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The science program addresses dimensions of learning that are appropriate for the age, development and level of intellectual curiosity of Pingry’s Lower School learners.

Dimensions include key disciplinary ideas from multiple domains of science: Life Science, Physical Science, Engineering Design, and Earth/Space Science. Interdisciplinary concepts that bridge multiple disciplines allow children to make deep connections. Practices and habits of mind require children to do, act, question, and problem-solve like scientists and engineers. These scientific practices reinforce and support the development of accurate scientific ideas and concepts. Students at Pingry Lower School gain knowledge through scientific practice with a wide variety of engaging activities, some of which include: integrative STEAM emphasis, interdisciplinary research, authentic hands-on experiences, global perspective, collaborative problem-solving, and design challenges. The science program is enriched with an assortment of available physical, digital artifacts and tools. The learning environment takes place in Pingry’s collaborative spaces and in three age-specific science labs.

Curriculum by Grade


In Kindergarten, students begin using some of the basic techniques of scientists. They actively collect samples of the environment surrounding them and classify these and other samples by noting different characteristics and using all their senses. They are introduced to the importance of recycling and the role it plays in their school community. Students study the difference between living and non-living things and learn about buoyancy from objects that float and sink. Students observe changes around them by looking at seasons and weather, and patterns in nature are introduced. They learn about animal adaptations, hibernation and migration based on the seasons. They are introduced to the life cycle of plants and learn about seed identification. They plant marigold seeds, grow them under the lights during the winter and transplant them into the community kitchen garden in the spring. In physical science, the three states of matter are introduced.

Grade 1

In Grade 1, life science includes learning about the parts of plants and the ways plants and animals depend on each other. They learn about insects and the role they play in sustainable gardening and composting. They learn about owls, their unique bodies, and their habitats. This unit is taught in conjunction with the art department, where the students use their diagrams of owls to make clay owls, which serve as garden art in our community kitchen garden. Students help to maintain our community garden as well as growing and harvesting fruits, herbs, and vegetables. In earth science, students study the structure of the earth by observing what makes up various geographic features. They learn about the continent of Antarctica, the different kinds of ice that form and the weather and extreme temperatures that make this continent unique. Students learn about the animals that live in Antarctica and the adaptations that heIp them survive. In physical science, the three states of matter are explored through hands-on labs where the scientific process is introduced.

Grade 2

In Grade 2, students examine the structure and function of the parts of different kinds of plants and animals. They learn that all living things have structures by which they can be classified as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish. Students explore how living things grow and change. Animal growth and development are studied by looking at the stages of insect growth using mealworms. Arctic animal adaptations are studied in conjunction with an Alaska unit. In earth science, students study what makes up the structure of the earth by observing various geographic features. They learn about weathering, erosion, soil formation, and the greenhouse effect on the polar ice caps. They learn about the water cycle and how air and water create the earth’s weather and climate. In physical science, students explore the way heat changes matter. Magnetic force is introduced. Students observe that magnets have poles that attract and repel each other.

Grade 3

In Grade 3, students focus in life science on the macroscopic scale looking at systems and how they function. Students evaluate how diverse organisms: pea seeds, crayfish, and humans have similarities and differences in the way they grow, survive, and behave. Students learn about producers, consumers, and decomposers and how living things interact with the environment by looking at the flow of matter and energy in a system. As they share results from Pingry’s tulip test garden, students are part of a global climate study and develop the skills of citizen scientists. Building upon their previous knowledge about plant structures, third graders experiment and collect data to help answer original questions about plant behavior. Children design fair scientific tests to prompt deeper inquiry into questions they may have.

As third graders study crayfish, they track and record crayfish motion in a habitat. This data is used by students to create simulations that illustrate patterns of crayfish movement over time.

In the area of physical science, third graders focus on types motion and on the direction and intensity of the forces that make matter move. Third graders design ramp systems to solve a design challenge. They evaluate types of motion using robots and basic programming models. In the area of Earth and space science, third graders create water and land models to demonstrate the movement of water and its impact on our Earth. Third graders are introduced to major Earth systems and the role of clouds in the movement of water. This is an area of study that allows for data collection and weather-predicting opportunities for third graders.

Grade 4

In Grade 4, students begin the year with an Earth science unit that focuses on our changing Earth. Fourth graders focus on large scale changing processes at work. The role of plate tectonics and cycling of Earth’s solid materials are key areas of study. Students gather evidence in an authentic learning environment to develop scientific explanations about New Jersey’s geologic past.

Fourth graders create a simulation using Stop Motion technology and construct models that demonstrate the Earth’s dynamic processes to demonstrate their understanding. These very simulations and models are used as evidence to develop scientific predictions about the future.

In the area of physical science, fourth graders have a unit on matter and energy. Students identify and measure various properties of matter. Conservation of matter and energy and energy transfer are also introduced. Fourth graders will design their own original system to include different phenomena (moving objects, light, sound, and circuits). They will construct fair scientific tests that support deep questioning about energy and energy interactions. Students are part of a global, collaboration project as they work with students from other countries to design a solar powered flashlight using CAD software and 3D printers.

Time permitting, fourth graders will engage in a life science unit to focus on characteristics of organisms and environmental interactions. Students explore evidence for how some traits are passed down through generations and how some traits are shaped by the environment.

Grade 5

Grade 5 science begins with a unit on chemistry. Students learn how to read and navigate the Periodic Table of Elements as they learn about how it organizes information. Chemical reactions are explored as students learn the differences between chemical and physical changes. Conservation of matter, measurement, and data collection are key areas focused upon during this unit. Students immediately follow their chemistry unit with a study of living systems. The unit covers a variety of living systems on different scales, including human organ systems and ways in which they interact. Various organ systems are explored beginning at the cellular level and expanding to include the design and function of the many organ systems. The interdependence of all parts of the body is stressed, as is the importance of the relationship between structure, function, and design. Some topics studied include the respiratory system, circulatory system, and the digestive system. During their study, students tackle a STEAM engineering challenge to design a functioning device that models how an organ works.

A key activity of the unit is a Heart Rate Lab when students measure and record their resting and active heart rates. The data is then studied and recorded in Google Sheets to analyze the data set. Students then use graphing tools in Google Sheets to graph their own data, and we study the entire Fifth Grade’s data in class. In the spring, and time permitting, the Fifth Grade students define and tackle an authentic problem that is connected to an environmental need.

The adept use of technology is stressed throughout the course as Grade 5 students incorporate principles of STEAM learning into everything they do from data collection and analysis, to shared group presentations and online assessments.