The aim of the Madison Public Schools Science Program is to give each student the opportunity to satiate their innate curiosity and open their eyes to the wonders of science all around them. Students will regularly engage in problem-solving through exploration, experimentation and collaboration by creating innovative design solutions to local and global issues. This is accomplished by a curriculum that intentionally spirals content and skills with the goal of increasing complexity and critical thinking to enable students to build upon prior experiences as they grow as learners.


The role of the science teacher will be to spark excitement for science through phenomenon-based units, which will allow students to develop questions that will guide the investigative and experimental process, leading to deeper engagement with the content as they work to uncover the scientific basis of a phenomenon. Students will engage in practices that will not only allow them to act authentically as scientists, but also allow them to hone important life skills such as using evidence to support claims, engaging in thoughtful discourse, asking questions, and critically thinking about and analyzing current research and issues.


Our instruction incorporates National Science Standards, the Vision of Madison Public Schools and the 21st Century Capacities. The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize learning through immersion in science and engineering practices. As a result, our curriculum targets three-dimensional learning, in which students learn content through inquiry and engage in the Engineering Design Process. Science instruction goes beyond lessons that focus on disparate, discrete pieces of knowledge to instruction that is designed to enlighten students through exploration and that honors the interwoven concepts and patterns on which all science relies. Students will be required to analyze complex issues from multiple perspectives and a variety of sources to draw sophisticated conclusions and consider future implications and consequences on a local and global scale. Our curriculum development is driven by the necessity of ensuring that the content and experiences in which students engage are meaningful and relevant, not only to students, but to the global society.

Science Transfer Goals

Students will be able to…

  1. Make observations and ask questions to define a problem based on prior knowledge and curiosity that stimulates further exploration, analysis, and discovery.
  2. Use the scientific process to generate evidence that addresses the original questions.
  3. Analyze qualitative and quantitative data to interpret patterns, draw conclusions, and/or make predictions.
  4. Create models to explore complex systems, show mastery of key science concepts, and/or develop solutions through creation of a product open to testing and redesign.
  5. Evaluate scientific claims and analyze issues to verify the credibility of the source, data, and/or approach.
  6. Communicate effectively based on purpose, task, and audience to promote collective understanding and/or recommend actions.

for accessibility assistance please call the curriculum office at (203) 245-6326

Guiding Documents


A Plant's Life

Unit 1

In this unit, students will develop an understanding of how plants change and adapt to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. Students will observe how plants grow and change over time by adopting a tree as well as exploring the life cycles of apples and pumpkins. Students will "adopt" a tree on campus in order to observe the changes it undergoes throughout the seasons.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Weather Patterns and Predictions

Unit 2

Students will analyze the weather patterns they have been collecting throughout the year.  Using this data, students will explore seasons and how living things change based on seasons.  Students will learn how scientists predict the weather based on patterns and how weather predictions can help us make decisions.  Students will revisit their "adopted" and record the changes that have occurred since the last observation in the fall. 

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Our Environment

Unit 3

At the start of the year, all Kindergarten classes began the Crayola ColorCycle program as a year-long experience in support of this final unit. This program recycles old markers and turns them into energy.  This experience aligns with the focus of this final unit, which is Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.  Students will engage with content that explores natural resources and why we need and use these resources and the impact that can have on the environment.  Students will learn about upcycling as well as they develop solutions about how to manage the waste that is produced by human consumption.  The unit will culminate with students creating a birdhouse or feeder from materials that would have been thrown out if not used to help birds survive in their environment.  

21st Century Capacities: Design, Perseverance

Oscar the Grouch Marker Recycler 

Madison Kindergarten classes have partnered with Crayola ColorCycle to turn used markers into energy in order to help our Kindergarten students make a real impact in support of their new science unit: Our Environment.  

All around the elementary  schools, students and teachers will be collecting used markers that are ready to be discarded. The markers will be sent to a facility where they will be converted into clean fuel. This fuel can be used to power vehicles, heat homes, cook meals and more!

You can  help support our efforts by sending your students in with any used markers you may have around the house – even non-Crayola brands. A drop-off box will be located in the front hallway of each elementary school for your child to deposit the markers.

Oscar The Grouch with a box collecting worn out markers

Grade 1

The Earth, Sun and Moon

Unit 1

Students will engage in the Engineering Design Process through the lens of NASA rocket engineers to begin their unit on the Earth, Sun and Moon. They will learn how rocket science led to our ability to explore our solar system and that engineers had to test many different rocket designs to ensure they could make one that accomplished their task. Students will create, test and improve paper rockets.

