A major theme that runs through the four Fourth Grade unit projects is a focus on energy and energy transfer. Fourth grade develops a learning progression about energy – the energy of motion, energy that is involved in transfer to electricity, the energy involved in processing an object with one’s eyes, and the energy that is transferred from fuels in a fire.
Unit 4.1 Dynamic Earth
In the first project, students investigate the driving question: “How is this place on Earth going to change over 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 1,000,000 years?” They construct design solutions for slowing down the effects of moving water, test the effectiveness of their design solution by building a prototype/model, and make observations to serve as evidence for the effectiveness of their designed solution.
Unit 4.2 Energy in Our World
The second project addresses the question: “How can we use energy outside to do everyday things in a new way?” Students explore natural resources and design a plan to transfer energy to a simulated community. They carry out this design and gather evidence to make a claim regarding the effectiveness of their design plan. The final artifacts include students communicating the evidence obtained from their designed solution to their classmates.
Unit 4.3 Waves
"How important are our eyes for knowing where we are going and not getting lost?” This unit has students use ideas about light, sight, eye structures, memory and instinct to solve a design problem to help birds avoid windows and newly-hatched sea turtles find the ocean. Students engage in investigations, develop models, and use text and media to compare how they are able to see with how animals see.
Unit 4.4 Fire Ecology
“If fire is a hazard, why do so many animals and plants depend on it?” is the driving question for the fourth project. Throughout the project , students use their understanding of energy, fuels and ecology to develop an engineered solution for a prescribed burn to protect an animal or plant. Given criteria and constraints, they explain why their solution is the optimal solution.