Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about science tools. It is designed to complement the Science Tools topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Explain to children that scientists ask questions about the world around them and gather information to answer these questions. They use tools to collect data, or information, and analyze it to come up with ideas, make inferences, and draw conclusions. Remind children that there are many, many different kinds of tools and that it is important to select the proper one when gathering information. Otherwise, they will not get the information they need to answer their questions!

Review with children that a ruler, meter stick, yardstick, and tape measure are tools that measure length, width, or height. Using customary units, we can use inches to measure the lengths of small items, such as leaves or pencils. For lengths of larger items, such as desks or school buses, we can use feet. Remind children that distance is the measurement between two points or places. To measure the distance between two cities, we can use miles.

It is important for children to understand and use the metric system, even from a young age. Since most of the world uses the metric system, a key understanding of basic units will help children get ahead. To measure the length of tiny things, such as an ant, we can use millimeters. For lengths of larger things, such as a notebook, we can use centimeters. For even bigger lengths, such as a room, we can use meters. Distances are best measured in kilometers.

As practice, measure different items together. Instruct children to line up the item with the 0 on the measuring tool and not the 1. Otherwise, their measurements will not be accurate! Discuss why choosing the correct tool is important. Which is the best tool to measure the length of a large room? Why might a ruler be more difficult to use than a tape measure? Choosing the right unit is also important. What might happen if you measure the length of a desk in miles or measure the distance between two cities in centimeters? It is crucial to use the appropriate unit when measuring—and use the same unit consistently during a project, especially when comparing measurements.

Review tools that measure and compare weight. A scale can measure the weight of items—children may see scales in their homes or in grocery stores. A balance scale is a tool we use to compare the weight of objects. We use ounces to measure the weights of small items, such as an apple. We use pounds to measure the weights of larger items, such as a person.

Remind children that mass is the amount of matter in something. We use grams to measure the mass of small objects and kilograms for larger objects. Scales and balance scales are tools that can measure and compare mass.

Volume is the amount of space an object takes up. Capacity is the amount a container can hold. Review different tools that measure volume, such as measuring cups and spoons, beakers, droppers, and graduated cylinders. A pipette is a narrow tube that you can use to measure small volumes.

Remind students that when they measure liquids, the top of the surface curves (meniscus). They should measure where the bottom of the curve lines up with the measurement line on their tool. In the metric system, milliliters are used for small amounts of volume, while liters are used for larger amounts. Kiloliters are used for very large amounts.

Discuss different tools we use to observe things closely, such as hand lenses and microscopes. Review proper handling techniques for fragile equipment and how to use the tool properly. To focus an image in a hand lens, you must move the tool closer or farther away from the object. To focus a microscope, you have to turn a knob around the eyepiece. Tools such as binoculars and telescopes help us see things far away. What is the best tool to observe birds? Or stars?

Thermometers and windsocks help us measure the temperature or figure out which direction the wind is blowing. Calendars, clocks, and stopwatches help us track time. Magnets can help us collect objects that have iron in them.

It is important for all students to know how to utilize tools and how to be careful with them. It is also important to understand basic safety rules when they conduct experiments. Aprons, goggles, and gloves should be used when handling items that are potentially dangerous or fragile.

Encourage children to be scientists! Empower them with the inquiry skills they need to ask questions about the world around them, conduct experiments, and create projects to share what they’ve learned. We recommend exploring the BrainPOP Jr. movie Science Skills for enrichment or using the Scientific Method and BrainPOP Jr. movie Science Projects movies as extensions.