Utah Elementary Science Core Curriculum

Fifth Grade

Adopted by Utah State Board of Education

March 12, 2002


Science is a way of knowing, a process for gaining knowledge and understanding of the natural world. The Science Core Curriculum places emphasis on understanding and using skills. Students should be active learners. It is not enough for students to read about science; they must do science. They should observe, inquire, question, formulate and test hypotheses, analyze data, report, and evaluate findings. The students, as scientists, should have hands–on, active experiences throughout the instruction of the science curriculum.


The Elementary Science Core describes what students should know and be able to do at the end of each of the K–6 grade levels. It was developed, critiqued, piloted, and revised by a community of Utah science teachers, university science educators, State Office of Education specialists, scientists, expert national consultants, and an advisory committee representing a wide variety of people from the community.  The Core reflects the current philosophy of science education that is expressed in national documents developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies of Science.  This Science Core has the endorsement of the Utah Science Teachers Association.  The Core reflects high standards of achievement in science for all students. 


Organization of the Elementary Science Core


The Core is designed to help teachers organize and deliver instruction. 


The Science Core Curriculum’s organization:

ü      Each grade level begins with a brief course description.

ü      The INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES (ILOs) describe the goals for science skills and attitudes.  They are found at the beginning of each grade, and are an integral part of the Core that should be included as part of instruction.

ü      The SCIENCE BENCHMARKS describe the science content students should know.  Each grade level has three to five Science Benchmarks.  The ILOs and Benchmarks intersect in the Standards, Objectives and Indicators. 

ü      A STANDARD is a broad statement of what students are expected to understand. Several Objectives are listed under each Standard. 

ü      An OBJECTIVE is a more focused description of what students need to know and be able to do at the completion of instruction. If students have mastered the Objectives associated with a given Standard, they are judged to have mastered that Standard at that grade level. Several Indicators are described for each Objective.

ü      An INDICATOR is a measurable or observable student action that enables one to judge whether a student has mastered a particular Objective. Indicators are not meant to be classroom activities, but they can help guide classroom instruction.


Eight Guidelines Were Used in Developing the Elementary Science Core


Reflects the Nature of Science: Science is a way of knowing, a process of gaining knowledge and understanding of the natural world. The Core is designed to produce an integrated set of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) for students. Please see the Intended Learning Outcomes document for each grade level core.


As described in these ILOs, students will:


1.             Use science process and thinking skills.

2.             Manifest science interests and attitudes.

3.             Understand important science concepts and principles.

4.             Communicate effectively using science language and reasoning.

5.             Demonstrate awareness of the social and historical aspects of science.

6.             Understand the nature of science.


Coherent: The Core has been designed so that, wherever possible, the science ideas taught within a particular grade level have a logical and natural connection with each other and with those of earlier grades. Efforts have also been made to select topics and skills that integrate well with one another and with other subject areas appropriate to grade level. In addition, there is an upward articulation of science concepts, skills, and content.  This spiraling is intended to prepare students to understand and use more complex science concepts and skills as they advance through their science learning.


Developmentally Appropriate:  The Core takes into account the psychological and social readiness of students. It builds from concrete experiences to more abstract understandings. The Core describes science language students should use that is appropriate to each grade level.  A more extensive vocabulary should not be emphasized.  In the past, many educators may have mistakenly thought that students understood abstract concepts (such as the nature of the atom), because they repeated appropriate names and vocabulary (such as electron and neutron). The Core resists the temptation to tell about abstract concepts at inappropriate grade levels, but focuses on providing experiences with concepts that students can explore and understand in depth to build a foundation for future science learning.


Encourages Good Teaching Practices:  It is impossible to accomplish the full intent of the Core by lecturing and having students read from textbooks. The Elementary Science Core emphasizes student inquiry. Science process skills are central in each standard.  Good science encourages students to gain knowledge by doing science: observing, questioning, exploring, making and testing hypotheses, comparing predictions, evaluating data, and communicating conclusions. The Core is designed to encourage instruction with students working in cooperative groups.  Instruction should connect lessons with students’ daily lives. The Core directs experiential science instruction for all students, not just those who have traditionally succeeded in science classes. The vignettes listed on the “Utah Science Home Page” at http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/science for each of the Core standards provide examples, based on actual practice, that demonstrate that excellent teaching of the Science Core is possible.


