Third Grade Science Instruction Plan

The Florida state standards for science education and knowledge achievements in the third grade essentially consist of background knowledge in all of the major branches of scientist inquiry and knowledge — earth science, physical sciences, and life sciences (FDE 2010). This includes fundamental knowledge regarding the nature of matter and an introduction of types of matter, an understanding of energy and a knowledge of different objects that emit energy in the forms of heat and light and the basics of the energy life cycle amongst organisms on earth (FDE 2010). There are also numerous specific learning objectives identified in each of these and other areas of scientific knowledge that are defined by the state as necessary; the following lesson description touches on several of these areas (FDE 2010).

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Earth in Space and Time

One popular way of introducing earth as it exists in space is through a discussion of the dynamic and mechanics of the solar system as a whole, and this can also prove highly engaging and enthusiasm-creating for many third grade students (TC 2010). The lesson will begin with a discussion of the enormous amount of time in which the universe, the solar system, and the earth have been developing and will then move onto describe the current position of the earth in relation to the sun and other stars. Following this, students will be taken outside to a large open area (where feasible) and spaced out at distances of a scale to actual distances in the solar system to demonstrate their enormity and earth’s size (TC 2010).

Physical Science

The outdoor activity described above can be used to dovetail directly into the next phase of the lesson plan dealing with energy and pure physical science. The concept of energy transference and weakening over great distances can be demonstrated by the students ranged in the distances of the planets speaking to the next person in line in the quietest manner possible — as distances grow, so too, will the amount of energy necessary to communicate the given phrase (Visalia 2010). This can then lead to a discussion of the transfer of energy between objects as well as an examination of how energy is transferred from the sun to the planets including the weakening of this energy as distances increase (Visalia 2010).

Life Sciences

Back in the classroom, the discussion of energy from the sun tied directly into a discussion of life cycles on the earth and the energy conversion cycle that is the basis for what is commonly called the “food chain” that links all organisms together. A discussion of how sunlight is converted into energy by plants which are then eaten by successive layers of higher order organisms can lead into a hands on activity in which it becomes clear why many more primary producers must be present to support a smaller number of secondary consumers (SSS 1996). Half of the class can be labeled plants or producers while another quarter would be secondary consumers and each of the remaining eighths still higher order consumers; using popsicle sticks as stand-ins for units of energy with higher order organisms requiring more popsicle sticks for “survival” it can be shown how some organisms at the higher end will be left without the necessary amounts of energy (SSS 1996).

The Nature of Science

Through all of these activities, students will have used their reasoning skills as well as their observational skills in coming to certain conclusions and truly engaging with the materials and knowledge areas that the lesson plan was developed to illuminate. As a culmination to this lesson, students’ explicit awareness to the use of observation and logical reasoning will be created as a segue to a discussion regarding the very nature of science and scientific inquiry as students are told that all great scientists essentially participated in the same type of observations and reasoning exercises (DOE 2010). Though most experiments are undertaken without prior knowledge of how they will turn out and are thus used to discover facts about the world rather then simply to demonstrate them, students will be able to appreciate their participation in their own academic and scientific progress.


This lesson plan is wide ranging and touched on most of the areas of science and scientific knowledge described as necessary according to third grade learning standards in the state of Florida (FDE 2010; SSS 1996). Through this comprehensive and broad-based approach, it is hoped that students will begin to appreciate the links that exists between all bodies of knowledge and knowledge areas. This will also engage learners with widely divergent interests in several areas of science.


DOE. (2010). Third grade sciance standards. Department of Education. Accessed 30 November 2010.

FDE. (2010). Grade level expectations. Florida Department of Education. Accessed 30 November 2010.

SSS. (1996). Sunshine State standards. Accessed 30 November 2010.

TC. (2010). Solar system. Teacher’s corner. Accessed 30 November 2010. v

Visalia. (2010). Third grade resources. Visalia School District. Accessed 30 November 2010.