Free Sample Science Curriculum: Second Grade

Great ideas for teaching science to second graders. A complete curriculum when used with library books. Hands-on activities are included.

Second grade is a great year to introduce children to a wide array of science topics. The interactive and hands-on nature of science study appeals to young folks. In addition, science is a great way to broaden a child's vocabulary and understanding of basic concepts.

A library card is a valuable possession for anyone teaching young people. Most libraries have children's books on almost any science topic. Check the library each month for theme related, age-appropriate books to read aloud.

Any time you happen to find a chrysalis or a cocoon, try keeping it in a jar. Your students might just get to see it hatch out first hand! A large plastic peanut butter jar, cleaned out well, and with holes drilled in the lid, makes a great bug house. For best results, keep a moist cotton ball in the jar with the chrysalis or cocoon. Be sure to release the insect soon after it hatches.

Another good daily or weekly activity to do is to keep a weather graph. Set up a weather station outdoors, which includes a thermometer and a rain gauge. A wind sock can be both an art project and an addition to the weather station. Throughout the year, keep track of changing weather. Put symbols of each day's weather, such as a sun, cloud, or raindrop, on the days of a calendar. After a month, make a simple graph to show which type of weather was most prevalent. This activity is a simple introduction to the graphing of data, which is a technique used throughout the sciences.

Keep nature field guides handy at all times. They can be used on the spot for identifying an unknown insect, bird, tree, or fungus.

Here are ideas for a thematic curriculum that can be used throughout the entire school year.

In September, study light and sound. Experiment with shadows. Compare the length and direction of shadows at different times of day. Trace around the child's shadow with sidewalk chalk at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Darken the room and notice that the beam of a flashlight does not go around corners, but shines in a straight line. Experiment with sound, too. Put your ear to the ground to hear a train coming. Make a simple "telephone" from two paper cups and a string, to demonstrate that sound waves travel down the string. Watch a worker across the street who is hammering. Notice that the sound is delayed. This is because sound doesn't travel as fast as light.

The topic for October is water, to include clouds and the ocean. Explore things that sink and float. Notice that a ball of clay will sink, but the same clay can be formed into a boat shape, which will float. Experiment with ice. Notice that it floats. If ice did not float, life on earth would be impossible! Ice floats because it expands when it freezes, which makes it less dense than liquid water. Try freezing water in a bottle with no lid. The ice will come up above the top of the bottle opening. Learn the names for different types of clouds. Try keeping track of the different types of clouds seen. This information can be added to the weather records. To make "rain" in a bowl, take a large clear glass bowl and half fill it with hot water. Cover the top with plastic wrap. Now place an ice cube on the plastic wrap. The hot water will form a "cloud" and rain will drop inside the bowl.

In November, learn about plant life, including food crops, grasses, and forests. To grow alfalfa sprouts, first place two tablespoons of alfalfa seeds in a wide mouthed quart jar. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a piece of nylon hose secured with a rubber band. Soak the seed overnight, and then drain off the water. Continue to rinse and drain the seeds four times a day. Be sure to have the children examine the growing sprouts each day. In 5 days, they should be ready to put in a sandwich! Examine a bean, and then plant it in a cup of potting soil. When it is a few inches tall, examine the root and leaves. Place a celery stalk in colored water to demonstrate the movement of water up the veins in plants. Consider with the children the wonder of gallons of water traveling up the huge trees in the rain forest. Place a piece of index card over part of a leaf of a houseplant and attach with a paper clip. In a few days, remove it. Notice how the lack of light reaching the leaf caused it to lose its green color. This is because light is necessary for the production of chlorophyll, which gives green plants their green color. Have a discussion of food crops as you celebrate Thanksgiving.

December's topic is astronomy, to include the sun, moon, stars, outer space, and the solar system. Make a model of the solar system from varying sizes of Styrofoam balls. Learn some of the constellations. Read about astronauts and the space station. Look at the moon through binoculars and see the craters. Shine a flashlight on a globe and notice how the tilted axis is responsible for our seasons. The study of stars can be worked into the Christmas celebration. Introduce a little history with a discussion of the early stargazers and the invention of the telescope.

In January, study birds. Examine a feather and see how little barbs on each piece hold it together. Experiment with eggs. Inside a raw egg, look for the little white strands which hold the yolk in the center of the white. Notice the membrane inside the shell. When peeling a boiled egg, notice the air sack on the flat side of the egg. This little bubble contains air which the hatching chick breathes. (Note - collecting feathers or birds' nests from the wild is illegal in some areas.) Make a bird feeder by rolling a pinecone in peanut butter, and then in birdseed. Suspend this treat from a tree branch near a window. Have a field guide handy as the children watch from the window to see what feathered friends come for a visit.

February's topic is aquatic life, including fish, whales, and sea life. Keep a goldfish in a bowl, or maintain a more elaborate aquarium and learn all you can about the fish you have. Notice their gills, and discuss that this is how fish take in oxygen. Watch them eat. Many sea creatures in cold climates are protected by a layer of blubber. You can demonstrate how this keeps them warm by placing a cup of shortening in a plastic bag. The student puts his hand in another bag, inside the shortening. Place this hand with the "fat glove" into a bowl of ice water and see what good insulation it is.

In March, learn about mammals. Pet mice are fun to watch, and if you have two, there's a good chance you'll get babies. They look like tiny pink jelly beans when they're born. Notice how the mother keeps the den clean and cares for her young. Take a field trip to a nature center to feel different types of fur. Compare a cat's eyes in the dark with how they look in the sunshine. Explain that the pupil gets larger and smaller to let in more or less light. Discuss how many animals, such as dogs, have a keener sense of smell than we do because they use it to track food and find their way around. Take a field trip to a farm and watch a baby calf nurse a cow. Read about animals from other lands. Visit a zoo.

In April, study insects, arachnids, amphibians, and reptiles. There are many possible classroom pets in this category. Try a hermit crab, a turtle, or perhaps a tarantula. A field guide is indispensable for identifying insects and other small creatures. Learn which insects are beneficial in the garden and which ones aren't. If you are fortunate enough to find a preying mantis, it can be kept as a pet for a short while. It will eat a small piece of hamburger from your fingers. Read about metamorphosis of insects, especially butterflies. Discuss with the children the difference between an amphibian (which can spend part of it's life breathing under water) and a reptile (which doesn't.) Examine a snake skin. Dispel myths about these sometimes creepy creatures. For instance, walking sticks are not poisonous, and snakes don't form a hoop and roll.

In May, find out about the wonders of the human body. Look at optical illusions. Blindfold willing children and test their smelling ability. Read nutrition information on packages and learn about the food pyramid. Lay a piece of paper on the ground and trace around a child who is lying on it. Make paper forms of the internal organs and glue them onto the shape in the correct places. While studying the respiratory system, be sure to stress the health risks of smoking.

You have now taught your second graders an overview of science in one school year! Of course, these topics can be used in a different order, if desired. For those teaching from a Christian perspective, the topics are listed in order of things created in the Creation Week.

Now, go have fun doing science with your young scholars!

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