Comprehensive:  The Elementary Science Core does not cover all topics that have traditionally been in the elementary science curriculum; however, it does provide a comprehensive background in science. By emphasizing depth rather than breadth, the Core seeks to empower students rather than intimidate them with a collection of isolated and eminently forgettable facts. Teachers are free to add related concepts and skills, but they are expected to teach all the standards and objectives specified in the Core for their grade level.


Feasible:  Teachers and others who are familiar with Utah students, classrooms, teachers, and schools have designed the Core.  It can be taught with easily obtained resources and materials. A Teacher Resource Book (TRB) is available for elementary grades and has sample lessons on each topic for each grade level. The TRB is a document that will grow as teachers add exemplary lessons aligned with the new Core.  The middle grade levels have electronic textbooks available at the Utah State Office of Education’s “Utah Science Home Page” at http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/science.


Useful and Relevant:  This curriculum relates directly to student needs and interests. It is grounded in the natural world in which we live. Relevance of science to other endeavors enables students to transfer skills gained from science instruction into their other school subjects and into their lives outside the classroom.


Encourages Good Assessment Practices: Student achievement of the standards and objectives in this Core are best assessed using a variety of assessment instruments. One’s purpose should be clearly in mind as assessment is planned and implemented.  Performance tests are particularly appropriate to evaluate student mastery of science processes and problem-solving skills. Teachers should use a variety of classroom assessment approaches in conjunction with standard assessment instruments to inform their instruction. Sample test items, keyed to each Core Standard, may be located on the Utah Science Home Page. Observation of students engaged in science activities is highly recommended as a way to assess students’ skills as well as attitudes in science.  The nature of the questions posed by students provides important evidence of students’ understanding of science.

The Most Important Goal

Elementary school reaches the greatest number of students for a longer period of time during the most formative years of the school experience. Effective elementary science instruction engages students actively in enjoyable learning experiences.  Science instruction should be as thrilling an experience for a child as seeing a rainbow, growing a flower, or holding a toad. Science is not just for those who have traditionally succeeded in the subject, and it is not just for those who will choose science–related careers. In a world of rapidly expanding knowledge and technology, all students must gain the skills they will need to understand and function responsibly and successfully in the world. The Core provides skills in a context that enables students to experience the joy of doing science.

Fifth Grade Science Core


In the Fifth Grade students begin to understanding concepts of Change and Cause and Effect.  Students will learn about the constantly changing Earth’s surface. They will investigate physical and chemical changes in matter. They will begin to relate causes for changes with their effects. Students will have opportunity to investigate the effects of various forces, such as magnetism and electricity upon materials.  They will begin to learn how traits passed from parent organisms to their offspring effect their survival.


Students should learn to value the scientific processes as means of obtaining knowledge. They should be encouraged to maintain an open and questioning mind and should be helped and encouraged to pose their own questions about objects, events, processes and results. Fifth graders should have the opportunity to plan and conduct their own experiments and come to their own conclusions as they read, observe, compare, describe, infer and draw conclusions.


Good science instruction requires hands–on science investigations in which student inquiry is an important goal. Teachers should provide opportunities for all students to explore many things.  Fifth graders should have sufficient understanding of Earth Science to point out an interesting landform to others and hypothesize its origin; feel the success of connecting batteries and wire to make the lights come on; learn about chemical change as they mix baking soda and vinegar and test changes in acidity of liquids using the juice of red cabbage leaves. They should come to enjoy science as a process of learning about their world.


Science Core concepts should be integrated with concepts and skills from other curriculum areas. Reading, writing and mathematics skills should be emphasized as integral to the instruction of science.  Technology issues and the nature of science are significant components of this Core.  Personal relevance of science in students’ lives is always an important part of helping students to value science and should be emphasized at this grade level.


This Core was designed using the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061: Benchmarks For Science Literacy and the National Academy of Science’s National Science Education Standards as guides to determine appropriate content and skills.


