CA Science Framework Description (Grade 5)

Highlighted Phenomena from Grade Five

  • Pancakes do not turn brown unless the batter has some sort of fruit or sugar in it.
  • The bottom part of a head of lettuce can regrow new leaves when placed in a cup of water without any soil.
  • All the water that flows down the drain in the community goes to a local wastewater treatment plant.
  • The length of daylight varies systematically throughout the year.


Introduction to Grade 5

By grade five, students are ready to think more abstractly about the world around them. In IS1, they develop models of matter that is too small to see, and in IS2, they begin to think about these tiny pieces as building blocks of living beings. In IS3, they recall and categorize their knowledge from previous grades about processes that shape Earth into categories so that they can think about Earth as a system. In IS4, they contemplate stars and galaxies that are inconceivably far away.

The investigations in IS1 (What Is Matter Made of?) have a materials science and engineering focus. Students begin with engineering connections to select the most appropriate material for different purposes (e.g., a tall tower versus a decorative sculpture for a summer birthday). They use these hands-on investigations to develop a model that shows matter is made of particles too small to be seen. A vignette illustrates how students can apply this model to a chemical engineering problem: how do you create the perfect pancake? 

In IS2 (From Matter to Organisms), students use their model of matter to explain patterns they observed in previous grades about the needs of living things. They explain the observation that plants can grow without soil and trace the cycling of matter within an ecosystem. In a snapshot, students observe decomposition in nature and design a compost system for their school garden and home.

Instructional segment 3 (Interacting Earth Systems) describes how to use direct investigation of a small ecosystem on the schoolyard to introduce the idea that the planet itself can be thought of as a system made of smaller, interconnected subsystems. Students explore interactions between Earth’s people (anthrosphere), land (geosphere), and water (hydrosphere) as they map the runoff of rain falling on their schoolyard as it picks up trash and pollutants. They then investigate how pollutants are naturally filtered out as water soaks through layers of earth. Students engage in an engineering connection to design their own water filtration system. 

In IS4 (Patterns in the Night Sky), students turn their eyes skyward to ask questions such as, How far away are the stars, and how can we tell? They begin to answer these questions using a flashlight on their schoolyard or in their classroom as a physical model of the star. They make careful measurements of the patterns of the motion of the stars and discover that, like the Sun, their motion follows a consistent pattern every day and throughout the year. Students will build on this experience when they explain these patterns in the middle grades.

from d’Alessio, Matthew A. (2018). Executive Summary: Science Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. Sacramento: Consortium for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Overview of Instructional Segments for Grade 5

Graphic of Grade 5 Instructional Segments

Image Source: 2016 CA Science Framework