Grade 3

Fossils   Scope and Sequence

Elementary students are fascinated with fossils because fossils are a window to the past. Fossils and dinosaurs ignite the imagination and motivate questions. How old is a fossil? Can it tell me if dinosaurs, reptiles and birds are related? How can I find out? Third graders are ready to build this fascination into an understanding of scientific process.

Key activities include:

  • Visit the Needham Science Center to observe and compare the behavior and characteristics of birds and lizards.
  • Examine a box of fossils including amber, trace fossils and preserved fossils with a hand lens and share observations.
  • Participate in a “dinodig” and use the information gained to understand how archeologists date fossils by layer.


By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain, with examples, how fossils tell us about long ago.
  • Collect and record data using sketches, notes, graphs, charts or graphic organizers.
  • Explain the differences between dinosaurs, birds and reptiles. Put these animals in evolutionary order.
  • Correctly use unit vocabulary including: paleontology, archeology and adaption.

Circuits and Pathways 
Scope and Sequence

In this exciting and electrifying unit, students build circuits and run experiments to test their ideas. Electricity is a fundamental part of modern life, and this unit will teach third graders what electricity is, how it is generated, and how people make use of it. Students apply knowledge about static electricity and current electricity to their projects.

Key activities include:

  • Locate the critical contact points on a light bulb. Using a battery and wires, light the bulb.
  • Explore the idea that static electricity provides evidence of electrons jumping; build charge on a comb and experiment with different materials.

By the end of the unit, students will:

  • Describe how we know static electricity is a build-up of electrons.
  • Be able to construct a circuit that lights a light bulb, rings a buzzer or runs a motor.
  • Plan, conduct, evaluate and share student-led investigations based on questions from students’ science notebooks.


Rocks and Minerals  Scope and Sequence

Building on the soil unit in second grade, third graders learn about types of rocks and how a rock and a mineral are different. Students continue to explore our active Earth and learn that the Earth is a shifting system: rocks form and are weathered in an on-going cycle.

Key activities include:

  • Using three-dimensional shapes, cut and paste to invent a new mineral. Name it and give it properties appropriate to minerals.
  • Collect four rocks from school grounds and use the “geologist test” (scratch it, sink/float and vinegar test) to try and identify the rock.

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Investigate rock specimens.
  • Conduct tests on mineral samples.
  • Analyze and construct models of crystal patterns, volcano, and rock collections.
  • Name the three types of rock and explain how they are divided into three categories.
  • Demonstrate an understanding that minerals are made of crystals and have a solid, regular shape.
  • Describe how humans have used rocks and minerals for technologies throughout time.
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