The fifth grade Science Core has three online resources designed to help with classroom instruction; they include Teacher Resource Book –a set of lesson plans, assessment items and science information specific to fifth grade; Sci-ber Text –an electronic science textbook specific to the Utah Core, and the science test item pool.  This pool includes multiple-choice questions, performance tasks, and interpretive items aligned to the standards and objectives of the fifth grade Science Core.  These resources are all available on the Utah Science Home Page at: http://www.schools.utah.gov/curr/science



The hands–on nature of this science curriculum increases the need for teachers to use appropriate precautions in the classroom and field. Teachers must adhere to the published guidelines for the proper use of animals, equipment, and chemicals in the classroom.  These guidelines are available on the Utah Science Home Page. 

Intended Learning Outcomes for Fifth Grade Science


The Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) describe the skills and attitudes students should learn as a result of science instruction.  They are an essential part of the Science Core Curriculum and provide teachers with a standard for evaluation of student learning in science.  Instruction should include significant science experiences that lead to student understanding using the ILOs. 


The main intent of science instruction in Utah is that students will value and use science as a process of obtaining knowledge based upon observable evidence.


By the end of fifth grade students will be able to:


1.  Use Science Process and Thinking Skills

a.       Observe simple objects, patterns, and events and report their observations.

b.       Sort and sequence data according to criteria given.

c.       Given the appropriate instrument, measure length, temperature, volume, and mass in metric units as specified.

d.       Compare things, processes, and events.

e.       Use classification systems.

f.        Plan and conduct simple experiments.

g.       Formulate simple research questions.

h.       Predict results of investigations based on prior data.

i.         Use data to construct a reasonable conclusion.


2.  Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests

a.       Demonstrate a sense of curiosity about nature.

b.       Voluntarily read and look at books and other materials about science.

c.       Pose science questions about objects, events, and processes.

d.       Maintain an open and questioning mind toward new ideas and alternative points of view.

e.       Seek and weigh evidence before drawing conclusions.

f.        Accept and use scientific evidence to help resolve ecological problems.


3.      Understand Science Concepts and Principles

a.       Know and explain science information specified for the grade level.

b.       Distinguish between examples and non-examples of concepts that have been taught.

c.       Solve problems appropriate to grade level by applying science principles and procedures.


4.      Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning

a.       Record data accurately when given the appropriate form (e.g., table, graph, chart).

b.       Describe or explain observations carefully and report with pictures, sentences, and models.

c.       Use scientific language in oral and written communication.

d.       Use reference sources to obtain information and cite the source.

e.       Use mathematical reasoning to communicate information.


5.      Demonstrate Awareness of Social and Historical Aspects of Science

a.       Cite examples of how science affects life.

b.       Understand the cumulative nature of science knowledge.


6.      Understand the Nature of Science

a.       Science is a way of knowing that is used by many people not just scientists.

b.       Understand that science investigations use a variety of methods and do not always use the same set of procedures; understand that there is not just one "scientific method."

c.       Science findings are based upon evidence.

Science Benchmark

The weight of an object is always equal to the sum of its parts, regardless of how it is assembled.  In a chemical reaction or physical change matter is neither created nor destroyed.  When two or more materials are combined, either a chemical reaction or physical change may occur.  Chemical reactions are often indicated when materials give off heat or cool as they take in heat, give off light, give off gas, or change colors.  In a chemical reaction, materials are changed into new substances.  In a physical change a new substance is not formed.


STANDARD I:  Students will understand that chemical and physical changes occur in matter.


Objective 1:  Describe that matter is neither created nor destroyed even though it may undergo change.

a.       Compare the total weight of an object to the weight of its individual parts after being disassembled.

b.       Compare the weight of a specified quantity of matter before and after it undergoes melting or freezing.

c.       Investigate the results of the combined weights of a liquid and a solid after the solid has been dissolved and then recovered from the liquid (e.g., salt dissolved in water then water evaporated).

d.       Investigate chemical reactions in which the total weight of the materials before and after reaction is the same (e.g., cream and vinegar before and after mixing, borax and glue mixed to make a new substance).


Objective 2:  Evaluate evidence that indicates a physical change has occurred.

a.       Identify the physical properties of matter (e.g., hard, soft, solid, liquid, gas).

b.       Compare changes in substances that indicate a physical change has occurred.

c.       Describe the appearance of a substance before and after a physical change.


