and actions as citizens. Although the emphasis in grades K-4 should be on initial understandings, students can engage in some personal actions in local challenges related to science and technology.

Teachers should be aware of the concepts that elementary school students have about health. Most children use the word ''germs" for all microbes; they do not generally use the words "virus" or "bacteria," and when they do, they do not understand the difference between the two. Children generally attribute all illnesses to germs without distinction between contagious and noncontagious diseases and without understanding of organic, functional, or dietary diseases. Teachers can expect students to exhibit little understanding of ideas, such as different origins of disease, resistance to infection, and prevention and cure of disease.

Children link eating with growth, health, strength, and energy, but they do not understand these ideas in detail. They understand connections between diet and health and that some foods are nutritionally better than others, but they do not necessarily know the reasons for these conclusions.

By grades 3 and 4, students regard pollution as something sensed by people and know that it might have bad effects on people and animals. Children at this age usually do not consider harm to plants as part of environmental problems; however, recent media attention might have increased students awareness of the importance of trees in the environment. In most cases, students recognize pollution as an environmental issue, scarcity as a resource issue, and crowded classrooms or schools as population problems. Most young students conceive of these problems as isolated issues that can be solved by dealing with them individually. For example, pollution can be solved by cleaning up the environment and producing less waste, scarcity can be solved by using less, and

Central ideas related to health, populations, resources, and environments provide the foundations for students' eventual understandings and actions as citizens.

crowding can be solved by having fewer students in class or school. However, understanding the interrelationships is not the priority in elementary school.

As students expand their conceptual horizons across grades K-12, they will eventually develop a view that is not centered exclusively on humans and begin to recognize that individual actions accumulate into societal actions. Eventually, students must recognize that society cannot afford to deal only with symptoms: The causes of the problems must be the focus of personal and societal actions.

Guide to the Content Standard

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include

[See Content Standard C (grades K-4)]


  • Safety and security are basic needs of humans. Safety involves freedom from danger, risk, or injury. Security involves feelings of confidence and lack of anxiety and fear. Student understandings include following safety rules for home and school, preventing abuse and neglect, avoiding injury, knowing whom to ask for help, and when and how to say no.

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