The Key to Earth Science Core Content
The following is copied with permission from the Kentucky Department of Education, Core Content for Science Assessment, web site. It contains only those content statements that relate to earth and space science. It does not contain content statements about the nature of scientific inquiry, or the applications parts of science in technology, science in personal and social perspectives, or history and nature of science, although information linked to the statements at this web site may help in assessing these areas.
Grades K-4: Conceptual Understandings-Earth and Space Science
Properties of Earth Materials
SC-E-2.1.1 Earth materials include solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. Minerals that make up rocks have properties of color, texture, and hardness. Soils have properties of color, texture, the capacity to retain water, and the ability to support plant growth. Water on Earth and in the atmosphere can be a solid, liquid, or gas.
SC-E-2.1.2 Earth materials provide many of the resources humans use. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials (e.g., stone, clay, marble), as sources of fuel (e.g., petroleum, natural gas), or growing the plants we use as food.
SC-E-2.1.3 Fossils found in Earth materials provide evidence about organisms that lived long ago and the nature of the environment at that time.
Objects in the Sky
SC-E-2.2.1 The Sun provides the light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of Earth. The Sun's light and heat are necessary to sustain life on Earth.
SC-E-2.2.2 Objects in the sky (e.g., Sun, clouds, moon) have properties, locations, and real or apparent movements that can be observed and described.
Changes in Earth and Sky
SC-E-2.3.1 The surface of the Earth changes. Some changes are due to slow processes such as erosion or weathering. Some changes are due to rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
SC-E-2.3.2 Weather changes from day to day and over seasons. Weather can be described by observations and measurable quantities such as temperature, wind direction and speed, and precipitation.
SC-E-2.3.3 Changes in movement of objects in the sky have patterns that can be observed and described. The Sun appears to move across the sky in the same way every day, but the Sun's apparent path changes slowly over seasons. The moon moves across the sky on a daily basis much like the Sun. The observable shape of the moon changes from day to day in a cycle that lasts about a month.
Grades 5-8: Conceptual Understandings-Earth and Space Science
Structure of the Earth System: Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere
SC-M-2.1.1 The Earth is layered. The lithosphere is the thin crust of the Earth. Lithospheric plates move slowly in response to movements in the mantle. There is a dense core at the center of the Earth.
SC-M-2.1.2 Landforms are a result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces. Constructive forces include crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion.
SC-M-2.1.3 Materials found in the lithosphere and mantle are changed in a continuous process called the rock cycle.
SC-M-2.1.4 Soil consists of weathered rocks and decomposed organic material from dead plants, animals, fungi, protists, and bacteria. Soils are often found in layers, with each having a different chemical composition and texture.
SC-M-2.1.5 Water, which covers the majority of the Earth's surface, circulates through the crust, oceans, and atmosphere in what is known as the water cycle. Water dissolves minerals and gases and may carry them to the oceans.
SC-M-2.1.6 Earth is surrounded by a relatively thin blanket of air called the atmosphere. The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor. The atmosphere has different properties at different elevations.
SC-M-2.1.7 Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather. Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat.
SC-M-2.2.1 The Earth's processes we see today, including erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are similar to those that occurred in the past. Earth's history is also influenced by occasional catastrophes such as the impact of an asteroid or comet.
SC-M-2.2.2 Fossils provide important evidence of how environmental conditions and life have changed.
Earth in the Solar System
SC-M-2.3.1 Earth is the third planet from the Sun in a system that includes the moon, the Sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects such as asteroids and comets. The Sun, an average star, is the central and largest body in the solar system.
SC-M-2.3.2 Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion. Those motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses.
SC-M-2.3.3 Gravity is the force that keeps the planets in orbit around the Sun and governs the rest of the motion in the solar system. The gravitational pull of the Sun and moon on Earth's oceans is the major cause of tides.
SC-M-2.3.4 The Sun is the major source of energy for Earth. The water cycle, winds, ocean currents, and growth of plants are affected by the Sun's energy. Seasons result from variations in the amount of the Sun's energy hitting Earth's surface.
Grades 9-12: Conceptual Understandings-Earth and Space Science
Energy in the Earth System
SC-H-2.1.1 Earth systems have sources of energy that are internal and external to the Earth. The Sun is the major external source of energy. Two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from Earth's original formation.
SC-H-2.1.2 The outward transfer of Earth's internal heat drives convection circulation in the mantle. This causes the crustal plates to move on the face of the Earth.
SC-H-2.1.3 Heating of Earth's surface and atmosphere by the Sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.
SC-H-2.1.4 Global climate is determined by energy transfer from the Sun at and near Earth's surface. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover and the Earth's rotation and static conditions such as the position of mountain ranges and oceans.
SC-H-2.2.1 Earth is a system containing essentially a fixed amount of each stable chemical atom or element. Each element can exist in several different reservoirs. Each element on Earth moves among reservoirs in the solid Earth, oceans, atmosphere, and organisms as part of geochemical cycles.
SC-H-2.2.2 Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by Earth's internal and external sources of energy. These movements are often accompanied by a change in physical and chemical properties of the matter. Carbon, for example, occurs in carbonate rocks such as limestone, in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas, in water as dissolved carbon dioxide, and in all organisms as complex molecules that control the chemistry of life.
The Formation and Ongoing Changes of the Earth System
SC-H-2.3.1 The Sun, Earth, and the rest of the solar system formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago from a nebular cloud of dust and gas.
SC-H-2.3.2 Techniques used to estimate geological time include using radioactive dating, observing rock sequences, and comparing fossils to correlate the rock sequences at various locations.
SC-H-2.3.3 Interactions among the solid Earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and living things have resulted in the ongoing development of a changing Earth system. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can be observed on a human time scale, but many processes, such as mountain building and plate movements, take place over hundreds of millions of years.
SC-H-2.3.4 Evidence for one-celled forms of life, the bacteria, extends back more than 3.5 billion years. The changes in life over time caused dramatic changes in the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, which did not originally contain oxygen.
- Age Dating
- Continental Drift
- Earth History
- Solar system
- Tectonic Plates Through Time
The Formation and Ongoing Changes of the Universe
SC-H-2.4.1 The big bang theory and observational measurements that support it place the origin of the universe at a time between 10 and 20 billion years ago, when the universe began in a hot dense state. According to this theory, the universe has been expanding since then.
SC-H-2.4.2 Early in the history of the universe, the first atoms to form were mainly hydrogen and helium. Over time, these elements clump together by gravitational attraction to form trillions of stars.
SC-H-2.4.3 Stars have life cycles of birth through death that are analogous to those of living organisms. During their lifetimes, stars generate energy from nuclear fusion reactions that create successively heavier chemical elements. Some stars explode at the end of their lives, and the heavy elements they have created are blasted out into space to form the next generation of stars and planets.
Grades 9-12: Conceptual Understandings-Life Science
SC-H-3.4.1 Species change over time. Biological change over time is the consequence of the interactions of (1) the potential for a species to increase its numbers, (2) the genetic variability of offspring due to mutation and recombination of genes, (3) a finite supply of the resources required for life, and (4) natural selection. The consequences of change over time provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms and for the striking molecular similarities observed among the diverse species of living organisms.
SC-H-3.4.2 The great diversity of organisms is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of biological change over time that has filled every available niche with life forms. The millions of different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that live on Earth today are related by descent from common ancestors.
The Interdependence of Organisms
SC-H-3.5.4 Human beings live within the world's ecosystems. Human activities can deliberately or inadvertently alter the dynamics in ecosystems. These activities can threaten current and future global stability and, if not addressed, ecosystems can be irreversibly affected.