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Science and Technology/Engineering
Curriculum Framework - Spring 2001

Strand 1 : Earth and Space Science

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In earth and space science, students study the origin, structure, and physical phenomena of the earth and the universe. Earth and space science studies include concepts in geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy. These studies integrate previously or simultaneously gained understandings in physical and life science with the physical environment. Through a study of earth and space, students learn about the nature and interactions of oceans and the atmosphere, earth processes including plate tectonics, changes in topography over time, and the place of the earth in the universe.

In grades PrePreK-2, students are naturally interested in everything around them. This curiosity leads them to observe, collect, and record information about the earth and about objects visible in the sky. Teachers should encourage their students' observations without feeling compelled to offer the precise scientific reasons for these phenomena. Young children bring these experiences to school and learn to extend and focus their explorations. In the process, they learn to work with tools like magnifiers and simple measuring devices. The learning standards at this level fall under the topics of Earth's Materials, Weather, Sun as a Source of Heat and Light, and Periodic Phenomena.

In grades 3-5, students explore properties of earth materials and how they change. They conduct tests to classify materials by observed properties, make and record sequential observations, note patterns and variations, and look for factors that cause change. Students observe weather phenomena and describe them quantitatively using simple tools. They study the water cycle, including the forms and locations of water. The focus is on having students generate questions, investigate possible solutions, make predictions, and evaluate their conclusions. Learning standards fall under the topics of Rocks and Their Properties, Soil, Weather, Water Cycle, Earth's History, and The Earth in the Solar System.

In grades 6-8, students gain sophistication and experience in using models, satellite images, and maps to represent processes and features. In the early part of this grade span, students continue to investigate geological materials' properties and methods of origin. As their experiments become more quantitative, students should begin to recognize that many of the earth's natural events occur because of processes such as heat transfer.

At this level, students should recognize the interacting nature of the earth's four major systems: the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. They should begin to see how the earth's movement affects both the living and nonliving components of the world. Attention shifts from the properties of particular objects toward an understanding of the place of the earth in the solar system and changes in the earth's composition and topography over time. Middle school students grapple with the importance of and methods of obtaining direct and indirect evidence to support current thinking. They recognize that new technologies and observations change our explanations about how things in the natural world behave. Learning standards fall under the topics of Mapping the Earth, Earth's Structure, Heat Transfer in the Earth System, Earth's History, and The Earth in the Solar System.

The unifying theme of 9th and 10th grade earth and space science is the interaction of the Earth's various spheres and human activities. It falls into the following categories: Matter and Energy in the Earth System, Earth's Sources of Energy, Earth's Processes and Cycles, and The Origin and Evolution of the Universe. Students continue their studies to include the universe. As they review geological, meteorological, oceanographic, and astronomical data, they learn about direct and indirect evidence and consider how these might be used to test competing theories about the origin of stars and planets, including our own solar system. Through increasingly sophisticated investigations and measurements, students also learn about various geological processes, including plate tectonics, wind formation, the flow of water through the local watershed, and changes in the earth over time.

Last Updated: May 1, 2001
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