Iowa Science Standards & Benchmarks

Instructor: Bill Sands
Science instruction in Iowa is organized around specific standards, or benchmarks, that outline what students should know at the end of each grade level or upon the completion of high school. Keep reading to learn what these standards cover and find resources to help supplement students' science education.

Science Standards in Iowa

Iowa is currently in the process of introducing its new science standards, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards. The state's department of education recently released the Iowa Science Standards Implementation Plan. This document serves as a comprehensive guide for local school districts and outlines resources to help teachers fully implement these standards into their curricula by 2020.

In an attempt to provide a well-rounded and interdisciplinary approach to science education, Iowa's science standards are organized around three dimensions: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. All three dimensions are included in the learning outcomes for each grade, which are outlined below.

Elementary School Standards

Younger students learn about basic science topics in elementary school. These Biology, Earth Science, Physics, and Chemistry courses for kids cover many of these topics via short, engaging lessons and include quizzes useful for tracking students' progress.


Students explore the basic needs of plants and animals and apply this knowledge as they analyze the environments in which these organisms live. Instruction at this level also features an introduction to motion and stability, as students study the effects of push and pull on objects, and daily weather patterns.

First Grade

At this level, educators introduce students to heredity by explaining the similarities and differences between an organism and its offspring. Students also begin observing seasonal changes in weather as well as the behaviors of sound and light waves.

Second Grade

Second graders begin to learn about different habitats and the various organisms that live within them. Students also create simple sketches and models to explain biological and geological phenomena, such as the location of water on the Earth or pollination of plants by a animal.

Third Grade

Using knowledge acquired in earlier grades, students examine patterns in an object's motion to predict the impact of force on an object. Students also continue developing their understanding of Earth and life sciences by using displays and tables to predict seasonal weather patterns and explain the relationship between organisms' inherited traits and their environments.

Fourth Grade

Students in fourth grade learn about the structures plants and animals have that help them grow, reproduce, and survive. They also get an introduction to wave properties, energy transfer, and the natural phenomena that shape the Earth's surface.

Fifth Grade

Having mastered basic scientific concepts, students learn how they can be used to protect the environment. Additional topics of study include the movement of energy and matter as it's transferred among different organisms, interactions between the Earth's four spheres, and physical and chemical changes to matter.

Middle School Standards

If your students need to brush up on their science knowledge, check out these middle school Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth Science courses, which cover many of the same topics outlined below.

Sixth Grade

Sixth graders explore matter and living organisms at the microscopic level. Topics of study include the atomic composition of molecules, particle motion, and cell structure and function. Students also investigate plate tectonics.

Seventh Grade

Instruction at this level focuses on the interactions between organisms in an ecosystem, the relationship between kinetic and potential energy, and the effects of gravitational, magnetic, and electric forces. Students also begin studying genetic mutations.

Eighth Grade

Students in eighth grade study the water cycle and explore how gravity and the sun's energy move water through Earth's systems. They also take a closer look at wave behaviors, natural selection, genetic variation, and the impacts of human populations on the environment.

High School Standards

Whereas each grade in middle and elementary school is assigned its own set of guidelines, standards for grades 9 through 12 are banded together, since high school science instruction is typically broken up by discipline.

Check out these Physics, Biology, Earth Science and Chemistry courses for a better idea of the kind of content that a high school science course might contain.

Physical Science

High school students continue to perform experiments and analyze data to better understand the concepts associated with Newton's laws of motion. Students are also expected to apply mathematical representations as they discuss such topics as momentum and net force. Additional topics covered include electromagnetic radiation, chemical reactions, and thermodynamics.

Life Science

Students examine DNA and protein structure and learn how they allow specialized cells to perform essential life functions. Students also use computational and mathematical skills to explain the carrying capacity of various ecosystems. They study the steps in cellular respiration and photosynthesis as well.

Earth & Space Science

Courses in Earth and space science require students to analyze evidence supporting the Big Bang theory and study the life cycles of stars. Students also explore strategies for reducing energy consumption and the impacts of human activity on the environment.

Engineering Design

Instruction at this level provides students with real-world problems and tasks them with finding solutions that meet a set of criteria. Students must also model their solutions using computer simulations.

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