use models to study the interactions of land and water and to test these interactions under various conditions. They are challenged to make comparisons on the basis of their own results and those of their classmates. They relate their models to the real world as they apply learned concepts to photographs of land and water on earth. Through these applications, students will be encouraged to observe land and water each day and to search for evidence of land and water interactions in the world around them. In the spring, students take their classroom knowledge and observe, firsthand, watersheds, estuaries, and how dams affect the land. Field trips to the Mercer Slough, Cedar River Watershed, Padilla Bay estuary and Nature Bridge, an environmental education center in the Olympic National Forest, provide these experiences.

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