Students will analyze data to understand that there are observable, predictable patterns that explain natural phenomena, such as the lunar cycle, and seasonal patterns of daylight. They will explore this concept through modeling the relative positions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun that cause the different lunar phases. Students will synthesize their learning using a model they created of the Earth, Sun, and Moon to demonstrate the lunar cycle and the orbits of the Earth and Moon.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing

Forces and Motion

Unit 2

Students will explore forces and motion through a series of inquiry investigations that will help them visualize and experience the fundamentals of physics. Students will focus on inertia while experimenting with dominoes, marbles, and other toys and also creating several objects and designs that will demonstrate the laws of physics. Students will record the results of their investigations on a data table and use this data to explain their conclusions. The culminating project will require students to apply their understanding while they engage in the Engineering Design Process to improve the distance a "Boxcar" can travel by redesigning the car or track.

21st Century Capacities: Design, Collective Intelligence

Sound and Light

Unit 3

Students will engage in several inquiry-based lessons that allow them to explore the properties of light and sound. Students will investigate how light can move and travel and how vibrations and sound are related. Students will apply their understanding of sound and light to explore how people and animals use sound and light to communicate. To conclude this unit, students will use their content knowledge and the Engineering Design Process to design and build a device that uses sound to communicate over a distance.

21st Century capacities: Design, Product Creation

Grade 1


In Grade 1, students began their science studies with a unit on the Earth, Sun, and Moon.  During this unit, students participated in many activities to learn how the position of the Earth, Sun, and Moon cause the patterns we see on Earth, such as the lunar cycle and season.  Students also engaged in the Engineering Design Process when they designed their own rocket ships and some students had the opportunity to share their designs and get expert feedback when they Skyped with a NASA Rocket Engineer!  This unit also includes a visit to a planetarium so that students can develop a better perspective of Earth’s place in the universe. 

Rocket Science Tshirt
Nasa Live feed
science happening in first grade
showing moon phases with oreo cookies
Rockets on a bulletin board
seasonal daylight graph
students using Skype

Grade 2

Plants and Animals

Unit 1

Through a variety of hands-on activities, students will explore the structure and function of plants and the interdependence of plants and animals within an ecosystem. Included in this unit is an interdisciplinary learning experience in math and science. This experience will build upon math skills developed in Grade 1 and emerging science content regarding plants and animals. After learning about the interactions between plants and animals through a visit to a local farm, the farmer will present students with a challenge about how to best grow plants indoors. Over the course of several weeks, students will plan and conduct an experiment, using math skills to take measurement data and share this data using a variety of mathematical representations. Students will create a bar graph, pictograph and line plot to communicate their findings and provide evidence-based suggestions for growing plants indoors. This information will be presented to the local farmer who originally presented the challenge.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Presentation


Unit 2

Students will experience the water cycle through a variety of hands-on investigations. Students will then apply their understanding of the water cycle to explore how water plays a role in changing the shape of land through the process of erosion. Students will see examples of how erosion has both created and destroyed landforms. This unit will culminate with a project in which students design a new town beach with prevention measures in place to prevent erosion.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Imagining

Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases

Unit 3

In this unit, students will explore the states of matter through the analysis and classification of different materials. Through hands-on activities, students will develop an understanding of the effects of temperature on various substances and how that may cause reversible or irreversible changes. Students will be introduced to atoms and molecules and their relationship to all types of matter. As a culminating experience, Students will use their understanding of the properties of matter, phase changes and chemical/physical changes to create a new solid or liquid to present to the class.

21st Century capacities: Imagining, Presentation


Grade 3

Our Changing Land; Science and Social Studies Interdisciplinary Unit

Unit 1

This unit has been developed through an interdisciplinary collaboration between Science and Social Studies. Students will begin the unit by exploring maps of Connecticut and the geologic forces that have shaped the Northeast. Through the investigation of maps as well as the location of rock types and formations students will be able to see evidence of the geologic history of our region. Students will move into the exploration of the natural resources that became available due to volcanic activity, glaciation, and erosion as they explore how early Americans used the natural resources for survival and how the quest for these resources shaped settlements, trading, and land use. Learning experiences will be infused with the scientific basis of these conclusions based on archeology and analysis of artifacts by scientists. Students will apply this understanding to Social Studies as they learn about where the Europeans settled in Connecticut, their interactions with native communities and how Connecticut has developed into our modern society.  

With much appreciation to Don Rankin for consulting with us on the development of this unit. 

