Physical Science

Content Standard B

As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties and changes of properties in matter

  • Motions and forces

  • Transfer of energy

Developing Student Understanding

In grades 5–8, the focus on student understanding shifts from properties of objects and materials to the characteristic properties of the substances from which the materials are made. In the K-4 years, students learned that objects and materials can be sorted and ordered in terms of their properties. During that process, they learned that some properties, such as size, weight, and shape, can be assigned only to the object while other properties, such as color, texture, and hardness, describe the materials from which objects are made. In grades 5-8, students observe and measure characteristic properties, such as boiling points, melting points, solubility, and simple chemical changes of pure substances and use those properties to distinguish and separate one substance from another.

Students usually bring some vocabulary and primitive notions of atomicity to the science class but often lack understanding of the evidence and the logical arguments that support the particulate model of matter. Their early ideas are that the particles have the same properties as the parent material; that is, they are a tiny piece of the substance. It can be tempting to introduce atoms and molecules or improve students' understanding of them so that particles can be used as an explanation for the properties of elements and compounds. However, use of such terminology is premature for these stu

In grades 5-8, students observe and measure characteristic properties, such as boiling points, melting points, solubility, and simple chemical changes of pure substances and use those properties to distinguish and separate one substance from another.

dents and can distract from the understanding that can be gained from focusing on the observation and description of macroscopic features of substances and of physical and chemical reactions. At this level, elements and compounds can be defined operationally from their chemical characteristics, but few students can comprehend the idea of atomic and molecular particles.

The study of motions and the forces causing motion provide concrete experiences on which a more comprehensive understanding of force can be based in grades 9-12. By using simple objects, such as rolling balls and mechanical toys, students can move from qualitative to quantitative descriptions of moving objects and begin to describe the forces acting on the objects. Students' everyday experience is that friction causes all moving objects to slow down and stop. Through experiences in which friction is



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