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FAQs for Grades 3-5 Families
Teachers: Consider sharing this page with anyone who would like to learn more about your science curriculum.
Get answers for questions concerning the FOSS 3-5 curriculum and how you can be involved in your child's science education.
What is FOSS?
The Full Option Science System (better known as FOSS) is a K-8 program developed at the University of California, at Berkeley with 25 years of experience educating students in grades K-8 in science education and incorporating the most recent research about how students learn best. This award-winning program has your student doing science and engineering regularly, using science notebooks, utilizing technology resources to support and enhance (not replace) the hands-on explorations, visiting the schoolyard to examine how the concepts learned in the classroom apply to the out of doors, using science and engineering as a way to support students in their language development, and engaging in assessment practices that help students understand what they know and what they need support with.Want to see FOSS in action and learn more? Enjoy this video.
How much instructional time do we spend on science at the 3–5 level?
At the 3rd–5th grade level we recommend two to four science sessions weekly with additional sessions for reading, videos, and/or assessments. In many schools these additional sessions can be done during literacy time.
What are the new standards?
The newest edition of FOSS was developed to align with A Framework for K–12 Science Education, the basis for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The majority of the states in the country either use NGSS or have shaped their standards based on the Framework. Instead of stating what students need to know they mirror what real scientists and engineers do while incorporating how students learn best. The key change is that standards are “three-dimensional”. One dimension includes the core ideas—this is what students need to know at a specified grade level. The other two strands of equal value to the core ideas, are the practices—what students will do and the crosscutting concepts—how to help students think. In other words the standards are asking students to do science in order to understand the content and we help students to make sense of what they’re learning by making connections across life, earth, and physical sciences. Also, the standards place a heavier emphasis on engineering which is to be taught within the context of a science program. FOSS has been teaching children this way for over 25 years.
How can I better support my child at home?
Your child’s teacher will provide letters to you about what is being taught. “The Letter to Families” will share an overview of the module—this is a great resource that might guide you in questions to ask your child about what they’re doing and learning in science. Another letter will describe how to access the resources that are available on FOSSweb. There are videos, ebooks, tutorials, and other fun interactive resources. To help foster a love of the outdoors you can simply take your child to a park and bask in the wonders of nature. If you’d like suggestions of nearby places to take weekend outings, check out the Regional Resources for each module on FOSSweb.
How is my 3–5 child assessed in science?
How do I support my elementary student with homework?
’All homework assignments should be extensions or closely related to what your child has done in school. If he or she needs help with the assignment, you might want to ask questions that give you more information about what the child is studying in school. You can start by asking what they have done in science recently. If the child doesn’t remember, ask if they used any materials to investigate or if they wrote in their science notebook about anything. This may trigger stronger memories. No matter what the homework assignment is, you can ask kids to think more deeply about what they’re learning. Asking general questions such as, “Why do you think this is the answer?” or even “How did you come to this answer?” and “Can you explain your thinking?” All of these questions will help push your student to synthesize what they think they understand more deeply.
How can I get involved in the classroom/ school to support science? Are there materials I can donate?
Check in with your child’s classroom teacher about volunteer opportunities. There may be opportunities to volunteer in the classroom with materials management or possibly supporting students as they do their work. There may be field trips to chaperone. Some schools have or would like to have an outdoor classroom or school garden—would you be able to help with this? (Note: Anytime a volunteer is working with students they may need to complete a background check.)
If you would like to donate something to support science, ask the teacher if there are any “teacher-supplied items” that you could help with, or if there are other classroom material needs.
How do I log on to FOSSweb? What is found there?
Sign in as a guest or sign in using your child’s student log in provided by your child's teacher. For more information, contact your child's teacher. If you log in as a guest you have limited access but can see a module summary, home school connections, a list of recommended books and websites, and regional resources. If you log in using your student’s log in, you’ll have access to many more digital resources that you may like to explore with your child.
How will FOSS help my students in all subject areas?
When FOSS is taught by design, students test scores go up not only in science, but in language arts and mathematics. In addition, students get more excited about school. Society is changing at such a rapid pace that we cannot know exactly what kind of jobs will be available when your child reaches the job force. It is crucial that we teach our students content, of course, but equally important is to know how to think critically, to work in groups, to problem solve, to ask questions and to figure out how to find the answers. Thinking and engaging in these ways will help students in all endeavors at all stages of their lives.
How do I access the eBook from the class page?
If you do not have access to the eBook when you are logged in, ask your teacher to add the access code FOSSK8CVHS, valid through May 2020, so that you can access the eBook.
What questions can I ask my elementary student at the dinner table?
Children are often unsure how to answer general questions such as, “How was your day?” and respond better with specific questions about what they’re learning. In FOSS teachers send home a “Letter to Families” at the beginning of each unit. You could start by asking, “Did you do anything in science today?” followed up with questions for deeper understanding based on the letter about the content. For example if a first grade student says, “We made parachutes.” You could ask, “What does a parachute do?” and “How did the parachute move?” or “Did you change your parachute?”
How will FOSS prepare our child for the future?
Some day, our K–8 students will be voting and making policy decisions that affect human resource use and environmental issues. All students will need a strong science background to be productive citizens. This is true whether or not they go on to become a scientist or engineer. In addition to providing students with a deep dive into the content kindergarten to eighth grade, FOSS helps students get excited about learning and teaches them how to think about what they know and what they need to know. In addition, we support students in academic discourse which will help them in any subjects they study later in life. Certainly our program prepares them for High School science, but more importantly, it gives children a foundation of believing that science is exciting and accessible. We’re not just reading and forgetting what we read about content, we’re actively engaged in science and forming long-term understanding. If FOSS is taught well, students will become better students in all subjects.
What does a FOSS classroom look like?
Instead of describing it, let’s show you. In the following video you’ll see students working in groups, using and referencing student notebooks, going outside, and enthusiastically engaged with science.
Please see these frequently asked questions.
How do I help my child with homework?
All homework assignments should be extensions or closely related to what your child has done in school. If he or she needs help with the assignment, you might want to ask questions that give you more information about what your child is studying in school. You can start by asking what he or she has done in science recently. If your child doesn’t remember, ask hiim or her if they used any materials to investigate or did they write in their science notebook about anything. This will hopefully trigger stronger memories. No matter what the homework assignment is, you can ask your child to think more deeply about what they’re learning. Asking general questions such as, “Why do you think this is the answer?”, “How did you come to this answer?”, or “Can you explain your thinking?” Questions like these will help push your student to synthesize what they think they understand more deeply. Your child may get more curious about a topic, and we encourage you to encourage this.
Is FOSS sensitive to allergies?
FOSS is very aware of the fact that schools may have children with severe or, possibly even life-threatening, sensitivities to food items or other materials. Whenever there is a product in the program that students could possibly be allergic to—such as latex, shellfish, or legumes there is a safety note for teachers. Nurses, administrators, teachers and schools are hypervigilant about keeping an eye out for these safety notes when a student has an allergy. To be extra cautious, please speak to your child’s teacher about what your child can or cannot touch, can be around but can’t touch, can’t have in the classroom. As a general rule, students are repeatedly cautioned never to put anything in their mouths (with a rare exception). For more information, please see this FOSSconnect newsletter article, Food Allergy Alternatives with FOSS, on food allergies.
What information do you have about possible careers in science and engineering?
FOSS has a Careers in Science and Engineering Database that you and your child can access with a student login on FOSSweb. It is full of a wide range of careers by a diverse group of female and male scientists and engineers. Also, teachers have access to many readings in the Science Resources Book to share with students about various jobs that scientists and engineers do.