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Decision Making, Alternate Perspective

Electromagnetic Forces

Unit 2

Throughout this inquiry-based unit, developed through a partnership with Central Connecticut State University, students will determine the cause and effect relationships of electrical or magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other. Students will use magnets to apply their understanding of magnetic reactions and may define a simple design problem that can be solved with magnets.  As a culminating experience, students will apply their understanding of electromagnetism to design, create and test a solution, using the Engineering Design Process, to a contamination spill where they will need to safely transport the contaminant.  

21st Century Capacities: Design, Collective Intelligence

Biomes and Adaptations

Unit 3

Students will engage in collaborative research to explore the abiotic and biotic factors that affect living things in terrestrial and aquatic biomes. Students will select an area of interest and create a project to showcase their learning through the use of non-fiction text structures and features. Throughout the research students will learn more about plant and animal adaptations, life cycles, and variation of traits as well as the adaptations that organisms have to help them survive in the climate in the given ecosystem. 

21st Century Capacities: Imagining, Presentation

Grade 4

Ecosystems and Adaptations

Unit 1

The theme of the fourth grade year is "How do our actions impact the world around us?" Students will tackle this question throughout the year, culminating in a final project that asks the students to propose a solution to a local issue by writing to a vested party.

Students will develop their understanding of ecosystems through the lens of our local wetlands as students explore the inhabitants and their adaptations for survival and the importance of wetlands to our town. Learning activities will include food webs, impact of invasive species, the function of wetlands and human impact. This unit will include a field trip to Hammonasset State Park in the fall and will be revisited during a trip to Circle Beach in the spring where students will participate in tagging horseshoe crabs in support of Project Limulus. The culminating project for this unit will require students to create a creature with structural adaptations that enable it to survive in a given habitat.

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Presentation


Unit 2

This unit will help students formulate answers to questions such as "What is energy?". Students will gain an understanding that energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light or heat.

Students will investigate how:

  • Energy can be transferred from one object to another and the faster an object is moving, the more energy it possesses.
  • Energy and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways.
  • The expression "produce energy" refers to the conversion of stored energy into a desired form for practical use.
  • Some resources are renewable over time, and some are not.

As a culminating experience, students will use their knowledge of energy, energy transfer and renewable resources to design a windmill using the Engineering Design Process.

21st Century Capacities: Design, Perseverance

The Power to Bring Change

Unit 3

This unit is the final content piece in a year-long study of the essential question: "How do our actions impact the world around us?". During this unit, students engage in a variety of activities that tie together the previous two units as they explore the impact of the forces of nature on our local resources. Students will use their knowledge of force and energy in concert with their understanding of the need for resources, such as wetlands, in protecting us from natural hazards such as hurricanes. Students will research and analyze environmental issues as they prepare for a final interdisciplinary assessment. This assessment is a learning experience that will be a culmination of explorations in three content areas and the demonstration of standards from ELA (Common Core), Social Studies (C3 Frameworks) and Science (NGSS). Fourth grade students will continually examine and reflect upon the essential question as they engage in experiences from September-April. The targeted capacities of Citizenship, Synthesizing, and Reflection are also practiced, developed and assessed in the sequence outlined in this plan.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Reflection, Citizenship

Grade 5

Unit 1: Light and Waves

In this unit, students will build a conceptual understanding of the properties of light, energy, and waves, through the development of models that can predict and explain seen and unseen phenomenon. These phenomena involve the use of lenses, mirrors, and prisms. This unit will culminate in a project that synthesizes learning as students design and engineer unique constructions that utilize solar energy and manipulate light.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Unit 1

Unit 2: Earth's Place in the Universe

In this unit, students will inquire about celestial patterns observed in our world and outer space. By developing models, students will be able to analyze patterns and data related to Earth's rotation and revolution, axial tilt, and distance to other celestial bodies to form conclusions. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the law of universal gravitation and predict patterns of moon phases by analyzing images and data. The unit will provide ample opportunities for students to synthesize knowledge from data collected during their solar cooker trials as they gain a better understanding of Earth's motion and how it affects the results of their design and testing conditions.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Unit 2

Unit 3: Ecosystem Sustainability

In this unit, students will build upon their work with light and seasonal changes as they explore the necessary balance in ecosystems. At the start of the unit, students will be presented with a challenge to develop a sustainable agricultural technology. By the end of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the principles of ecology and incorporate their studies of light and seasons for possible food sustainability in Connecticut.

