The goals of science education at FSMN are to develop scientifically literate students, nurture curiosity, and develop critical thinking skills and scientific inquiry thinking. We have created space for emergent curriculum, especially in the early primary grades, to help children become observers and ask the questions that lead to higher-order thinking.



FSMN’s science curriculum reflects our progressive philosophy and our identity as a Quaker school. FSMN is guided by the principles identified by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The intent of the NGSS Framework is to describe a coherent vision of science education by

  1. viewing learning as a developmental progression,
  2. focusing on a limited number of core ideas to allow for in-depth learning (in both cross-disciplinary concepts with applicability across science and engineering, and concepts central to each of the disciplines), and
  3. emphasizing that learning about science and engineering involves integration of content knowledge and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design.

The commitment to Quaker values also influences the curriculum through our focus on stewardship of the earth and its resources, and the use of science to address social concerns.



The curriculum encompasses four domains as identified by the Next Generation Science Standards: the physical sciences, the life sciences, the earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and applications of science.

K-8 students at FSMN develop their understanding of science through hands-on exploration and use of scientific inquiry. This hands-on approach to science is used to capitalize on students’ curiosity. They develop the ability to make observations, categorize, measure, construct models, and make predictions.  All students use the following scientific inquiry process, as follows: 

  • ask a question
  • plan an investigation
  • gather materials
  • explore/experiment
  • gather data
  • organize and present results

Students also use the following engineering design process:

  • define a problem
  • develop a design to solve the problem
  • test the design
  • modify the design and test again
  • share the solution

The information gathered in such activities enhances development of scientific thinking as well as attitudes about science.

In lower school, resources include emergent and integrated science units, field trips, school yard studies, FOSS modules (developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science University of California at Berkeley), Engineering is Elementary modules (developed by Museum of Science in Boston), guest speakers, place-based education, and independent research.

In middle school, science is taught as a discrete class. Resources include field trips, schoolyard studies, guest speakers, place-based education, and independent research. In addition, each grade level covers a core theme from one of the four domains of science identified by the NGSS.  Students are introduced to Science Explorer textbooks by Prentice Hall. Reading assignments are designed to support the exploration and experimentation that occur in class.

Throughout the K-8 experience, students are asked to design and carry out their own scientific investigations. The complexity of these investigations and the expectations grow as students develop new skills, culminating in their seventh and eighth grade science fair projects. 


Scope and Sequence 

Lower School

Grade One
Grade Two
Grade Three
Grade Four


Grades 1 & 2

 Grades 3 & 4


Middle School

Grade Five
Grade Six
Grade Seven
Grade Eight

Grade 5

Grade 6

Grade 7

Grade 8

Additional Scope and Sequence Practices for Middle School

Middle School Experiments

Fifth Grade

  • students work in teams
  • research (3-6 hours) is conducted in class
  • all experiments are plant-related to support our plant study
  • students use class time to produce a poster presentation summarizing their research
  • students present their research to their classmates

Sixth Grade

  • students work alone
  • research (3-6 hours) is conducted outside of school
  • students may choose any safe and appropriate topic of interest
  • students use time out of school to produce a poster presentation summarizing their research
  • students present their research to their classmates

Seventh and Eighth Grades

  • students may choose to work alone or in teams
  • research (14-28 hours) is conducted outside of school
  • students may choose any topic of interest that meets the year’s theme (e.g., Real World Problems)
  • students produce a written report, a poster presentation, and an oral presentation summarizing their research
  • students present their research to judges at our school’s Science Fair night
  • students expressing interest are encouraged to participate in the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair


Additional Middle School Projects

Sixth Grade Rocket Challenge

While learning about astronomy in sixth grade, students participate in a paper rocket challenge. Students are encouraged to design and build a paper rocket that flies as far as possible when launched at 30 p.s.i.

Seventh/Eighth Grade Solar Cars

During the physical sciences year of the seventh and eighth grade rotation, students complete the year by designing and building model solar cars. During both of these projects (paper rockets and solar cars) emphasis is placed on improvement through the design, analyze, and redesign process. Ample time is provided for students to design, build, and analyze several working models. Students are asked to document their process by creating scale drawings, explaining the design choices they made, testing and analyzing the effectiveness of their models, drawing conclusions, and repeating the process.



