Lansing School District Elementary Science
Scope & Sequence for Grade 5

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








(the Earth, Sun, and Moon)

Matter, Energy, and Changes

Weather Systems

(including "current")

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



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 5


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  Grade:     Fifth     Science Area:     Earth and Space      
  Quarter:     First     Unit Title:     Astronomy (the Earth, Sun, and Moon)      
  Unit overview:   Children explain their own ideas about the earth, its shape, and its relationships with the sun and the moon. They gather evidence and use models to consider whether the earth, moon and sun are spherical in shape; whether the sun and moon really move across the sky, or whether the earth spins so that they appear to move; and whether the earth orbits the sun or the sun orbits the earth. These ideas are given the entire nine weeks in the quarter, because they are so difficult for children to understand, and because they are the basis for later work in the middle school and high school.  
  The 2 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: V.4 The Solar System, Galaxy & Universe  

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 characteristics of the sun, moon, and earth.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Both the sun and moon are spheres and appear round to our eyes, but the moon appears to change its shape from one time to another. The sun always appears round. Both change positions in the sky every day. We can usually see the sun during the daytime, and the moon sometimes during the day and sometimes during the night. The sun’s light feels warm while the moon’s does not.

The sun is much, much farther away than the moon, but appears about the same size because it is much, much larger. Unlike the planets, the sun (a star) is a glowing ball of extremely hot gases, giving off great amounts of heat and light into space.

T:   Journals for recording observations of the sun and moon over time.

R:   Observations of the moon’s and earth’s positions in the sky. Safe observations of the sun. Role playing of the motions of the earth, moon, and sun.

It is common for children, even in middle school, to think that we live on a flat earth, or on a round flat plate, or on the inside of a round earth, so we don’t fall off. They sometimes think that the moon and sun are "companions" of some sort — the sun is visible in the day; the moon is visible at night. The "birds eye view" of the earth that students need to develop is difficult for them to put together, but necessary for understanding the earth in space. Students can't feel the earth move as it spins or moves around the sun, so it is difficult for them to believe that the earth is moving.


Describe the motion of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

The earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun in our solar system. The moon orbits around the earth. The earth and moon spin around as they move through space. It takes the earth one full day to spin completely around. The earth orbits around the sun in one year. The moon orbits around the earth in one month. Even though the sun and moon appear to move across the sky, it is really the earth that is spinning. We have daytime when the earth is facing the sun, and have nighttime when we are facing away from it.

T:   Scale models of the earth, sun and moon in relation to each other.

R:   Observations of the sun’s changing position during the day, and stars’ changing positions during the night. Observations of the moon’s changing position in the sky.

Even in middle school and high school, some children may still believe that we have day and night because the clouds cover the sun, or the sun moves up and down in the sky, or the sun goes around the earth each day.

Common models of the earth’s orbit around the sun and the moon’s orbit around the earth are not to scale, and may only confirm children’s misunderstanding of the relative sizes and distances involved.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 5


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  Grade:     Fifth     Science Area:     Physical      
  Quarter:     Second     Unit Title:     Matter, Energy, and Changes      
  Unit overview:   Students classify objects and substances by a variety of observable or measurable properties, including states of matter. They identify which properties may make a material useful for a particular task. They practice using precise and descriptive language in their work, both oral and written. In addition, they explore how different kinds of matter respond to being mixed, heated, or cooled. They review their earlier learning about weather and relate their understanding of the three states of water to weather phenomena such as rain, ice, and water vapor in the air.  
  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: IV.1 Matter and Energy
IV.2 Changes in Matter
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


Classify common objects and substances according to observable attributes/properties.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

We classify objects or the substances of which they are made by properties such as:   color, shape, size, smell, weight, texture, state of matter, flexibility, hardness, magnetic properties, ability to conduct electricity, ability to block light or let light pass through, and ability to sink or float. Some properties can be observed directly, for example by sight or touch. Determining some properties requires the use of measuring devices.

T:   Hands lenses; rulers or measuring tapes; balances or scales for weighing; magnets; batteries, wires, and bulbs for testing electrical conductivity.

      Venn diagrams, charts, tables, journals to record properties and classifications.

