Fourth grade responds to students’ increasing sense of intellectual curiosity and budding social independence.
Fourth graders have made the critical transition from learning to read to reading to learn, so assigned texts weave together social studies, science, and math. Learning experiences require students to practice personal integrity, classroom responsibility, and community participation.
Character education highlights independence and conflict resolution. Responsive Classroom and the Meridian CARES framework support respectful interactions, develop trust, and lead students to be contributing members of the community. Regular experience with good citizenship comes from serving as role models for first grade “buddy classes” as well as engagement in service learning and community service projects.
Literacy instruction asks students to draw upon their life experiences to create, edit, and publish poetry, narratives, persuasive essays, and descriptive writing. Students also focus on research based expository writing. Reading centers on comprehension, by having students summarize, infer, and make connections with the text. Students consider point of view and the author’s purpose in reading and writing. The Six Traits of Writing guide students through drafting, editing, and revising their work. Spelling words highlight patterns, vocabulary, and etymology.
Math emphasizes building fluency and accuracy in computation. Arrays help students solidify multiplication fluency and build comprehension of other number concepts. Students collect and investigate data, conduct probability experiments, calculate area, perimeter, and volume, and determine fraction and decimal equivalencies. Lessons challenge students to solve problems, apply their knowledge to real-world situations, and explain their problem-solving strategies in writing. Fourth graders work with the Bridges in Mathematics curricula.
Social Studies focuses on Washington state history, politics, geography, geology, and Native peoples. By considering how environment shapes a way of life, students interpret regional culture as well as more distant communities. The school-wide Global Studies program encourages students to appreciate diversity by comparing and contrasting their lives with cultures and countries across the globe.
Earth Science: Students explore the massive movements that are constantly shaping Earth, volcanoes erupting, trenches creeping open, continental plates colliding and sending mountain ranges skyward. Students learn how rocks provide clues to Earth’s history, structure, and geological activity. They build Earth cross-sections to compare ocean and continental crusts. Students investigate Earth processes that lend support to the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics. They model ocean-floor spreading, plate seduction, magma convection currents, volcanism, and earthquakes and plate boundaries. As a result, students learn to think of the Earth as a geological mosaic, constantly being refitted. Students read about Earth’s layers and landforms and forces that shape Earth’s surface. They learn how moving plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, weathering, and erosion change Earth. They also read seismologists, scientists to study earthquakes, and about Charles Richter, the creator of the Richter scale for ranking the strength of earthquakes. Finally students learn about rock cycle.
Life Science: Students start from the ground up, learning about litter and landfills. They sort schoolyard trash and calculate how quickly a classroom would fill with waste paper. They practice one way to recycle materials and brainstorm others. Next, they observe particulate matter in air and consider the implications. They create a filtration system, examine water pollutants, and try to clean up an oil spill. After taking the hardness, alkalinity, and the acidity of water samples, students observe the effects of acid rain on plants. Finally, they define noise pollution based on opinion surveys and noise level tests. Students read about how human and natural activities can cause land, air, and water pollution. They learn what can be done to reduce pollution and conserve natural resources. They read about the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources. Noise and light pollution are also introduced. Finally, students learn about alternative energy sources and why it is important to develop them.
Physical Science: Students explore the fundamental of flight by assembling and experimenting with a hangar full of flying machines. Before they “take off”, students investigate the properties of air, especially that air exerts pressure. Then they build parachutes, kites, and hot-air balloons to demonstrate air resistance, wind speed and angle, and lighter-than-air flight. Paper airplane trials prove that shape determines flight path and duration. Next, students discover how airfoil design of both fixed wings and helicopter rotors create lift. They construct propeller-driven and simulated jet vehicles to explore plane power, and they learn to control flight by adding ailerons, elevators, and rudders and gliders. Students cap off the unit by building and launching fuel-powered model rockets. Students read about the two types of flight: gliding flight and true flight. They learn about both lighter-than-air flight and heavier-than-air flight and about different types of flying machines, from parachutes and airships to jets and spacecraft. They find out about the forces at work in flight and how Bernoulli’s principle explains lift. They are also introduced to Wright brothers, who made the airplane that flew the first powered, controlled flight. Finally, students learn about milestones in the history of flight.
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