Lansing School District Elementary Science
Scope & Sequence for Grade 4

Click on any unit title in the table below to view the pacing guide for that unit.








Earth Features and Changes

Simple Electric Circuits

Plant Growth

Interdependence of Animals and Plants

  Color Codes:  
 = Earth and Space Science  
 = Physical Science  
 = Life Science  



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 4


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  Grade:     Fourth     Science Area:     Earth and Space      
  Quarter:     First     Unit Title:     Earth Features and Changes      
  Unit overview:   Children use ideas from earlier units about earth materials and resources to consider whether materials are renewable or non-renewable. They investigate ways that we can conserve natural resources and ways that we can reduce the use of, or reuse, or recycle materials that we need for our daily lives. They investigate what fossils found in earth materials can tell us about plants and animals that lived in ancient times.  
  The 4 benchmarks in this unit represent ideas that are portions of 2 more encompassing Michigan Curriculum Framework science standards, as described in these MI-BIG narratives: V.1 The Geosphere
V.2 The Hydrosphere

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

Essential^ Tools (T) for Students in Real-world Contexts (R)

Notes for Teachers


Describe major features of the earth’s surface.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

The earth’s surface is different at different locations in Michigan. The way the earth looks where we are may not be the way it looks in other locations. Michigan has many different surface features including mountains, waterfalls, hills, and valleys, and bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, lakes, and rivers. Deserts and plains occupy significant areas in other parts of the U.S.

T:   Maps of Lansing, and Michigan. Children’s maps of the area around the school.

R:   Michigan surface features:   hills, valleys, waterfalls, Great Lakes; pictures of global land features — mountains, deserts.

Children commonly think that the earth is flat, or that we live inside of a hollow sphere, so the idea of a rounded earth’s surface is difficult for them to understand, and taught in the 5th grade astronomy unit.

See also EH — V.2.e.2.


Explain how rocks and fossils are used to understand the history of the earth.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Remains of plants and animals (including extinct plants and animals) can be found in the rock layers as fossils and can give us a view into the ancient life in Michigan.

T:   Hand lens.

R:   Fossils found in gravel, mines, beaches (Petoskey stones), quarries, and museum displays; local examples of layered rocks.

(This unit could be taught during the social studies unit on Michigan.)

See LE — III.4.e.1 (ancient life).


Describe natural changes in the earth's surface.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Things on earth change in different ways. Earth’s surface features can change slowly, due to glaciers, the pull of gravity, or wind, waves, water, and ice causing weathering or erosion. Changes can be rapid due to landslides, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The results of these changes are valleys, hills, lakes, widened rivers, mountains, cracks, and the movement of earth materials.

T:   None.

R:   Places around the school where erosion has occurred, such as gullies formed in downhill gravel areas, cracks in asphalt.

      Places beyond the school where changes have occurred, such as volcanic mountains, shorelines, landslides, sand dunes, river valleys.

Earth is constantly changing and this is difficult to comprehend for two reasons:   (1) the extreme age of the earth and the long time over which the changes take place; and (2) the immense forces at work to produce the change. Children may think that the earth has always looked like it does now, or that any changes were sudden and comprehensive.

See also EH V.2.e.2 — trace the path that rain water follows after it falls.


Trace the path that rain water follows after it falls.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Rain, falling locally from sky, collects on the earth’s surface, runs off downhill into streams and rivers, and soaks into the ground. In cities, gutters and street drains collect the water in underground systems that eventually empty into streams, rivers, or lakes.

T:   Maps showing local surface water and watersheds, maps that children make of the areas around the school.

R:   Examples of water flowing locally including gutters, drains, streams, and wetlands.