By the end of fourth grade students should be able to

  • design and execute experiments
  • make predictions and test results
  • observe and record observations, and draw conclusions
  • collaborate in groups of four in which each member contributes to data collection, data analysis, and reporting of results
  • use diagrams, writing, or examples to demonstrate principles taught in their science units
  • sort, order, seriate, and classify various materials
  • draw life cycles of plants and insects 

By the end of fifth grade students should be able to

  • develop familiarity with scientific terminology for describing the diversity of observable characteristics in plants and animals
  • practice observation and use scientific terminology for describing differences between various types of plants and animals
  • identify common groups of plants and animals using observable physical characteristics and structures
  • identify local native examples of flora and fauna
  • use a dichotomous key to identify local trees
  • identify primary body parts of flowering plants and body plans of major animal groups
  • express understanding of the relationship between body structure and function, in particular as adaptations relate to survival
  • demonstrate understanding of water movement through plant bodies from root hairs to stomates
  • demonstrate understanding of flower structure and function in plant reproduction
  • demonstrate understanding of sexual reproduction and life cycles in animals
  • recognize fundamental importance of autotrophic organisms and the process of photosynthesis
  • explain cyclical relationship between respiration and photosynthesis
  • identify a variety of ways in which humans and other animals depend upon plants
  • identify trophic levels of various organisms in a community
  • compare and contrast the roles of organisms in various relationships including predator/prey, parasite/host, and producer/consumer/decomposer
  • differentiate between renewable and non-renewable resources
  • provide common examples of both renewable and non-renewable resources
  • identify reasons for recycling
  • identify the role energy plays in fulfilling human resource needs and consumption patterns
  • distinguish between needs and wants
  • manipulate decimals and accurately multiply and divide decimals by powers of ten
  • identify proper metric units for measuring objects of various sizes
  • accurately measure dimensions of various objects to within 1 mm
  • accurately measure using a variety of tools including a ruler, a meter stick, and a tape measure
  • develop familiarity with metric units and the ability to reasonably estimate metric measures of common objects
  • convert between various metric units of measure
  • generate testable scientific questions
  • plan appropriate scientific investigations
  • identify and collect relevant evidence
  • identify variables in a scientific investigation
  • demonstrate good observational skills and accurate record-keeping with use of notebook
  • demonstrate understanding for the need for replication
  • draw logical conclusions based on interpretation of results
  • communicate clearly with others regarding the nature of their study

