The Life Science Module represents three additional hours per week of instruction during the eight to nine weeks covered by Module 2 of our Grades 3–5 Language Arts Curriculum. Although the Life Science Modules can stand alone, each one connects with and complements Module 2 of the grade-level language arts module lessons. For the complete materials list or to learn more about how the Life Science Modules are aligned with the Language Arts curriculum, read the K-5 Language Arts Guidance Document found on the Tools page.
In the Grade 3 Life Science Module, students build a basic understanding of the principles of evolutionary biology, including life cycles, inheritance of traits, and how an environment can influence an organism’s survival. The study of heredity is confined to two generations, and the influence of the environment on the survival of an organism is confined to one generation. (Note: Students do not learn about adaptations over time or “survival of the fittest.”) This module is divided into two units to help students work with two separate yet interrelated ideas: how physical traits are influence by heredity and how physical traits are influenced by the environment.
In Unit 1, students learn that organisms inherit traits from their parents. Because these traits come from male and female parents and can combine in many ways, the combination of these traits varies from sibling to sibling. The variation of these traits can sometimes provide an advantage to a particular organism and help it survive in a specific environment. Students begin the unit by looking at inheritance and variation in many organisms, including humans. They then focus on inheritance and variation in frogs.
First, students gather data about the physical traits of parents and offspring, in order to look for patterns of inheritance and variation. Next, they learn about a variety of life cycles, including plant life cycles, and how reproduction is the link between parents and offspring. Then students apply their understanding of inheritance by creating a model of a frog offspring that exhibits characteristics of both the male and female parents. Finally, students learn that variation can affect the survival of an organism and then use this information to construct an evidence-based explanation about the cause and effect relationship between traits and survival.
In Unit 2, students learn that the traits an organism inherits from its parents can be influenced by the environment (e.g., a plant’s growth can be stunted if it does not get enough water). Thus, the environment in which an organism lives is very important. An environment has both internal and external factors that affect it. Students learn that one external factor that has the ability to positively or negatively affect an environment is humans. This unit focuses on how humans can help make environments in which many organisms can survive and thrive. As in Unit 1, students explore these ideas by focusing specifically on frogs and a pond habitat.
First, students are introduced to the issue of habitat loss for amphibians. They are challenged to design a frog pond that supports a frog’s survival needs throughout its life cycle. They use a bullfrog simulation and an original investigation with duckweed to examine ways in which the environment influences the traits of an organism. Students then learn more about pond habitats and the needs of frogs. They use the Engineering Design Cycle to create a model that explains how their pond provides a healthy habitat for a frog throughout its life cycle. Finally, students use this explanatory model as evidence to argue that they have designed a pond that will support a frog’s survival throughout its life cycle.
Throughout the module, students engage in the Science and Engineering Practices (things that scientists and engineers do) by making explanatory models, constructing explanations, and engaging in arguments. Students also consistently use Crosscutting Concepts (concepts that link across various scientific disciplines)—especially patterns and systems—to deepen their understanding of content. Routinely, they track their learning in a student science notebook and practice articulating, questioning, and refining their understanding in Scientists Meetings.
Although this Grade 3 Life Science Module was designed to work in concert with EL Education Language Arts Grade 3 Module 2, it can also stand alone. The content of the Language Arts module complements the student learning about frog life cycles and frog habitats in the Life Science Module, and in both the Language Arts and Life Science Modules, students engage in similar protocols and do close reading.
Download this module to access the full NGSS Standards descriptions, the Week-at-a-Glance charts, and Letter Home.