R:   Common objects such as desks, coins, pencils, buildings, and snowflakes. Common substances including instances of solids (such as copper, iron, wood, plastic, magnetic and non-magnetic materials, Styrofoam), liquids (such as water, alcohol, milk, juice, vegetable oil) and gases (such as helium, air, and water vapor).

In the primary grades, students began describing and sorting objects based on easily observable properties (e.g., color, shape, size, and texture). Nonetheless, students may still tend to label an object by name rather than analyze the object in terms of the substances of which it is made or the properties of those substances. In this unit, students extend their knowledge of properties of matter and their ability to test and classify substances using both familiar and some less readily apparent properties (e.g., weight, flexibility, response to a magnet, ability to conduct electricity).

For examples of the descriptive vocabulary students can be expected to use for each property listed at left, see the "key concepts" section of benchmark IV.1.e.1 in the Michigan Curriculum Framework (2000) science benchmarks.

See also the "earth science" benchmark V.1.e.2, which deals with describing different types of earth materials.


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. By identifying the properties that may make materials useful we can select the best material for a given task. For example, clay is useful because it can easily be shaped when wet but then becomes rigid and holds its shape once dried and baked. Other properties that may make a material useful include:   unbreakable, waterproof, lightweight, conducts electricity, conducts heat, attracted to a magnet, clear.

T:   Thermometers, heat sources (e.g., a hot plate).

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

R:   Examples of common materials and the properties that make them useful, for example:   many plastics are flexible, rubber is waterproof, wool holds in heat, copper conducts both electricity and heat, glass is "clear" (i.e., it allows light to pass through it).

In this unit, the properties of materials that are of interest are those related to physical changes that matter can undergo (especially those like "changes of state" that result from heating and cooling) and mixing and separating substances. For example, magnets attract some materials (like iron and steel). Many materials (like aluminum, glass, and plastic) are not affected by magnets. Using this information we can design a recycling method of separating "tin" cans (which contain steel) from other kinds of trash by using a magnet to attract items containing iron or steel.

See also the "earth science" benchmark V.1.e.4, which deals with uses of earth materials.


Identify forms of energy associated with common phenomena.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Children will have learned about sound, light, motion, and electricity as kinds of energy, in earlier grades. In this unit, students focus their attention on heat and the physical changes it can cause. Energy is needed to cause changes. This can involve changing the shape or state of matter, or changing the speed or direction of an object’s motion. 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:   Thermometers, a variety of heat sources.

R:   Selected examples of phenomena associated with physical changes, especially those caused by heating or cooling, such as melting, freezing, and evaporation.

      Selected examples of phenomena associated with heat, such as heat from the sun melting a chocolate bar, using appliances like toasters and irons, feeling the warmth from the sun or a campfire on our skin, using a stove to boil water.

In this unit, students focus their attention on heat and the physical changes it can cause. 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, and power) are not.

For information about student learning experiences with other kinds of energy in Grade 5, see the following science units (and benchmarks):

• Grade 5 "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 "Simple Electric Circuits" (IV.1.e.4 about electricity), and

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


Describe common physical changes in matter including size, shape, state (e.g., melting, freezing, evaporating), and dissolving.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Everything we experience that takes up space and has mass is called matter. We typically find matter in one of three states:   solid, liquid, or gas. Matter can be changed in a number of ways using a variety of processes. For example we can change the size (e.g., by compressing), shape (e.g., by bending, tearing, breaking), or state of matter (e.g., by heating — to cause melting or evaporating — or cooling — to cause freezing). All of these kinds of change are "physical changes" because — even though the matter may change size, shape, or state — it is still the same substance. For example, the glass in a windowpane is the same substance before and after the pane is broken; only the size and shape of the glass has changed. Dissolving is another kind of physical change.

T:   Heating devices (e.g., stoves, hot plates, and hair dryers).

      Cooling devices (e.g., freezers, refrigerators, proximity with ice in a closed container).

      Journals to record findings with words and pictures.

R:   Changes in size or shape of familiar objects, such as making snowballs, breaking glass, crumbling cookies, making clay models, carving wood, breaking bones; changes in the state of water or other substances, such as freezing of ice cream, or ponds, melting wax, chocolate, or steel, puddles drying.

