• Elementary Science Grade 3 Unit 4

    Subject: Science
    Grade: 3
    Timeline: Varies; to be used with "Plant Life Cycle"
    Unit Title:  Earth and the Solar System

    Unit Overview: 
    In this unit, which accompanies the Plant Life Cycle unit, students study the most massive celestial body in the solar system, the Sun.  They will learn about the forms of energy that come from the sun and how it effects, and is necessary for, all life on earth.

    Unit Objectives:

    Energy and Matter

    • Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.

    Cause and Effect  

    • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change.


    • Patterns of change can be used to make predictions.

    Systems and System Models

    • A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions.

    Focus Standards:
    PSSA Eligible Content;
    S4.A.1.1.1 Distinguish between a scientific fact and an opinion, providing clear explanations that connect observations and results.
    S4.A.1.3.1 Observe and record change by using time and measurement.
    S4.A.1.3.3 Observe and describe the change to objects caused by heat, cold, or light.
    S4.A.1.3.4 Explain what happens to a living organism when its food supply, access to water, shelter, or space is changed.
    S4.A.2.1.1 Generate questions about objects, organisms, or events that can be answered through scientific investigations.
    S4.A.2.1.3 Observe natural phenomena, record observations, and then make a prediction based on those observations.
    S4.A.2.1.4 State a conclusion that is consistent with the information/data.
    S4.A.2.2.1 Identify appropriate tools or instruments for specific tasks and describe the information they can provide.
    S4.A.3.1.1 Categorize systems as either natural or human-made.
    S4.A.3.1.2 Explain a relationship between the living and nonliving components in a system.
    S4.A.3.2.1 Identify what different models represent.
    S4.A.3.2.2 Use models to make observations to explain how systems work.
    S4.A.3.2.3 Use appropriate, simple modeling tools and techniques to describe or illustrate a system.
    S4.A.3.3.1 Identify and describe observable patterns.
    S4.B.1.1.1 Identify life processes of living things.
    S4.B.1.1.3 Describe basic needs of plants and animals.
    S4.B.1.1.4 Describe how different parts of a living thing work together to provide what the organism needs.
    S4.B.1.1.5 Describe the life cycles of different organisms.
    S4.B.2.1.1 Identify characteristics for plant and animal survival in different environments.
    S4.B.2.1.2 Explain how specific adaptations can help a living organism survive.
    S4.B.3.2.1 Describe what happens to a living thing when its habitat is changed.
    S4.B.3.2.2 Describe and predict how changes in the environment can affect systems.
    S4.B.3.2.3 Explain and predict how changes in seasons affect plants, animals, or daily human life.
    NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

    PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

    • The energy released [from] food was once energy from the sun that was captured by plants in the chemical process that forms plant matter (from air and water).

    LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

    • Food provides animals with the materials they need for body repair and growth and the energy they need to maintain body warmth and for motion.

    LS1.A: Structure and Function

    • Plants and animals have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival,
      behavior, and reproduction.

    PS3.A: Definitions of Energy

    • The faster a given object is moving, the more energy it possesses. 
    •  Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

    PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

    • The expression “produce energy” typically refers to the conversion of stored energy into a desired form for practical use.

    LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

    • When the environment changes in ways that affect a place’s physical characteristics, temperature, or availability of
      resources, some organisms survive and reproduce, others move to new locations, yet others move into the transformed environment, and some die.

    LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

    • Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment.
    Concepts - Students will know:
    • all life on earth is dependent on the sun's energy.
    Competencies -Students will be able to:
    • describe the types of energy from the sun.
    • discuss the role of the sun on the life cycle of a plant.
    • describe the layers of the sun.
    • make observations about the sun by looking at given images.
    • observe the effectiveness of sunblock with varying SPF's against UV rays.

    Formative Assessments: 
    • Pre-Assessment
    • Notebook Entries
    • Whole Group and Small Group Discussion
    • Teacher Observation
    • Record Sheets
    • Scientific Drawings
    • Building Models
    • Graphing
    • Interpreting Data
    • Formative Assessment Probes 
    Summative Assessments: 
    • Performance Assessments with Rubric
    • Notebook Entries with Rubric
    • Post-Assessment

    Elements of Instruction:
    Developing and Using Models
    Modeling in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to building and revising simple models and using models to
    represent events and design solutions
    • Develop a model to describe phenomena.

    Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    Analyzing data in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to introducing quantitative approaches to collecting data and conducting multiple trials of qualitative observations. When possible and feasible, digital tools should be used.

    • Analyze and interpret data to make sense of phenomena using logical reasoning.

    Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    • Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to the use of
      evidence in constructing explanations that specify variables that describe and predict phenomena and in designing
      multiple solutions to design problems.
    • Use evidence (e.g., observations, patterns) to construct an explanation.

    Engaging in Argument from Evidence

    • Engaging in argument from evidence in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to critiquing the scientific
      explanations or solutions proposed by peers by citing relevant evidence about the natural and designed world(s).  
    • Construct an argument with evidence, data, and/or a model. 

    • word walls and flip charts
    • structured notebooks
    • differentiated grouping
    • learning center
    • whole group discussions


    • research
    • written and oral reports
    • design and conduct experiments using Wisconsin Fast Plants
    • build a scale model of the sun and earth 

    Interdisciplinary Connections:
    Language Arts:
    • teacher Created Materials information text excerpts on the sun
    • research on the sun and other stars
    • measure, record, and graph growth of plant seeds
    • identify parts of a graph and interpret data
    • interpret data from selected graphs
    • build a scale model of the sun and earth

    Additional Resources / Games:
    Science Literacy Kit (informational text) 
  • www.howstuffworks.com
  • www.nationalgeographic.com/kids
  • www.pbskids.org
  • www.exploratorium.edu
  • www.nstalearningcenter.org
  • www.nasa.gov