Children may be aware that water from rain or melting snow collects in puddles and either runs down the drain (in cities), soaks into the ground, or dries up. However, where the water goes after going down the drain or soaking in is much less obvious. They may have trouble believing that the water actually gets to rivers or lakes some distance away.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 4


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  Grade:     Fourth     Science Area:     Physical      
  Quarter:     Second     Unit Title:     Simple Electric Circuits      
  Unit overview:   Building on work in previous grades with sound, motion, and light, in this unit students learn about electricity as another kind of energy. By constructing simple electrical circuits, students learn ways in which electricity can be used. Students use their simple circuits to determine properties of materials that make them useful in electrical applications (e.g., as electrical conductors). This knowledge also provides a basis for understanding possible electrical hazards and describing ways to avoid them.  
  The 4 benchmarks in this unit represent ideas that are portions of 1 more encompassing Michigan Curriculum Framework science standard, as described in this MI-BIG narrative: IV.1 Matter and Energy  

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

Essential^ Tools (T) for Students in Real-world Contexts (R)

Notes for Teachers


Identify properties of materials which make them useful.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

We use many different objects that are made from a variety of materials. Certain properties make some materials better suited for certain uses than others. For example, rubber is used to cover electrical wires because it is flexible and it does not conduct electricity. Several metals are inexpensive, flexible, and good conductors of electricity and therefore are used to make electrical wire.

T:   By including them as part of a simple circuit consisting of a battery, wire, and a light bulb, various materials can be tested to determine if they are good or poor conductors of electricity.

      Venn diagrams, tables, journals to record findings with words and pictures.

R:   Appropriate selection of materials for a particular use, such as copper wire to conduct electricity or rubber to prevent the flow of electricity and electric shocks.

In this unit, the properties of materials that are of interest are those related to electricity. For example, some materials like metals are good conductors of electricity. Those that are also flexible and inexpensive are useful for making electrical wire. Other materials like rubber and plastics do not conduct electricity and therefore can be used to cover the outside of electrical wire or electrical appliances to protect us from electric shocks.


Identify forms of energy associated with common phenomena.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

In this unit, we focus on electricity as a kind of energy. Energy is needed to cause changes.

By fifth grade, children will understand that we have a variety of names for the different kinds of energy, for example:   sound, light, motion, electricity, heat, and food energy. The name we use depends on the contexts in which and the senses by which we experience them. For example, we hear sound, we see light, and we feel heat. However, scientists use the concept of energy for all these events because they each involve some kind of change.

T:   Batteries, other sources of electricity.

R:   Selected examples of electrical appliances that use and change electricity into other kinds of energy like:   sound (e.g., radio, television, CD- player, electric doorbell), light (e.g., light bulbs, television, toaster), motion (e.g., fan, hair dryer, washing machine), or heat (e.g. toaster, iron, hair dryer, electric hot plate).

In this unit, students focus their attention on electricity. Students can observe events in which energy changes forms. For example, a fan changes electricity into the motion of its blades and air. The reverse of this last change occurs when the energy of moving water is used to spin a turbine and generator, resulting in electricity. A more extensive study of "energy transformations" occurs in the middle school science curricula (see for example IV.2.m.4).

The variety of changes caused by energy is so diverse that they often appear unrelated. This makes the abstract scientific notion of energy difficult for students to learn. Students need multiple opportunities to experience and investigate each of the forms of energy before they can be expected to see what they share in common. Likewise, students will need experiences beyond elementary school in order to learn that some of the phenomena that they believe to be energy (such as temperature, force, electric current, voltage, and power) are not.

For information about student learning experiences with other kinds of energy in Grade 4, see the following science units (and benchmarks):

• Grade 4 "Sound" (IV.4.e.1-2 about sound),

• grade 3 "Shadows and Light" (IV.4.e.3-4 about light),

• grade 3 "Motion, Force, and Simple Machines" (IV.3.e.1 about energy of motion),

• grade 4 "Interdependence of Plants and Animals" (III.2.e.4 and III.5.e.2 about energy from food), and

• grade 5 "Matter, Energy, and Changes" (IV.2.e.1 about heat).