Note that "patterns of change" is one of the seven "connecting themes" identified for attention by Michigan Essential Goals and Objectives for Science Education (pp. 145-146) that can receive emphasis in this unit.

In this unit, the focus is with observable examples of more familiar, physical changes. Determining whether or not a change is a "physical change" depends on whether or not you have the same substance before and after the change. Students have learned that substances are identified by their properties (see benchmark IV.1.e.1 above). However, some properties of substances (e.g., the state of matter) can be changed by physical changes, and so students might reasonably argue (and often do say) that because the state of matter has changed (e.g., when liquid water freezes to become solid ice) it has become a new substance. Understanding which properties scientists use to distinguish physical changes from other kinds of changes will have to wait to middle school when students begin to consider matter at the particle level. Thus, molecular level accounts of physical changes, along with chemical and nuclear changes should be reserved for study in middle and high school (see for example benchmarks IV.2.m.1-3, IV.2.h.1-5). In the meantime, we will need to explain to our students that "by definition" physical changes are those that involve only changes in the size, the shape, or the state of matter, and that dissolving is also a kind of physical change.

See also the "earth science" benchmark V.2.e.1, which deals specifically with the three states of water.

FYI, scientists recognize at least four states of matter:   solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. However, consideration of plasma is not required for students to achieve benchmark-level understanding.


Prepare mixtures and separate them into their component parts.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

A mixture is created when two or more different substances are mixed together but the component substances do not combine or lose their identity. For example, mixing salt and sugar together creates a mixture that is made up of separate grains of salt and sugar. Since each substance in a mixture keeps its own properties, differences in the properties of substances in a mixture can be used to separate the mixture into its component parts. For example, a mixture a powdered drink mix and iron filings could be separated either by using a magnet to pull out the iron filings or by placing the mixture in water, which would dissolve the drink mix but not the iron filings, and then pouring the mixture through filter paper would separate the iron filings from the dissolved drink mix and water solution.

Choosing which separation technique to use to separate a mixture into its component parts will depend on the properties of the substances in the mixture. Some common separation techniques include:   filtration, using sieves, using magnets, floating versus sinking, dissolving soluble substances, and evaporating.

T:   Filter paper, funnels, magnets, sieves, beakers, solar stills.

      Journals to record ideas for separating mixtures.

R:   Mixtures of various kinds, including:   salt and pepper, iron filings and sand, sand and sugar, rocks and wood chips, sand and gravel, sugar or salt solutions.

Students may be able to use the term "dissolve" to identify correctly instances of this kind of physical change. However, they may still believe that because the dissolved substance has become invisible it no longer exists. Weighing the components before mixing and then weighing the resulting solution to show that there has been no change in total weight can provide evidence that the dissolved substance has not completely "disappeared" or "gone away." Allowing the solution to evaporate so that the dissolved substance is recovered can also illustrate the reversible nature of these physical changes.


Describe how water exists on earth in three states.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Water is an earth material that can exist as a solid, a liquid, or a gas. We can observe liquid water flowing, melting, raining, or collecting as dew. We can observe solid water as ice, snow, hail, sleet, or freezing rain. Water as a gas is harder to observe, because it is invisible in the air. We can observe evidence of water in its gaseous state as water vapor, or as it evaporates from puddles or other containers.

T:   None.

R:   Examples of water in each state, including dew, rain snow, ice, evidence of moisture in the air, such as "fog" on cold bathroom mirrors; examples of melting, freezing and evaporating.

