What Is Physical Science? A Definition & Lesson

The Big Question

For students to understand what physical science is, they first need to understand what science is in general. Begin this lesson plan by explaining science to your students using the definition below.

Science is the method of observing, identifying, describing, investigating and explaining phenomena. Since this is such a broad definition, it is easy to see why science is broken down into the many branches that it is, such as physical science, life science and environmental science.

Let students know that these branches sometimes work alone and sometimes work together to resolve theories and questions related to science, but they all have their own specific function as well. After discussing this with students, move on to the next portion of this lesson plan.

Five Major Branches

Physical science is its own branch of science and has many subdivisions within it. Provide students with the physical science definition as the study of nonliving matter. Go on to explain the five major branches of physical science as described below.

  • Physics: Deals with matter and energy.
  • Chemistry: Concerned with the structure and composition of matter.
  • Astronomy: Study of the universe.
  • Meteorology: Deals with the atmosphere from the actual surface of the Earth until it ends in outer space.
  • Geology: The study of the Earth including the composition and history of the Earth.

It’s easy to see how the branches may work together. For instance, to deal with physics you may need to know some chemistry as in the case presented below.

If a ball of methane gas is dropped from 20,000 feet, how long would it take to hit the Earth and what would the impact on the Earth be?

You would need to use both physics and chemistry to be able to figure out the answer to both questions. In the case of things like national safety, these sciences are essential to answering questions like the one presented above. Discuss this situation with students and allow them to talk about different ways that the sciences might be combined and be useful. Then move on to the physical science definition activity.


Ask students to consider their own interests. Students will then use one of their interests and describe which area of science would be the one that is primarily used in this activity in an essay format. The elements below should be included in the essay:

  • What is the activity?
  • Which branch of physical science best supports this activity?
  • How do any other branches help to support this activity?
  • Describe advances in science that have made this activity possible.
  • Describe physical science as you understand it and relate that description to your understanding of how physical science applies in your activity.

For instance, if a student's chosen activity is basketball, then they would answer these questions in relation to basketball. They may describe it as a physics activity since it has to do with gravity and force. Or if they are interested in cooking, they may describe it as a chemistry activity.

Once students finish this essay, they should have their own physical science definition that will help them to better understand this branch and how it works within their environment.