Objective 3:  Investigate evidence for changes in matter that occur during a chemical reaction.

a.       Identify observable evidence of a chemical reaction (e.g., color change, heat or light given off, heat absorbed, gas given off).

b.       Explain why the measured weight of a remaining product is less than its reactants when a gas is produced.

c.       Cite examples of chemical reactions in daily life.

d.       Compare a physical change to a chemical change.

e.       Hypothesize how changing one of the materials in a chemical reaction will change the results.


Science language students should use: 

heat, substance, chemical change, dissolve, physical change, matter, product, reactants, solid, liquid, weight


Science Benchmark

The Earth’s surface is constantly changing.  Some changes happen very slowly over long periods of time, such as weathering, erosion, and uplift. Other changes happen abruptly, such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.  All around us, we see the visible effects of the building up and breaking down of the Earth’s surface.


STANDARD II:  Students will understand that volcanoes, earthquakes, uplift, weathering, and erosion reshape Earth's surface.


Objective 1:  Describe how weathering and erosion change Earth’s surface.

a.       Identify the objects, processes, or forces that weather and erode Earth’s surface (e.g., ice, plants, animals, abrasion, gravity, water, wind).

b.       Describe how geological features (e.g., valleys, canyons, buttes, arches) are changed through erosion (e.g., waves, wind, glaciers, gravity, running water).

c.       Explain the relationship between time and specific geological changes.


Objective 2:  Explain how volcanoes, earthquakes, and uplift affect Earth’s surface.

a.       Identify specific geological features created by volcanoes, earthquakes, and uplift.

b.       Give examples of different landforms that are formed by volcanoes, earthquakes, and uplift (e.g., mountains, valleys, new lakes, canyons).

c.       Describe how volcanoes, earthquakes, and uplift change landforms.

d.       Cite examples of how technology is used to predict volcanoes and earthquakes.


Objective 3:  Relate the building up and breaking down of Earth’s surface over time to the various physical land features.

a.       Explain how layers of exposed rock, such as those observed in the Grand Canyon, are the result of natural processes acting over long periods of time.

b.       Describe the role of deposition in the processes that change Earth’s surface.

c.       Use a time line to identify the sequence and time required for building and breaking down of geologic features on Earth.

d.       Describe and justify how the surface of Earth would appear if there were no mountain uplift, weathering, or erosion.


Science language students should use: 

earthquakes, erode, erosion, faults, uplift, volcanoes, weathering, buttes, arches, glaciers, geological, deposition



Science Benchmark

Earth and some earth materials have magnetic properties.  Without touching them, a magnet attracts things made of iron and either pushes or pulls on other magnets.  Electricity is a form of energy.  Current electricity can be generated and transmitted through pathways.  Some materials are capable of carrying electricity more effectively than other materials.  Static electricity is a result of objects being electrically charged.  Without touching them, materials that are electrically charged may either push or pull other charged materials.


STANDARD III:  Students will understand that magnetism can be observed when there is an interaction between the magnetic fields of magnets or between a magnet and materials made of iron.


Objective 1:  Investigate and compare the behavior of magnetism using magnets.

a.       Compare various types of magnets (e.g., permanent, temporary, and natural magnets) and their abilities to push or pull iron objects they are not touching.

b.       Investigate how magnets will both attract and repel other magnets.

c.       Compare permanent magnets and electromagnets.

d.       Research and report the use of magnets that is supported by sound scientific principles.


Objective 2:  Describe how the magnetic field of Earth and a magnet are similar.

a.                   Compare the magnetic fields of various types of magnets (e.g., bar magnet, disk magnet, horseshoe magnet).

b.                   Compare Earth’s magnetic field to the magnetic field of a magnet.

c.                   Construct a compass and explain how it works.

d.                   Investigate the effects of magnets on the needle of a compass and compare this to the effects of Earth’s magnetic field on the needle of a compass (e.g., magnets effect the needle only at close distances, Earth’s magnetic field affects the needle at great distances, magnets close to a compass overrides the Earth’s effect on the needle).


STANDARD IV:  Students will understand features of static and current electricity.


