Grade 2 Science

Budding scientists learn fundamental concepts and gain appreciation for our natural resources

By Natalie Smith

In second grade, your grandchildren continue to learn about scientific concepts primarily through observation. Textbooks typically divide the year into separate units on life science, earth science, and physical science; teachers use simple experiments to build on earlier lessons. In life science, children discover ways to describe the similarities and differences between people, plants, and animals. They also study simple life cycles to learn how organisms grow and change. In earth science, students learn more about how people use our planet's most important natural resources, including water. They also learn about Earth's place in the solar system, and why the planet has day and night and different seasons. In physical science, children throw themselves into hands-on lessons on matter in its various states, learning, for example, to measure mass with a balance scale, and volume with a measuring cup. They also explore forces such as wind, gravity, and sound. By the end of the year, your grandchildren should have an understanding of scientific investigation, and know how to use simple equipment, such as rulers and timers, to gather data.

The Age of Dinosaurs. As part of their study of earth science, second-graders often learn about how fossils, especially those of dinosaurs, provide evidence of animals that lived long ago. Studying these fossils is usually not controversial, but in communities where advocates of "intelligent design" theories are clamoring for changes in the local science curriculum, textbooks' statements about concepts such as how long ago dinosaurs lived can spark heated debates.

  • Guide your grandchildren on a tour through nature with Jim Arnosky's Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats (Aladdin). Arnosky was a naturalist before he became an author. His fact-filled, colorful pages introduce grandchildren to the many different environments that wildlife can inhabit.
  • Early-elementary students should understand that every plant and animal can cause changes to its environment – some for good, some not. Wendy Pfeffer’s Wiggling Worms at Work (HarperTrophy) illustrates this concept as it examines the critical role worms play in the natural world.
  • Children in second grade will discover how animals, including humans, depend on natural resources like trees. How do the actions of humans have an impact on trees? Patricia Lauber's Be a Friend to Trees (HarperTrophy) explores these ideas, and suggests ways to conserve this important natural resource.
  • Second-graders will learn more about the power of gravity and its relationship to weight. It is a common misconception among kids (and many parents and grandparents) that heavier objects will fall faster than lighter objects. For a demonstration that proves this is incorrect, invite your grandchildren to the computer to watch an astronaut on the Apollo 15 mission drop a feather and a hammer on the Moon from the same height at the same time. For simple gravity experiments kids can perform here on Earth, with your help, read Vicki Cobb's I Fall Down (HarperCollins).

Putting Animals in Their Place. Take your grandchildren to the zoo, and ask them to identify different creatures and tell you which animal group each belongs to, and what type of habitat it lives in.

Changes Matter. Show your grandchildren how to grow a rock: First, mix approximately two cups of hot water in a bowl with about four cups of sugar. Then tie one end of a string to the middle of a craft stick or pencil, and lay the stick across the top of the bowl, with the string hanging into the sugar mixture. Finally, cut the string so it touches the bottom of the cup. Once the mixture has cooled, have your grandchild take it home. Tell them to observe the string every day for a week and record what happens.

The Shadows Know. Take your grandchild outside on a sunny day. With a piece of chalk, trace his or her shadow onto the sidewalk. Write the time next to the shadow, then have your grandchild make a prediction about how the shadow will change later in the day. In a few hours, come back and test the hypothesis.

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