The Key to Earth Science Education Standards
The National Science Education Standards serve as a guide for our science educators in meeting their goal of producing scientifically literate citizens. The standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to accomplish in the natural sciences at different grade levels (National Research Council, 1994, National Science Education Standards: National Academy Press) . In the following section, the standards that relate to earth science have been summarized. Key words for each of the standards are highlighted. These key words are used as links to the World Wide Web. Searches on some of these key words found hundreds of Web site locations. Because time is often a limiting factor in finding source material, the Earth Science Education Committee of the Kentucky Geological Survey reviewed the myriad Web sites for each of the key words. Each of the Web sites was evaluated based on the following criteria. Does the site provide accurate information for teachers, which will help them teach the standard addressed by the key word? Was the site appropriate for non-technical audiences? Would it be exciting for students? Were free materials available for teachers (handouts, lesson plans, ideas for demonstrations, etc.) from the site? The sites we thought met these criteria best are summarized under each key word.
Properties of Earth materials: The Earth is made of liquids, gases, and solids. The properties of these materials make them useful resources for us to use, for example, to produce energy. These properties can be measured and described. Rocks and minerals are useful tools for helping students develop observational and descriptive abilities.
Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism: Heat can be generated in many ways. Electricity can be used to produce light, heat, sound, and magnetic effects. In Kentucky, electricity is produced by burning coal.
Objects in the sky: There are sequential changes in the motion of objects in the sky. An example is daily changes in the weather.
Structure of the Earth system: Introduction to layering of the Earth, and plate tectonics. Emphasis is on the concept of the rock cycle (igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks), the formation of soils, the role of water in natural cycles, solar energy, and global climate patterns . In Kentucky, water is responsible for the caves and sinkholes that dot our landscape.
Natural Hazards: Internal and external processes of the Earth system cause natural hazards.
Earth history: Fossils provide evidence of past life. Natural processes that we observe today, occurred in the past; in other words, "the present is the key to the past."
Earth's place in the solar system: The Earth is a planet, and is part of a solar system. The sun is the major source of energy for natural cycles on Earth.
Energy in the Earth system: The Earth has internal and external sources of energy. The Earth's internal energy drives mantle convection cells that move crustal plates on the Earth's surface. Global climate is a function of heat transfer from the Sun and near the Earth's surface.
Geochemical cycles: The Earth contains a fixed amount of each stable chemical atom or element, and the elements move through geochemical cycles. These cycles are driven by the Earth's internal and external sources of energy.
Origin and evolution of the Earth system: The solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago. The Earth has evolved through interactions of the solid Earth, oceans, atmosphere, and changing life. Geologic time can be estimated by correlating rock sequences, fossils, and radioactive isotope decay.
Origin and evolution of the universe: Our solar system formed from a cloud of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago. The universe began earlier, possibly in the "Big Bang."