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The Key to Earth Science Education Standards

Educational 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.

Grades K--4

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.

Grades 5--8

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.

Grades 9--12

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."


General Science Web Sites

Websurfers Biweekly Earth Science Review. Each edition (posted roughly every two weeks) of WBESR contains reviews of (and links to) earth science-related websites. The HOTLINKS Page contains hypertext links to almost 2,000 earth science- and natural science-related websites. Hypertext links are updated every month to weed out dead or difficult-to-load links. WBESR is appropriate for use by students of all ages, educators, scientists, and interested amateurs.

The Why Files , a National Institute of Science Education project funded by the National Science Foundation. Look here for the science behind the news. Twice a month, they post a new feature on the science (and math, engineering, and technology) of everyday life, from outer space to cellular biology, from dinosaurs and dragon lizards to the statistics of political polling. A search facility is provided to look up information from their archives.

Science Learning Network. This site showcases science information, information, virtual movies, and other science features at a consortium of museums and schools funded by NSF and Unisys.

The Explorer’s Natural Science Outline. Developed by the Great Lakes Collaborative and University of Kansas Unite Group this service provides an comprehensive outline of science topics, each with links to K-12 instructional materials. Most require downloading PDF or HQX files.

North Central Regional Library’s Science site, this site is aimed at providing information to improve science curriculum and instruction and provides information about Internet-based science materials, Hands-on experiences in science, curriculum implementation, assessment, science standards, and links to many excellent resources.


We thank the people who took the time to provide or screen links, write annotations, and prepare information for this section including, Stephen F. Greb, Donald R. Chesnut, Jr., Tammi Johnson, Brandon C. Nuttall, Oscar "Bart" Davidson, Kevin Wente, Stephen O. Moshier, David Harris, Cortland F. Eble, Anna E. Watson, Douglas R. Graham, and James C. Currens.