Construct simple, useful electrical circuits.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

An electrical circuit must form a complete loop for electricity to flow. Simple electrical circuits include a battery as the source of electricity, a device that uses electricity (e.g., a light bulb, an electric door bell or buzzer, an electric motor), and wire to connect the battery with the device in a loop. An electrical switch can be added to an electrical circuit to make it easier to "close" or "open" the circuit and thus turn on or off the included electrical device.

T:   Batteries, flashlight bulbs, wire, electrical switches, electric motors, door bells, buzzers.

      Journals to record designs for simple circuits.

R:   Flashlights and battery powered toys.

Kits that contain switches, wires, rechargeable batteries, and battery and bulb holders are available in the Lansing School District’s Science Anytime materials.


Describe possible electrical hazards to be avoided at home and at school.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Some common electrical hazards include possible electric shocks from sticking objects that conduct electricity into wall outlets, using electrical devices in or near water, or using frayed cords in the house or school building. Outdoor hazards that may be found in neighborhoods include power stations, generators, transformers, or downed wires (for example, as may occur after a severe storm). Lightning is a natural form of electricity that can cause severe injury or death.

T:   None.

R:   Electrical outlets, power lines, frayed electrical cords, electric appliances, lightning, and hair dryers or radios in sinks and tubs.

Students probably were introduced to electrical hazards and safety precautions in the primary grades through experiences like the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s "Louie the Lightning Bug" program. In this unit students expand their understanding of electrical hazards and ways to avoid them by using their knowledge of materials that do or do not conduct electricity and what makes a complete electric circuit.

See also the "earth science" benchmark V.3.e.3, which deals with safety precautions associated with severe weather.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 4


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  Grade:     Fourth     Science Area:     Life      
  Quarter:     Third     Unit Title:     Plant Growth      
  Unit overview:   Children may have grown seeds and watched them mature into plants before. However, they may not have grown the plants long enough to observe the pollination of the flowers, the growth of the seed pod, and the new seeds inside the pod. In this unit, they investigate at least two generations of the same plant, follow the seed-to-seed cycle each time, and compare the plants in each generation to see how alike or different they are.  
  The 5 benchmarks in this unit represent ideas that are portions of 3 more encompassing Michigan Curriculum Framework science standards, as described in these MI-BIG narratives: III.2 Organization of Living Things
III.3 Heredity
III.5 Ecosystems

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

Essential^ Tools (T) for Students in Real-world Contexts (R)

Notes for Teachers


Describe the basic requirements for all living things to maintain their existence.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Plants need water, air, and light, to grow and stay alive. Minerals are important for the plant’s health, but are not a requirement for life.

T:   Science journals for recording descriptions of plants and their responses to water, light, air and minerals.

R:   Needs of life for plants — like water, air, and light, — can be observed in selected ecosystems like a terrarium, backyard, playground, wetland, or wood lot.

See LO-III.2 e.4:   Compare and contrast food, energy, and environmental needs of selected organisms.


Describe life cycles of familiar organisms.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Plants start life as seeds. The seeds grow into seedlings, then into mature plants. Most plants produce flowers, fruits, and then new seeds inside the fruit. These new seeds can grow into new plants, if we plant the seeds.

T:   Science journals for recording descriptions of plants growing from seeds to mature plants.

R:   Common plants — such as the bean plant, apple or maple trees — found in our local area are good examples for the parts of the life cycle. Germinating seeds such as beans or corn.

Students may have trouble sequencing the distinct stages of an organism’s life cycle and relating to life cycles in plants. Children sometimes think that seeds and plants are not alive, because they do not move around as humans and other animals do.


Explain functions of selected seed plant parts.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Plants have parts that help them get what they need to live. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds have important functions, such as taking in water, supporting the plant, gathering sunlight, attracting insects, or making new seeds.

T:   Diagrams, charts with label the parts. Pictures of plants and their parts.

