Earth and Space Sciences in All Science Courses

by Carolina Staff

Earth and space science concepts can be incorporated into biology, chemistry, and physics.

What are Earth and space sciences?

Earth and space sciences, an interdisciplinary course of study, applies the principles of physics, chemistry, and biology to explain observed interactions among Earth’s four primary systems–the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere–while recognizing Earth’s place in space as the driving engine for all Earth systems.

When are Earth and space sciences taught?

While most states require three science courses for graduation, many states do not specifically require Earth and space science courses. However, the disciplines in the Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) are physical, life, and Earth and space sciences. Due to this, some schools, districts, and states have sought ways to incorporate Earth and space sciences into other science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. This incorporation is often referred to as a three-course model. However, even if a three-course model is not adopted, using Earth and space science concepts in other course work can be valuable.

Due to their interdisciplinary nature, Earth and space science concepts can be woven into these traditional classes. Because most Earth and space science concepts take place at a very large scale, students can easily visualize evidence and examples.

Example of teaching Earth and space science concepts in another course

 Earth Science Phenomena: Formation of the Hawaiian Islands 

To make sense of the formation of the Hawaiian Islands, students have to understand convection, density, convection currents, and transfer of heat energy. These topics are typically addressed in a chemistry, physics, or other physical science courses.

Method 1: As part of instruction, the teacher could propose the Earth science phenomenon, then teach the specific concepts through varying techniques, returning to the phenomenon throughout the lessons. Each activity would give the students a greater understanding of the formation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Method 2: The teacher instructs on specific concepts, such as density and convection, using the phenomenon specific to those concepts. For example, If students are learning the concept of density, a teacher might use an illustration of a pool in which certain items float or sink as an initial phenomenon. Then after students have explained the phenomenon pertaining to those concepts, the teacher can present the Earth science phenomenon for explanation.

By incorporating Earth and space sciences into other courses of study, students can see that these concepts are present not only in small specific instances but are useful in explaining a multitude of situations, including the world that they live in.

Carolina Kits 3D® Earth and Space Sciences

Carolina Kits 3D® investigations are built from the ground up to engage students in scientific and engineering practices while applying core ideas and crosscutting concepts–experiences that are key to thriving with the NGSS and phenomena-based learning. The Earth and space science kits focus on an Earth or a space science phenomenon and the core science concepts behind that phenomenon.

SKUKit Title (Topic)ChemistryPhysicsBiology
331102Evidence of the Big Bangxx 
331104Stellar Origin of the Elementsxx 
331106Planetary Motion x 
331114Seafloor Spreading and Crustal Rocksx  
331116Modeling Radiometric Datingxx 
331118Modeling Earth Processes: Destructive Forces x 
331128Plate Tectonics and Island Formationx  
331130Transformative Properties of Waterx  
331132Modeling the Carbon Cyclex x
331134Coevolution of Earth’s Systemsx x
331142Earthquake Simulation x 
331146Hydroponics and Sustainability  x
331148Analyzing Wind Power Potentialx  
331150Earth Systems and Climate Changex x
331158Climate Variationx  
331160Analyzing Patterns in Climate Change  x

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve/WestEd. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.

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