In fifth grade, the focus is on children describing the three states of water. Explaining the molecular arrangements of water molecules in its three states is addressed in middle school benchmarks. Children (and some adults), even in fifth grade, middle school, high school and beyond, often have difficulty understanding the composition of air, including water vapor, because it is invisible. Evaporation and condensation at the molecular level are difficult ideas and are addressed in the middle school benchmarks. The mechanism of condensation is often not understood until high school or beyond, because of the need for a molecular model of matter for understanding.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 5


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  Grade:     Fifth     Science Area:     Earth and Space      
  Quarter:     Third     Unit Title:     Weather Systems      
  Unit overview:   Students investigate the causes of changes in the weather using information from their observations, weather maps, graphs, and charts. They learn about large "air masses" that move from one place to another, and how the front edge of an air mass that is moving to another place can bring precipitation with it. Students begin to develop explanations of weather events using parts of the water cycle, based on real world examples such as water evaporating from a puddle, etc. They describe kinds of pollution in the air and the harmful effects of that pollution.  
  The 3 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: V.3 The Atmosphere and Weather  

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

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

Notes for Teachers


Explain patterns of changing weather and how they are measured.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

We can describe patterns in the weather such as temperature changes, changes in cloud cover, or the development of storms. We can explain these changes in terms of the movement of air masses and fronts (e.g., warm front, cold front, and stationary front). We use common weather instruments, satellite images, and weather maps to help us measure and record weather conditions.

T:   Thermometer, rain gauge, wind direction indicator, anemometer, weather maps, satellite weather images.

R:   Sudden temperature and cloud formation changes; records, charts, and graphs of weather changes over periods of days; lake-effect snow.

Explanations of weather should be based on a model of the atmosphere as a dynamic blanket of air completely covering an extremely large spherical earth, with regions of air (i.e., air masses) that move and interact.

Some of these ideas may still be difficult for fifth graders. For example, children sometimes interpret the idea of a "spherical Earth" as meaning that we live on the inside of the sphere, because otherwise, we might all fall off. Some students may believe that air exists only around them and other living things that breathe it, but is not a substance existing all around the Earth. They may not realize that air masses move from place to place, causing changes in local weather.


Explain the behavior of water in the atmosphere.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

The air around us and around the Earth usually has water in it. Some water from the Earth’s surface is always evaporating into the air, where it exists as water vapor, which is invisible to us. As the air is warmed, it rises higher above the Earth. As the air rises, it becomes cooler and the water vapor in it condenses to form tiny droplets of liquid water (or sublimes to form solid ice crystals). If these tiny droplets then combine to form large enough drops (or the ice crystals grow large enough to form snow flakes) to fall to Earth, we call this precipitation (e.g., rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, hail). This process — when water changes from a liquid into water vapor in the air, and then back into liquid or solid water — is what we call the water cycle.

T:   None.

R:   Aspects of the water cycle in weather, including clouds or fog, precipitation, evaporating puddles, flooding, droughts.

Evaporation and condensation at the molecular level are difficult ideas and will be taught later in middle school. By fifth grade, some students can identify the air as the final location of evaporating water, but they must first accept air as a permanent substance. The mechanism of condensation is often not understood until high school, because children need a molecular model of matter to understand what is happening.


Describe health effects of polluted air.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

The same air masses that carry water vapor from one place to another can also carry pollutants, such as exhaust from cars and smoke from factories. People can suffer harmful effects from polluted air such as breathing difficulties, irritated eyes, etc. Sources of pollution can be car exhaust and industrial emissions. Acid rain is the result of some kinds of pollution in the air that have been dissolved into the water that falls to Earth. Acid rain has serious effects on the Earth and on animal and plant life.

T:   None.

R:   Locations and times when air quality is poor; local sources of potential air pollution; ozone warnings.

Earth's resources–such as fresh air–can be polluted intentionally or inadvertently. The atmosphere has a limited capacity to absorb wastes and recycle materials naturally. Cleaning up polluted air can be very difficult and costly.



Lansing School District Elementary Science
Pacing Guides for Grade 5


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  Grade:     Fifth     Science Area:     Physical      
  Quarter:     Fourth     Unit Title:     Electricity (including "current")      
  Unit overview:   Students review earlier work on electrical circuits and construct simple electrical circuits using batteries, conductors (like copper wire), electrical switches, and various electrical devices (e.g., light bulbs, motors, doorbells). Students explain how their electrical circuits work in terms of the flow of electric current through the components of the circuit. Students also describe the energy transformations that occur when using electrical circuits and devices.  
  The 3 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: IV.1 Matter and Energy
IV.2 Changes in Matter

MCF 2000 Code and Benchmark*

Main Ideas and Connections

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

Notes for Teachers


Construct simple circuits and explain how they work in terms of the flow of current.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