By the end of sixth grade students should be able to                             

  • explain how the combination of the earth's tilted axis and revolution around the sun causes changes in day length and the progression of seasons
  • identify the sun as the principal external energy source for the earth
  • recognize that the sun is a medium-sized star, one of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and the closest star to earth
  • describe how gravity and inertia keep most objects in the solar system in regular and predictable motion, know that gravity alone holds us to the earth’s surface, and explain the phenomena of the tides
  • recognize that gravitational force exists between any two objects and describe how the masses of the objects and distance between them affect the force
  • compare and contrast the sizes, locations, and compositions of the planets and moons in our solar system
  • use the predictable motions of the earth around its own axis and around the sun, and of the moon around the earth, to explain the phases of the moon and the occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses
  • demonstrate understanding that the earth is the third planet from the sun in a system that includes the moon, the sun, six other planets and their moons, and smaller objects, such as asteroids, comets, and meteors; know that the sun, an average star, is the central and largest body in the solar system
  • explain how over time rocks weather and combine with organic matter to form soil, know that soil consists of weathered rocks and decomposed organic material from dead plants, animals, and bacteria and that soils are often found in layers, with each having a different chemical composition and texture
  • explain how slow processes, such as water and wind erosion, and rapid processes, such as landslides and volcanic eruptions, form features of the earth's surface; know that land forms are the result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces; understand that constructive forces include crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion
  • recognize that the earth is composed of layers, and describe the properties of the layers including the lithosphere, mantle and core
  • correlate the distribution of ocean trenches, mid-ocean ridges, and mountain ranges to volcanic and seismic activity
  • recognize that lithospheric plates on the scales of continents and oceans constantly move at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle, resulting in major geological events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and mountain building
  • interpret successive layers of sedimentary rocks and their fossils to infer relative ages of rock sequences, past geologic events, changes in environmental conditions, and the appearance and extinction of life forms
  • identify how some changes in the solid earth can be described as the “rock cycle”—old rocks at the earth’s surface weather, forming sediments that are buried, then compacted, heated, and often recrystallized into new rock which may be brought to the surface by the forces that drive plate motions, and the rock cycle continues
  • identify examples of how difficult it was for scientific innovators to break through the accepted ideas of their time to reach the conclusions that we currently take for granted
  • provide examples of how advances in technology have impacted the ways in which people live, work, and interact
  • identify that scientific knowledge is always changing as new technologies and information enhance observations and analysis of data
  • provide examples of important contributions to the advancement of science, engineering, and technology made by individuals representing different groups and cultures at different times in history
  • recognize that scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models
  • discuss how all scientific ideas are tentative and subject to change and improvement in principle, that for most major ideas in science there is much experimental and observational confirmation so those ideas are not likely to change greatly in the future, and that scientists do and have changed their ideas about nature when they encounter new experimental evidence that does not match their existing explanations
  • recognize that in areas where active research is being pursued and in which there is not a great deal of experimental or observational evidence and understanding, it is normal for scientists to differ with one another about the interpretation of the evidence or theory being considered—different scientists might publish conflicting experimental results or might draw different conclusions from the same data, but ideally, scientists acknowledge such conflict and work towards finding evidence that will resolve their disagreement
  • differentiate between renewable and non-renewable resources
  • provide common examples of both renewable and non-renewable resources
  • identify reasons for composting
  • identify the role energy plays in fulfilling human resource needs and consumption patterns
  • distinguish between needs and wants
  • identify Twin Cities citizen link to Mississippi River for drinking water, wastewater, and storm water
  • differentiate between storm water and wastewater, describe what we do with each, and identify impacts of both
  • recognize ways in which citizens can conserve water resources at home as well as in the landscape
  • recognize other ways people use local water resources including recreation, transportation, and energy
  • recognize ways in which water availability and use historically shaped and continues to shape our lives in the Twin Cities

By the end of seventh/eighth grade year one students should be able to

  • use physical properties of different substances to separate them from a mixture 
  • use the relationship between heat and the motion and arrangement of particles in solids, liquids, and gases to explain melting, freezing, condensation, and evaporation 
  • distinguish among solids, liquids, and gases in terms of shape and volume 
  • distinguish between chemical and physical changes in matter 
  • identify evidence of physical changes, including changing phase or shape, and dissolving in other materials
  • identify evidence of chemical changes, including color change, generation of a gas, solid formation, and temperature change
  • distinguish between a mixture and a pure substance and use physical properties including color, solubility, density, melting point, and boiling point to separate mixtures and identify pure substances
  • explain the arrangement of the elements on the Periodic Table, including the relationships among elements in a given column or row
  • recognize that all substances are composed of one or more of approximately one hundred elements, and that the periodic table organizes the elements into groups with similar properties
  • describe the differences between elements, compounds, and mixtures in terms of atoms and molecules
  • describe the relative charges, masses, and locations of the protons, neutrons, and electrons in an atom of an element
  • recognize that a chemical equation describes a reaction where pure substances change to produce one or more pure substances whose properties are different from the original substance(s)
  • explain how the rearrangement of atoms in a chemical reaction illustrates the law of conservation of mass
  • describe the role of valence electrons in the formation of chemical bonds
  • recognize that acids are compounds whose properties include a sour taste, characteristic color changes with litmus and other acid/base indicators, and the tendency to react with bases to produce a salt and water
  • measure and calculate the speed of an object that is traveling in a straight line
  • differentiate among speed, velocity, and acceleration
  • graph the position and speed of an object traveling in a straight line as a function of time, explain how the graphs describe the object’s motion
  • recognize that when the forces acting on an object are balanced, the object remains at rest or continues to move at a constant speed in a straight line, and that unbalanced forces cause a change in the speed or direction of the motion of an object
  • identify the forces acting on an object and describe how the sum of the forces affects the motion of the object
  • recognize that some forces between objects act when the objects are in direct contact and others, such as magnetic, electrical and gravitational forces can act from a distance
  • identify the force that starts something moving or changes its speed or direction of motion
  • demonstrate that a greater force on an object can produce a greater change in motion
  • recognize that inertia is the property of an object that causes it to resist changes in motion
  • distinguish between mass and weight
  • give examples of simple machines and demonstrate how they change the input and output of forces and motion
  • generate testable scientific questions
  • plan appropriate scientific investigations; plan and conduct a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis about a relationship between two variables, ensuring that one variable is systematically manipulated, the other is measured and recorded, and any other variables are controlled
  • identify and collect relevant evidence
  • identify variables in a scientific investigation
  • demonstrate good observational skills and accurate record keeping with use of notebook
  • demonstrate understanding of the need for replication
  • generate a scientific conclusion from an investigation, clearly distinguishing between results (evidence) and conclusions (explanation)
  • communicate clearly with others regarding the nature of their study
  • generate and refine a variety of scientific questions and match them with appropriate methods of investigation, such as field studies, controlled experiments, reviews of existing work, and development of models
  • understand that when similar investigations give different results, the challenge is to judge whether the differences are significant and if further studies are required
  • understand that prior expectations can create bias when conducting scientific investigations