Objective 1:  Describe the behavior of static electricity as observed in nature and everyday occurrences.

a.       List several occurrences of static electricity that happen in everyday life.

b.       Describe the relationship between static electricity and lightning.

c.       Describe the behavior of objects charged with static electricity in attracting or repelling without touching.

d.       Compare the amount of static charge produced by rubbing various materials together (e.g., rubbing fur on a glass rod produces a greater charge then rubbing the fur with a metal rod, the static charge produced when a balloon is rubbed on hair is greater than when a plastic bag is rubbed on hair).

e.       Investigate how various materials react differently to statically charged objects.


Objective 2:  Analyze the behavior of current electricity.

a.       Draw and label the components of a complete electrical circuit that includes switches and loads (e.g., light bulb, bell, speaker, motor).

b.       Predict the effect of changing one or more of the components (e.g., battery, load, wires) in an electric circuit.

c.       Generalize the properties of materials that carry the flow of electricity using data by testing different materials.

d.       Investigate materials that prevent the flow of electricity.

e.       Make a working model of a complete circuit using a power source, switch, bell or light, and a conductor for a pathway.


Science language students should use:       

battery, complete circuit, incomplete circuit, current, conductor, insulator, pathway, power source, attract, compass, electromagnetism, magnetic force, magnetic field, natural magnet, permanent magnet, properties, repel, static electricity, temporary magnet, switch, load



Science Benchmark

All living things inherit a set of characteristics or traits from their parents.  Members of any given species transfer traits from one generation to the next. The passing of traits from parent to offspring is called heredity and causes the offspring to resemble the parent.  Some traits differ among members of a population, and these variations may help a particular species to survive better in a given environment in getting food, finding shelter, protecting itself, and reproducing.  These variations give the individual a survival advantage over other individuals of the same species.


STANDARD V:  Students will understand that traits are passed from the parent organisms to their offspring, and that sometimes the offspring may possess variations of these traits that may help or hinder survival in a given environment.


Objective 1:  Using supporting evidence, show that traits are transferred from a parent organism to its offspring.

a.       Make a chart and collect data identifying various traits among a given population (e.g., the hand span of students in the classroom, the color and texture of different apples, the number of petals of a given flower).

b.       Identify similar physical traits of a parent organism and its offspring (e.g., trees and saplings, leopards and cubs, chickens and chicks).

c.       Compare various examples of offspring that do not initially resemble the parent organism but mature to become similar to the parent organism (e.g., mealworms and darkling beetles, tadpoles and frogs, seedlings and vegetables, caterpillars and butterflies).

d.       Contrast inherited traits with traits and behaviors that are not inherited but may be learned or induced by environmental factors (e.g., cat purring to cat meowing to be let out of the house; the round shape of a willow is inherited, while leaning away from the prevailing wind is induced).

e.       Investigate variations and similarities in plants grown from seeds of a parent plant (e.g., how seeds from the same plant species can produce different colored flowers or identical flowers).


Objective 2:  Describe how some characteristics could give a species a survival advantage in a particular environment.

a.       Compare the traits of similar species for physical abilities, instinctual behaviors, and specialized body structures that increase the survival of one species in a specific environment over another species (e.g., difference between the feet of snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit, differences in leaves of plants growing at different altitudes, differences between the feathers of an owl and a hummingbird, differences in parental behavior among various fish).

b.       Identify that some environments give one species a survival advantage over another (e.g., warm water favors fish such as carp, cold water favors fish such as trout, environments that burn regularly favor grasses, environments that do not often burn favor trees).

c.       Describe how a particular physical attribute may provide an advantage for survival in one environment but not in another (e.g., heavy fur in arctic climates keep animals warm whereas in hot desert climates it would cause overheating; flippers on such animals as sea lions and seals provide excellent swimming structures in the water but become clumsy and awkward on land; cacti retain the right amount of water in arid regions but would develop root rot in a more temperate region; fish gills have the ability to absorb oxygen in water but not on land).

d.       Research a specific plant or animal and report how specific physical attributes provide an advantage for survival in a specific environment.


Science language students should use:

inherited, environment, species, offspring, traits, variations, survival, instincts, population, specialized structure, organism, life cycle, parent organism, learned behavior