In grade 6 students will continue to explore related issues in Science and Social Studies as they engage in the complexities surrounding global climate change and food and water insecurity.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Collective Intelligence

Unit 3

Grade 6

Properties of Matter

Unit 1

Students will participate in many hands-on activities exploring the properties of matter. Phase changes, density, molecular movement and relevant mathematical calculations will be emphasized. This unit will include a design component as students will create an object to perform in a specific manner by applying their understanding of the properties of matter. In the culminating experience, students will move through several lab stations as they analyze the behavior of different examples of matter and demonstrate their understanding by explaining the phenomenon using content-specific science terminology.

The concepts explored in this unit will support students in Unit 2 when they apply their understanding of molecular properties to weather and climate.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Weather and Climate

Unit 2

In this unit, students will learn how weather forms as a result of the complex interactions between temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Through the study and creation of forecasts they will understand how other conditions play a role in weather. Additionally, students will learn how tools and technology are used to create forecasts and how these forecasts can be used both locally and globally. Working both independently and with their peers, students will practice real world skills in predicting and interpreting the weather. Students will apply their knowledge of weather, weather patterns and the cause and effect relationships of weather and weather systems to a culminating project investigating changes in Earth's climate. Students will be required to use graphs to interpret data and use this data to justify their claims regarding the future of Earth's climate, citing specific references to various locations around the world.

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Engaging in Global Issues

Human Body Movement

Unit 3

This unit was developed through a collaboration with Yale Professor of Biomechanical Engineering, Dr. Stuart Campbell, as part of a National Science Foundation grant. During this unit, students will investigate the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems from the cellular level through the organism level, by performing several inquiry-based lessons that will help students understand how the three systems work together to allow our bodies to move and function. Students will use Vernier sensors to graph and analyze heart rate and muscle strength and fatigue. As they navigate the content, they will have several experiences to design and build models to represent cells and body systems, culminating in the creation of a prosthesis that integrates all three systems.

21st Century capacities: Synthesizing, Design

Grade 7

Engineering PBL - Rube-Goldberg

Unit 1

Students will apply their understanding of the functionality of simple machines, that they gained during several inquiry-based experiments, to devise a Rube-Goldberg machine. The Engineering Design Process that students have utilized in prior grades will guide their planning and design through several iterations as they work to devise a machine that will complete a given task. At the conclusion of the unit, students will present their machine to the class and explain the physics behind each of the simple machines utilized in their design.

21st Century capacities: Imagining, Design

Ecology and Human Impact 

Unit 2

This unit will focus on ecosystem dynamics as students investigate how changes to an ecosystem can have far-reaching effects. The unit will begin with an environmental phenomenon that students will work to decipher through their content investigations. Students will develop a model of an ecosystem, investigate the interdependence of the biotic and abiotic factors, and recognize how just one change can alter the balance of an environment. Students will further investigate ecosystem dynamics by performing an experiment on the effect of certain chemicals on aquatic environments. In doing so, students will be able to quantify how different concentrations of widely used pollutants can damage our local aquatic ecosystems and use this data to support their explanation for the environmental phenomenon that launched this unit. Students will engage in a debate or Socratic seminar as they navigate the intricacies of competing interests and plans for use of local resources. The culminating experience will ask students to develop and promote a pollution mitigation plan to help decrease water pollution in Madison, using scientifically-based justifications for their claims.

21st Century Capacities: Citizenship, Synthesizing

Forces and Motion

Unit 3

By performing several investigations that demonstrate the laws of physics, students will develop an understanding of the forces that are at work everyday in their lives. Students will begin the unit investigating the forces at work as our local Olympians fly through the air as aerial skiers. As students engage in hands-on, inquiry-based experiences they will uncover not only how these athletes use the laws of physics in their performance, but also how our world operates according to these laws. In order to engage in and quantify how Newton's Laws impact the world around us, students will apply their understanding of math and graphical analysis to solve physics problems and communicate experimental results. Students will demonstrate their understanding of forces and motion when they develop a testable hypothesis and procedure to test a race car and track that they have designed using the Engineering Design Process. At the end of the unit, students will tie together all of the concepts they have investigated as they create an original roller coaster design that requires them to employ this content explored during the unit to allow marbles to safely travel through the course.

21st Century capacities: Collective Intelligence, Design

Human Body Performance

Unit 4

Using Usain Bolt's sprinting abilities as an anchoring phenomenon for the unit, students will develop a deep understanding about the interdependence of the circulatory, respiratory, and excretory systems. Students will perform laboratory investigations that explore homeostasis by measuring heart and breathing rate and will apply graphing skills to quantify their results to demonstrate cause and effect relationships that maintain homeostasis. As students explore the body systems, they will develop their own model of the three systems working together. This model will be revisited and revised throughout the unit as new learning is uncovered. Students will also have the opportunity during this unit to use medical equipment that is utilized by healthcare professionals to assess health. Ultimately, students will demonstrate their understanding of the interconnection of the body systems by analyzing and applying their knowledge to case studies of human ailments and producing a final scientific model of the systems working together.

