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Integrating Science Across Curriculum

The key goal of Integrating Science Across the Curriculum practice is to reinforce skills in other subject areas by engaging students in science investigations. For example, science projects that include reading build science knowledge while strengthening literacy skills.

Practice in Action

What Is It?

Integrating Science Across the Curriculum combines science investigations with content or skills from other subject areas such as math, reading, writing, social studies, technology, and the arts. These projects are frequently, but not always, long-term investigations that require instructors to plan lessons that incorporate more than one subject and related standards

What Do I Do?

Begin by communicating with the school-day teachers to find out more about the language arts, mathematics, and science skills that are being taught, how you might help students improve specific skills, and how you might incorporate these skills into science activities. For example, a science project that asks students to measure, collect and analyze data, graph, and express scientific relationships also builds math skills. You may want to begin simply by incorporating science trade books, journal writing, graphic organizers, Internet searches, and mathematics with science investigations. Later you can think about projects that could incorporate multiple areas of content knowledge, such as a year-long study of natural disasters, a butterfly garden with art mosaics of the ecosystems in your region, a robotics competition, or a health and nutrition fair.

Why Does It Work?

Integrating Science Across the Curriculum works because students are engaged in their own learning; they use what they already know and construct new understandings; they are able to use different strategies, approaches, and learning styles; and they learn in a social context. The learning is not isolated, but rather it is a part of a whole.

Planning Your Lesson

Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.

Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons. The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.

Lesson Planning Template Questions

Grade Level

What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?

How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?

Learning Goals
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?

Materials Needed
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity. Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?

What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?

Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?

Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.

What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that might be useful—and which was originally developed for science education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see the 5E's Instructional Model.

Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?

After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place. How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?

Sample Lessons

Learning About Tadpoles (K-2)

Students read The Icky Sticky Frog, practicing literacy skills as they develop an understanding of tadpoles.

Duration: 1 week or longer (can be extended)

Learning Goals

  • Understand the life cycle of frogs and what they need to live
  • Practice scientific inquiry through questioning, predicting, observing, recording and interpreting data, and communicating results
  • Keep journals or records of scientific investigations
  • Use graphic organizers
  • Develop group work skills such as working together and listening to others

Materials Needed

  • Aquarium with tadpoles, rocks, and plants for each group (consider purchasing the Carolina Biological Raise-a-Frog Kits or individual aquaria, tadpoles, and plants from your local pet store)
  • Magnifying glass (1 per student)
  • Drawing paper and colored pencils
  • Variety of age-appropriate books on frogs for each group
  • KWL Chart (PDF) for recording students' prior knowledge, questions, and what they learned about tadpoles


  • Identify a safe place to maintain aquaria with tadpoles.
  • Collect materials—tadpoles, aquaria, library books, etc.
  • Review instructions on how to set up an aquarium and care for tadpoles. For example, the kind of water you use and general care of the tadpoles is very important for their survival.
  • Read the book The Icky Sticky Frog, and develop questions for discussion.
  • Begin a word wall or chart of the new vocabulary words that the story introduces.

Safety Considerations

  • Talk with children about how to handle animals and their habitats in a way that demonstrates a respect for life.
  • Local pond water and tadpoles may be used, but take precautions to ensure that the water is not polluted. Seek assistance from local environmental resources.
  • Identify a safe place within your afterschool facility to maintain the tadpoles.
  • Practice good handwashing techniques to protect the tadpoles and the students. (Count to 15 while scrubbing hands and fingernails with soap, rinse off thoroughly with water, use a paper towel to turn off the water, and wipe hands dry with a clean paper towel.)
  • Follow guidelines for raising tadpoles to ensure safety for students and tadpoles.

What to Do

  • Engage students by asking what they know about frogs, tadpoles, and amphibians. You may want to use and record students' answers on a KWL chart and post it on the board or on a wall, adding to the chart as they learn more. Review sounds that frogs make and read aloud the story of The Icky Sticky Frog, with enthusiasm and expression. Use your word wall or word chart to review new vocabulary words.
  • Explore tadpoles. Divide students into groups of four or five. Set up aquariums for each group, and ask students to observe the tadpoles and record their observations by writing about what they see and making drawings of tadpoles at various stages. Check in with each group and ask guiding questions such as: How do the tadpoles change as they grow? What do they need to survive?
  • Explain observations. Ask students to explain what they learned by sharing their observations and questions about tadpoles. Have students research information about tadpoles and create a story chart to illustrate what they have learned.
  • Extend learning if time allows. Continue to read books about frogs, build vocabulary word walls, create frog books or PowerPoint presentations based on what students have learned, and compare/contrast what students know about living things with what they have learned about tadpoles and frogs.
  • Evaluate (Outcomes to Look For)
    • Questions and answers that reflect an understanding of what tadpoles need to survive, as well as an understanding of the life cycle of frogs
    • An understanding of the story The Icky Sticky Frog
    • Students pose questions, hypothesize, observe, collect and record data, and communicate results
    • Students work together to gain a better understanding of tadpoles

Learn more about the 5Es.

