What Is Science?

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Students will be able to define "science" in age appropriate terms by classifying and then justifying objects and activities as being scientific in nature.

Big Idea

This fun introduction to science will help learners develop a conceptual understanding about science and build excitement for future learning.


10 minutes

This lesson is my first science lesson of the year. It is my goal to pique the students' interest in science and build a foundation for subsequent learning. 

For this part of the lesson, you will need chart paper and a marker to record student responses. You can also use your whiteboard or SMARTBoard, but do not erase the responses as you will be using them again later in this lesson.

I gather the students around the chart paper easel and I tell them, "Boys and girls. Today we are going to begin to learn about science. I think you are going to really like science. But before we start, I think we need to know what science is. I am going to call on students to share what you think science is. I will record your answer on my paper. I am not going to tell whether your answer is correct or not. I just want to see what your ideas are about science."

I begin calling on the students and record their answers on the sheet. I continue until several students have shared their answers. We then move into the next section of the lesson.

Direct Instruction

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, you will need a copy of  What is Science? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.  Click this link to see the book.  This book is a colorful and inviting description of science, just perfect for kindergarten.

I gather my students around my big chair and say to them, You had some really great ideas about what science is.  I have a book that I am going to read to you that will help you understand what science is.  As we are reading, I want you to listen carefully because we are going to go back to our list that we just made and add to it.  You might also decide that you want to take your answer off and put something else up instead. Sometimes scientists need to read books to understand more about a topic or subject.  We want to learn more about what science is, so we are going to read this book!

I begin reading the story to the students.  I make sure that I use appropriate literary terms.  I tell them, Let's look at the cover of our book.  The title of our story is What Is Science?  I am looking at the cover of the book and I can see that Rebecca Kai Dotlich is the author of this book.  When I open the cover, I see this pretty page that has  a lot of the same information as the cover.  Does anyone know what this page is called?  (This early in the school year, students do not know the answer to this question.)  This page is called the cover page because it gives some of the same information that is found on the cover. 

I begin reading the story to the students.  We pause to discuss the information on some of the pages.  We finish reading the story and then return to our chart paper.  The students are very excited to share what they learned from the book.  I ask the students who shared earlier if they think their response works, or if they want to change it.  See picture.  When we are done, we move back to our seats for guided instruction.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, you will need the What Is Science Sort, included as a PDF with this lesson.   I print one set of cards per table/group.  I laminate the cards before cutting them out for durability. 

I distribute one set of cards to each table of students.  I explain to the students, I just put a set cards on your table.  These cards have pictures of different things.  Some of the pictures show things that are science.  Other pictures are not science.  You are going to work as a table to sort the cards.  If you think the card shows something that is science, put it under the "science" card (hold up header card).  If you think it is not science, put it under the "not science" card (hold up header card).  Make sure that you can explain why you sorted your cards the way you did. 

The students begin sorting the cards and I circulate around the room to observe their work.  See video.  I ask the students questions about why they put their cards where they did.  This is especially important if a student puts a card where I would not expect it to go.  For example, a student putting a card with children playing in a sandbox under "science".  When asked, the student explains that the children are trying to see what they can mix with the sand to make the best sand castle.  "Not Science" just became "Science" with that explanation.

I try to really engage the students in conversations about the "why" of their sort.  The conversations help the students expand their thinking as to what science is and how it is a part of our daily life.  If one reasons thoroughly, almost every picture could end up in the science column.  The "why" is so important because it directly supports the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices 6 (Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering) and 7 (Engaging in argument from evidence).  Students are being challenged to reason through their sorting and come up with valid arguments and explanations.  Many times, we brush over this aspect of the lesson in kindergarten, but really, it is the most important part of the lesson.  They are thinking like scientists and this is the thinking that we need to nurture throughout our science curriculum.  Yes, the content is important, but equally important is the way our students think about and interact with that content. 

After the students complete their sort, I collect their cards and prepare for independent practice. 



Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, you will need the What is Science Independent Practice Sort included as a PDF with this lesson.  Print one copy of the first page for each student.  You will need one copy of the second page per two students.  Cut the page apart.

I explain to the students, Now you are going to get a chance to complete a sort on your own.  You are going to cut apart the pictures.  Then you are going to decide if each picture show something that is "science" (point to space on T chart) or "not science" (point to that space on the chart).  Put the pictures in the correct place on your paper.  When you are done, raise your hand and I will check your work before you glue it down.


The students begin working (see video).  I circulate around the room to observe the students' work.  I ask them questions about their reasoning for placing the pictures on their chart.  I ask questions like, "Can you explain why you think this picture is science?"  Their reasoning behind their classification is actually more important than the actual classification.  After the students have completed the sort, the students will share their work with a partner explaining why they classified the items the way they did (if time permits).  The students then place the work in their mailboxes and clean up their work area.