21st Century capacities: Product Creation, Synthesizing

Geologic Processes

Unit 5

This unit will begin with a "fossil mystery" in which students will need to apply their understanding of geologic processes to propose an answer to this mystery and justify their solution with scientific evidence. Throughout this unit, students will be exploring various geologic processes such as continental drift, plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes and apply their understanding of the processes to natural phenomena and recent geologic events. Students will also discover the process of how a scientific theory evolves and becomes accepted by examining the history of geologic discoveries and how these understandings helped us to recognize patterns that allow us to predict future geologic events. Students will use maps and data to provide evidence for their claims as they explain how geologic processes shape the Earth, ultimately making a prediction, based on data and calculations, of how the Earth will look in the future. Additionally, students will share their expertise by creating a children's book about a local geologic phenomenon of their choosing, that will be shared with our Grade 3 students as they also study this geologic history of Connecticut.

This unit has been divided into four learning arcs which, when taken together, create a picture of the geologic evolution of our planet.

Learning Arcs:

  1. Continental Drift
  2. Layers of the Earth
  3. Why is Earth an "active planet"?
  4. How does water shape the Earth?

21st Century capacities: Analyzing, Product Creation

Engineering Bridges PBL (Extension Unit)

Unit 6

After observing different types of bridges around the world, students will make predictions about how bridge structure relates to function as they prepare to build their own bridge. Students will investigate their predictions with computer simulations of the various forces that act on bridges and through practice builds. Ultimately, student will use the Engineering Design Process to create a bridge that can withstand a variety of applied forces.

21st Century capacities: Design, Perseverance

Grade 8


Unit 1

Students will demonstrate their understanding of how the relationship between Earth, Sun, and Moon cause the patterns and phenomena we experience as they explore these celestial bodies and their place in the universe.  Students will develop an understanding of Earth's position and movement through space, reasons for the seasons, moon phases, eclipses, and tides as well as gain insight into space exploration. Students will make scientific discoveries through inquiry-based laboratory investigations, virtual labs, and problem-solving challenges.  Students will be asked to create a visualization that will serve to correct misconceptions using scientific claims that are justified with evidence and data and ultimately make their learning visible as they create and deliver a narration to a science video.  

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing, Product Creation

Waves: Light and Sound

Unit 2

As students explore many natural phenomena by applying their understanding of light and sound waves, they will be gaining a deep understanding of how waves play a role in so many aspects of our lives.  From communication to medical technology, the characteristics and properties of waves make our world what it is today. This unit will engage students in the investigation of waves as they work toward a culminating experience of developing a podcast that explains the science behind one of the many new technologies being developed and used to try to improve our world.

21st Century Capacities: Product Creation, Engaging in Global Issues

Electricity and Magnetism

Unit 3

Students will gain a great deal of experience working with the Engineering Design Process during this unit on Electricity and Magnetism.  Students will explore both concepts primarily through an inquiry model where they will be asked to build a variety of tools with the materials and constraints provided.  Students will need to not only apply the Engineering Design Process, but also learn to persevere and reflect on their learning process. Throughout each experience, students will be gaining knowledge and understanding of the magnetism, static electricity, electrons, circuits, to name just a few relevant and useful concepts. 

21st Century Capacities: Innovation, Design, Reflection, Perseverance


Unit 4

Students will participate in many hands-on laboratory investigations as they move through concepts of atomic structure, chemical bonding, formula writing, periodic trends, endothermic and exothermic reactions balancing equations (stoichiometry), and the dynamics of acids and bases.  Students will be able to synthesize and apply these concepts to a final laboratory experience where they will need to analyze the reactions to determine the reactants, products, type of reaction, type of solution produced and created a balanced equations to illustrate the atomic and molecular changes that occurred.    

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing, Collective Intelligence

Natural Selection

Unit 5

Through the examination of several natural phenomena related to the evolution of adaptation in organisms, students will craft evidence-based explanations for traits that enable organisms to survive in their environment.  Students will engage in a variety of simulations and examine case studies as they uncover the principles of natural selection that result in large variety of differences within and between species.  As a foundation to this study, students will learn the basics about the genetic code and how sexual reproduction and genetic mutation give rise to the variations that are crucial for the success of populations. 

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing

High School