R:   Common edible plant parts, such as bean, cauliflower, carrot, apple, tomato, spinach.

Students can understand that typical plants are made up of several parts, such as leaves, roots, and stems, but may need help identifying the job that each part has. Students of all ages think that plants take in their food from the environment, as humans do, rather than make it internally. For this reason, the functions of leaves are identified as gathering sunlight, rather than making food (which is included in the middle school benchmarks).


Give evidence that characteristics are passed from parents to young.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

New seeds grow into plants that often look a lot like the parent plants that made the seeds. We can compare the characteristics of plants, like flower color and bark texture, leaf shape, seed and fruit shape, and flower structure, to see if the new plants look like the parent plants.

T:   Science journals for recording descriptions and drawings.

R:   Examples of mature and immature organisms, such as maple trees/saplings, beans/seedlings.

Children sometimes need help identifying ways that a second generation of plants, grown from seeds from the first generation, resembles the original plants.


Compare and contrast or classify familiar organisms on the basis of observable physical characteristics.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Plant parts like roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and seeds are some of the observable characteristics that can be compared, to see if they are alike or different.

T:   Science journals for recording descriptions, Venn diagrams.

R:   Germinating seeds, such as beans or corn; terrarium life.

When asked to sort by features, even 12-16 year olds may have difficulty using more than one level of classification. For example, they may be able to sort flowers by color, or sort leaves by shape, but have difficulty understanding that flowers, grass and trees are all plants.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 4


[ Go back to previous unit. ]         [ Return to "scope and sequence" chart at top of page. ]

  Grade:     Fourth     Science Area:     Life      
  Quarter:     Fourth     Unit Title:     Interdependence of Animals and Plants      
  Unit overview:   Children investigate relationships among a variety of plants and animals in different habitats and learn how their structures and behaviors help them survive. They consider fossil remains of plants and animals that have not survived. They explore the positive and negative effects that humans have on habitats, and design a habitat to support a variety of plants and animals.  
  The 6 benchmarks in this unit represent ideas that are portions of 3 more encompassing Michigan Curriculum Framework science standards, as described in these MI-BIG narratives: III.2 Organization of Living Things
III.4 Evolution
III.5 Ecosystems

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

Essential^ Tools (T) for Students in Real-world Contexts (R)

Notes for Teachers


Compare and contrast food, energy, and environmental needs of selected organisms.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Animals and plants need air, water, and space in a habitat. Animals take in food for energy. Plants need light energy. Minerals help plants to stay healthy.

T:   Classroom charts comparing different animals and plants and how they meet their needs for food, energy, and environmental features, such as shelter.

R:   The variety of plants and animals in a terrarium or aquarium, in a woods or pond near the school.

Energy is a difficult concept even for high school students. We can help children identify the sources of energy that plants and animals use to stay alive, but not expect them to explain how food is converted to energy. Plants’ use of light energy to make their food is addressed in middle school benchmarks.


Explain how fossils provide evidence about the nature of ancient life.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

We can find fossil remains of ancient plants and animals in layers of the earth. These plants and animals died or became extinct for different reasons. We can compare them with modern life forms and imagine what they might have looked like. Fossils that are found together provide evidence about plants and animals that lived in the same location and time.

T:   Hand lenses.

R:   Plant and animal fossils, museum dioramas, and paintings/drawings of ancient life and/or habitats. Petoskey stones.

Children have difficulty understanding the long stretch of time between their lives and those of fossilized plants and animals. However, they can understand comparisons between now and "long ago" or "ancient times."

See EG-V.1 e.4 (rocks and fossils provide evidence of history of the earth).


Explain how physical and behavioral characteristics of animals help them to survive in their environments.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Animals have different body parts that help them survive. These traits are adaptations that may help predators catch their prey, help prey escape or hide from their predators, or help plant-eaters gather and chew plants. Animals also show patterns of behavior that help them to survive. They may have instincts that lead them to some beneficial behaviors, or be able to learn from what older animals do. They may migrate to different locations or hibernate during the winter.