By the end of seventh/eighth grade year two students should be able to

  • demonstrate understanding of flower structure and function in flowering plant reproduction
  • demonstrate understanding of sexual reproduction and life cycles in plants
  • recognize the fundamental importance of autotrophic organisms and the process of photosynthesis
  • explain link between respiration in animals and cellular respiration
  • explain how radiant energy from the sun is converted into chemical energy during the process of photosynthesis
  • recognize that cells are the basic unit of structure and function in all living things
  • recognize that all cells do not look alike and specialized cells in multicellular organisms are organized into tissues and organs that perform specialized functions
  • recognize that cells repeatedly divide to make more cells for growth and repair
  • identify the major events involved in the cell cycle
  • describe the cyclical nature of photosynthesis and cellular respiration
  • demonstrate between cellular respiration and fermentation
  • demonstrate between active and passive transport of materials in and out of cells
  • distinguish between the cells of animals and plants
  • explain limits on cell size
  • recognize that cells contain genes and that each gene carries a single unit of information that either alone, or with other genes, determines the inherited traits of an organism
  • recognize that every organism requires a set of instructions for specifying its traits
  • demonstrate between DNA, chromosomes, genes, and alleles
  • explain and provide examples of how traits may be influenced by both heredity and environment
  • explain how traits may be determined by one or many genes
  • apply the terms phenotype, genotype, allele, homozygous, and heterozygous
  • describe the process of DNA replication and the role of DNA and RNA in assembling protein molecules
  • use concepts from Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment to explain how sorting and recombination (crossing over) of genes during sexual reproduction (meiosis) increases the occurrence of variation in a species
  • recognize that in asexually reproducing organisms all the genes come from a single parent, and that in sexually reproducing organisms about half of the genes come from each parent
  • use the processes of mitosis and meiosis to explain the advantages and disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction
  • explain how mutations may have no effect, may harm, or rarely may be beneficial, and can result in genetic variation within a species
  • calculate probability of offspring inheriting genetic traits through construction and use of a Punnett Square
  • describe how evidence led Darwin to develop the theory of natural selection and common descent to explain evolution
  • explain how the fossil record documents the appearance, diversification, and extinction of many life forms
  • use internal and external anatomical structures to compare and infer relationships between living organisms as well as those in the fossil record
  • use genetic similarities to show evolutionary relationships among species
  • recognize that variation exists in every population and describe how a variation can help or hinder an organism’s ability to survive
  • recognize that extinction is a common event that can occur when the environment changes and a population’s ability to adapt is insufficient to allow its survival
  • describe how artificial selection has led to offspring through successive generations that can be very different in appearance and behavior from their distant ancestors
  • provide examples of selective breeding resulting in new varieties of cultivated plants and particular traits in domesticated animals
  • explain why genetic variation within a population is essential for evolution to occur
  • explain how competition for finite resources and the changing environment promote natural selection of offspring survival, depending on whether the offspring have characteristics that are advantageous or disadvantageous in the new environment
  • explain how genetic variation between two populations of a given species is due in part to different selective pressures acting independently on each population and how over time these differences can lead to the development of new species (speciation)
  • explain how evolution over time leads to greater diversity of species