Exploring Earthquakes (3-8)

Students use books and the Internet to gather data about earthquakes and how they affect people, and utilize skills in language arts, math and art.

Duration: 3 days or longer

Learning Goals

  • Gather, read, and understand data about real-world scenarios
  • Understand earthquakes, how they are measured, where they occur, and how they affect people
  • Work collaboratively
  • Create graphic organizers
  • Maintain a journal

Materials Needed

  • Copies of the books The Restless Earth by Melvin Berger and The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Mapping Activity

  • Individual student maps enlarged and printed on 11" x 17" paper
  • Large world map (Pacific view preferred)
  • Small colored dots
  • Colored pencils or crayons (1 set per student)
  • Rulers (clear preferred)
  • Computer with Internet connection

Graphic Organizers

Science Vocabulary Foldable

  • 8.5" x 11" paper--copy or notebook (2 per student)
  • 8.5" x 11" card stock (3-hole punch)
  • Glue, colored pencils or crayons, scissors
  • Vocabulary Word Organizer (PDF)


  • Identify Web sites and collect books on earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.
  • Identify vocabulary words for vocabulary activity.
  • Make foldable graphic organizers from the model provided.
  • Purchase a large world map with latitude/longitude lines as well as country names.
  • Download and duplicate copies of world maps for individual student use.
  • Make copies of the Largest Earthquakes in the World Since 1900 (PDF, 68K).
  • Plot the largest earthquakes and keep as model.

Safety Considerations

  • If colored straight pins are used instead of colored dots, as suggested by some teachers, care should be taken to ensure students are not injured.

What to Do

  • Engage students in the activity by reading aloud The Restless Earth or The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth. Ask students if they or their families have experienced an earthquake, volcanic eruption, and/or tsunami.
    • Explain that students will study and plot major earthquakes.
  • Explore the FEMA for Kids and other Web sites on earthquakes (see the Resource page). Model plotting earthquake data using the large map, calling out the latitude and longitude as the intersection point is found, and finally placing a small colored dot on the location according to the Earthquake Magnitude Scale (PDF, 68K).
    • Have students work in groups so that they can help each other find the correct coordinates to map the rest of the largest earthquakes.
    • Have individual students plot the ten largest earthquakes on 11" x 17" world maps. Have teams of students download earthquake data for the past week and plot the data on the large map. Have teams take turns plotting daily data over a month or longer period of time using the colored dots on the large map. You may also choose to have individual students plot the data on their world map. Have students keep a journal of Internet searches and reflections on what they are learning.
  • Explain findings. Once the plates are clearly visible from the plotted data, have students explain what they have learned through illustrations, writing, or PowerPoint presentations.
  • Extend students' understanding if time allows. Watch "Ring of Fire," organize a relief drive for earthquake victims, invite a geologist to speak, plot volcano locations, or plot additional earthquake data.
  • Evaluate (Outcomes to Look For)
    • Student participation and engagement
    • Research and answers that reflect an understanding of earthquakes, where they occur, how they are measured, and how they affect people
    • Ability to record and interpret data, and use that data to plot locations on a map
    • Learning logs or journals that reflect students' ability to summarize what they have learned

Learn more about the 5Es.


Explore these resources to assist in implementing the Integrating Science Across the Curriculum practice in your program.

Resources for Sample Lessons associated with this practice:

Exploring Earthquakes
University of Michigan, Facts and Graphics about the Earth

This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics

Savage Earth Animations

Plate Tectonics—The Cause of Earthquakes

Ring of Fire Map

FEMA for Kids, Information and Links about Natural Disasters

World and Other Maps

Learning About Tadpoles
Carolina Biological

Natural Sounds

Print Resources:
Barton, Mary Lee and Deborah Jordan. Teaching Reading in Science. Colorado:McREL, 2001.
Bentley, D. and S.Yoon (1999). The Icky Sticky Frog. Santa Monica, CA: Piggy Toes Press, 1999.
Honig, Bill, Linda Diamond, and Ginda Gutlohn, CORE's Teaching Reading Sourcebook. CA: Arena Press, 2000.

Technology Tip

A great way to set up a science project for your afterschool participants is to use WebQuest, an inquiry-oriented activity where learners find information on the Web. All you need is a computer with access to the Internet: The WebQuest Page provides detailed development instructions as well as templates to enable even technology beginners to put WebQuests online. But before you try to develop your own, check out the existing WebQuests to see if there is already one online that addresses your science learning needs. A WebQest can be used in a learning center with one computer or in a computer lab. When you explore The WebQuest Page, you'll find standards-based WebQuests that involve students in their own learning as they solve problems in real-world situations.