Third Grade New York State Science Standards

Instructor: Bill Sands
New York recently introduced a complete overhaul of its science standards for students in grades P-12. Read on for more information on the content and learning objectives for students in the third grade.

Third Grade Science Standards in New York

The end of 2016 saw the introduction of an entirely new set of science standards for public school students in the state of New York. These standards outline a series of learning objectives for each grade level. Students in the third grade can expect to encounter a wide range of new concepts that build on the Earth science, life science and physical science subjects studied in grades P-2.


In addition to an overview of the content that third grade students will cover in their lessons, the New York standards contain three sets of descriptors that ensure a cohesive approach to instruction across all grade levels.

The descriptors, along with a brief explanation of each, are as follows:

  • Science and Engineering Practices: These descriptors refer to the fundamental scientific skills that students will acquire. These skills are applicable to all domains of science instruction and include the ability to ask questions, define problems, carry out investigations, and analyze data.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: DCIs are topics and concepts that form the very basis of understanding when it comes to science. They are relevant to a number of different subjects and include fundamental concepts associated with the study of weather and climate, forces and motion, and natural selection.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: This area aims to provide context and prove to students that their science lessons are relevant and applicable across all scientific disciplines as well as other subjects, like engineering and technology.

Third Grade Subjects

As with most other grade levels in the New York system, the third grade standards contain four main sets of performance expectations, each of which concentrates on a specific scientific concept. Most sets feature similar names and content as those found at the lower grades, and students are expected to use their previously acquired knowledge to take new steps and improve their understanding.

Forces and Interactions

A return to a topic first introduced in kindergarten, these standards explore the effects of force on an object's motion. Lessons cover such concepts as unbalanced forces, magnetic interactions, and electrical forces, with specific objectives including the observation and analysis of patterns in an object's motion and the demonstration of cause and effect relationships involving electric interactions.

Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

A common refrain in the New York curriculum, this concept is first covered at the kindergarten level, then again in second grade, and another time in the third grade. Students can also expect to return to this topic in middle and high school.

Building off their knowledge of plants' and animals' basic needs, students in third grade continue to analyze and increase their understanding of how ecosystems function in nature. Students learn about some animals' survival methods, fossil records, and the impact that environmental change can have on an ecosystem.

Inheritance and Variation of Traits

Though this unit relies on a knowledge of basic plant and animal characteristics that students obtained during the P-2 grades, it represents a new addition to the curriculum. Students explore the relationship between genealogy and physical characteristics, learning how traits are passed down from one generation to the next.

Specific topics include the standard life cycle, variations in traits among similar organisms, and the principles of inheritance. Learning objectives include constructing arguments to explain the effects of environment on traits and the advantages provided by specific characteristics.

Weather & Climate

After learning about the basics of weather during their earlier years, students now tackle the relationship between weather and the movement of water on Earth. Students also learn more advanced ways of monitoring weather, using tables and graphical displays to provide an accurate description of seasonal weather patterns, while also researching regional climates around the world. They also evaluate solutions designed to protect people from weather hazards.

Study Materials for Kids

New York teachers and parents, as well as those living all around the world, can take advantage of's online courses. These self-paced resources contain interactive learning tools, such as self-checking quizzes and engaging video lessons, that can be used to supplement the instruction students receive in class.

For this topic, the Science for Kids course is an excellent starting point. This class takes a look at a whole host of concepts and ideas at the elementary school level. For more tailored lessons, take a look at this 3rd Grade Science class, which focuses exclusively on the sort of content that third graders can expect to encounter. Topics of instruction include force and motion, ecology, life cycles, and weather and climate.

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