T:   Venn diagrams for representing groups of animals with similar or contrasting characteristics.

R:   Common vertebrate features, such as sharp claws and sharp canines for predators; colors of flowers that attract insects for pollination; a chameleon’s changing colors for camouflage; behaviors such as bird migration, bluejays’ warning calls of danger.

Even high school students have difficulty understanding the mechanisms that produce adaptations in animal populations. We can talk about how the body parts help the animal survive, without expecting children to explain how those parts became adapted over long periods of time.


Identify familiar organisms as part of a food chain or food web and describe their feeding relationships within the web.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Within a physical habitat, animals and plants depend on each other for their survival. Plants are producers because they provide food either directly or indirectly for all animals. Animals may be consumers of plants or of other animals that eat plants. Animals may be both predators and prey in the same habitat. Decomposers break down dead plant and animal remains. Animals and plants that live in the same habitat make up a community. Their relationships with each other and with the environment make up an ecosystem.

T:   Charts of food webs showing animals and plants and producer/consumer relationships.

R:   Food chains and food webs involving organisms such as rabbits, birds, snakes, grasshoppers, plants. Classroom terraria; bottle biology. School yard and backyard animals and plants

Most students interpret food webs in a limited way, focusing on isolated food chains. They may need help connecting food chains to larger webs.

Children commonly think of a "community" of animals as similar to a group of people living together with similar ideas.

Children may believe that dead animals and plants just "disappear" rather than decay.

The idea that plants make their own food is addressed in middle school, because it requires an understanding of the molecular structure of matter.


Describe positive and negative effects of humans on the environment.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Humans have effects on the environment — they produce and dispose of garbage, build new roads and buildings that destroy plants’ and animals’ habitats, and build factories that may pollute the land, air, and water, and disrupt ecosystems.

Humans can also take good care of the environment, through planning for land management, recognizing and conserving renewable and non-renewable resources, making national, state and county parks, and protecting natural areas from development.

T:   Maps of the school’s neighborhood or Lansing, showing green spaces, trees, sidewalks, ponds, housing, roads. For example, balances or scales to weigh classroom trash; graphs of the weight of classroom trash across time.

R:   Classroom, household, and school trash, waste water treatment, habitat destruction due to building, reforestation projects, landfills, establishing parks or other green spaces, recycling.

Children may think that oceans are a limitless resource, solid wastes in dumps are safe, and/or that anything "natural" is not pollution.


Design systems that encourage growing of particular plants or animals.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Plants and animals both need to take in water and air, and animals need to take in food. Plants also need light. A habitat provides places to live, and sources of food, water, light, air, and minerals. Humans can design natural areas so that animals and plants have what they need to survive. In the natural world, animals and plants and the physical environment make up an ecosystem.

T:   Terraria, aquaria in the classroom, environments for mealworms, butterflies, and fish.

R:   Ecosystems managed by humans, including farms, ranches, gardens, state and county parks, lawns, classroom terraria and aquaria, housing and caring for classroom pets.

Children may believe that plants don’t use air, or that plants and animals use air in opposite ways.

Children often think that humans feed and take care of all organisms in the environment, and that plants and animals cannot survive without human help.

See III.5.3.2.



*   You can download your own copy of the Michigan Curriculum Framework (2000) science benchmarks -- either as a MS-Word or a PDF file -- at:



^   A number of "tools" with which children should become familiar as part of their science education and general life experiences are listed in our 2-5 science pacing guides. Several of these are italicized, which indicates that they are also designated within the Michigan Curriculum Framework (2000) science benchmarks as "tools" that it is essential that all students have opportunities to use. Reference to such "tools" and their use therefore can also be expected to be included in some MEAP questions.



Last updated:   3/3/2002 by RTSmith