An electrical circuit must form a complete loop for current 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 (or some other conductor) to connect the battery with the device in a loop. Such a loop is called a complete circuit. An incomplete circuit is any wiring arrangement that fails to make a complete loop; no current flows in an incomplete circuit. If a loop is made that includes the battery but not an electrical device, then a short circuit has been made. 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. A simple electrical circuit can be used to investigate which kinds of materials conduct electric current and which do not — that is, electrical conductors and non-conductors, respectively. The amount of current in a simple circuit made with a flashlight battery is relatively small and harmless. In contrast, household current can cause severe shock, injury, and even death. Students should not use household current for constructing electrical circuits.

T:   Batteries, electric door bells, light bulbs, motors, conductors, non-conductors, electrical switches.

R:   Electrical appliances, household wiring, electrical conductivity testing.

In the fourth-grade "Simple Electric Circuits" unit, students constructed useful, simple circuits. They noted kinds of materials that can be used as conductors in electrical circuits and that electrical devices can change electricity into other forms of energy. In this unit, students build upon those experiences and learn how electric current behaves in an electrical circuit.

Students (even in high school and college) commonly share several mistaken models of what happens — especially with respect to current — in an electrical circuit. For example, some think that a bulb lights up because current leaves both ends of the battery and meets in the filament of the bulb, where the resulting "clashing currents" create the light. Others think that current leaves one end of a battery, travels through the wire to the bulb, and then gets "used up" by the bulb to make the light, so that no current returns to the battery through the wire on the other side of the bulb. Still others think that some of the current is used up, and a lesser amount flows back to the battery. It is important to help students distinguish between the "electric current" (which does not get "used up") flowing through the complete electrical circuit and the "energy" that is transformed from electrical energy to other forms of energy by devices in the circuit (e.g., heat and light in a light bulb).

[ NOTE:   While not part of the focus for this unit, benchmark IV.3.m.3 — which involves describing several forms of non-contact forces (e.g., from magnets, gravity, and electrically charged objects) — is the basis for understanding where the "push" comes from that results in an electric current. Some attention to like charges repelling each other may help students understand how electric currents arise, and in turn allow them to distinguish "current" — as a measure of the rate at which these charges flow — from measuring the "energy" that they carry.]


Investigate electrical devices and explain how they work, using instructions and appropriate safety precautions.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

Electrical circuits and devices can be used to transfer energy (by the flow of electricity) or information from one location to another. We can read and use the written instructions or other documentation (e.g., wiring diagrams) that accompany electrical toys and appliances to better understand how they work. These written instructions also provide safety precautions — such as how to provide proper grounding for using electrical appliances — that we can study and use.

T:   None.

R:   Situations requiring assembly, use, or repair of electrical toys, radios, or simple appliances, such as replacing batteries and bulbs; connecting electrical appliances, such as stereo systems, televisions and videocassette recorders, computers and computer components.


Describe common energy transformations in everyday situations.

MI-CLiMB Benchmark Clarification

While benchmark IV.2.m.4 is concerned with a wide range of energy transformations, in this unit students focus only on those transformations that involve electricity. Energy is needed to cause changes. We have a variety of names for the different forms of energy that we use, for example:   sound, light, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, heat, chemical, and food energy. In many everyday situations, we transform energy from one form to another. For example, we often transform electrical energy into other forms of energy. A fan transforms electrical energy into the mechanical energy of its moving blades. A light bulb transforms electrical energy into heat and light. In all of these situations, the total amount of energy before the transformation is the same as the total amount of energy after the transformation. Therefore, we say that the total amount of energy remains constant in all transformations.

T:   None.

R:   Motors, generators, power plants, light bulbs, appliances, cars, radios, televisions, walking, playing a musical instrument, cooking food, batteries, body heat, photosynthesis.

While benchmark IV.2.m.4 is concerned with a wide range of energy transformations, in this unit students focus only on those transformations that involve electricity. In this context, it is important to help students learn to distinguish between the electric "current" that flows through an electrical circuit and the electrical "energy" that gets transformed by an electrical device (e.g., a light bulb or a doorbell) into other forms of energy.



*   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