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  • High School

    Earth's Place in the Universe

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy in the form of radiation. HS-ESS1-1

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  2. Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe. HS-ESS1-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  3. Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements. HS-ESS1-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  4. Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system. HS-ESS1-4

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  5. Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks. HS-ESS1-5

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  6. Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history. HS-ESS1-6

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

A Peformance Expectation (PE) is what a student should be able to do to show mastery of a concept. Some PEs include a Clarification Statement and/or an Assessment Boundary. These can be found by clicking the PE for "More Info." By hovering over a PE, its corresponding pieces from the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts will be highlighted.

Science and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed world(s).

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Mathematical and computational thinking in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Crosscutting Concepts

By clicking on a specific Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, or Crosscutting Concept, you can find out more information on it. By hovering over one you can find its corresponding elements in the PEs.

Planning Curriculum

Common Core State Standards Connections


  • RST.11-12.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • RST.11-12.8 - Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • SL.11-12.4 - Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks. (HS-ESS1-3)
  • WHST.9-12.1 - Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • WHST.9-12.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-3), (HS-ESS1-5)


  • HSA-CED.A.2 - Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4)
  • HSA-CED.A.4 - Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4)
  • HSA-SSE.A.1 - Interpret expressions that represent a quantity in terms of its context. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4)
  • HSF-IF.B.5 - Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.1 - Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4), (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.2 - Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4), (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.3 - Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-4), (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • HSS-ID.B.6 - Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-2), (HS-ESS1-3), (HS-ESS1-4), (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (HS-ESS1-1), (HS-ESS1-4)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors

Resources & Lesson Plans

  • More resources added each week!
    A team of teacher curators is working to find, review, and vet online resources that support the standards. Check back often, as NSTA continues to add more targeted resources.
  • This introductory lesson utilizes the Cosmic Times 1929 Poster.  The Cosmic Times Posters are a series of posters that capture major advances in the technology and our understanding of the Universe. They are written like newspapers from the era ...

  • This introductory lesson provides a means to get students thinking about the nature of our Universe. The lesson utilizes the Cosmic Times Posters, which is a series of curriculum materials that trace the history of our understanding of the universe d ...

  • The Cosmic Times is a series of  curriculum materials that trace the history of our understanding of the universe during the past 100 years, from Einstein’s formulation of gravity to the discovery of dark energy.   The instructio ...

  • SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency.  The SOHO Spacecraft studies our Sun from deep within the core of the sun, to its corona, all the way to its solar wind. The Composition ...

  • This is a simple to use Java based simulation from PhET, University of Boulder Colorado. In this simulation the learner can manipulate several variables related to the crust and then run experiments to produce data consistent with data from actual ph ...

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  • This activity engages learners to investigate the impact of Earth's tilt and the angle of solar insolation as the reason for seasons by doing a series of hands-on activities that include scale models. Students plot the path of the Sun's apparent move...

  • This teaching activity is an introduction to how ice cores from the cryosphere are used as indicators and record-keepers of climate change as well as how climate change will affect the cryosphere.

  • Students gain experience using a spreadsheet and working with others to decide how to conduct their model 'experiments' with the NASA GEEBITT (Global Equilibrium Energy Balance Interactive Tinker Toy). This activity helps students become more familia...

  • An applet about the Milankovitch cycle that relates temperature over the last 400,000 years to changes in the eccentricity, precession, and orbital tilt of Earth's orbit.

  • This animated visualization of precession, eccentricity, and obliquity is simple and straightforward and provides text explanations. It is a good starting place to show Milankovitch cycles.

  • In this audio slideshow, an ecologist from the University of Florida describes the radiocarbon dating technique that scientists use to determine the amount of carbon within the permafrost of the Arctic tundra. Understanding the rate of carbon release...

  • An interactive that illustrates the relationships between the axial tilt of the Earth, latitude, and temperature. Several data sets (including temperature, Sun-Earth distance, daylight hours) can be generated.

  • This Motions of the Sun Lab is an interactive applet from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Astronomy Applet project.

  • This video features Dr. Gary Griggs, a scientist with the National Research Council, discussing predictions for sea-level rise on the West Coast states. The video includes effective visualizations and animations of the effects of plate tectonics and ...

  • This is an animated interactive that displays, on a Global Viewer, NOAA datasets on hazards, ocean, and climate. User can visualize data on phenomena such as hurricanes, humpback whale migrations, carbon tracker, sea ice extent, IPCC scenarios on glo...

  • This interactive activity, in applet form, guides students through the motion of the sun and how they relate to seasons.

  • This lesson explores the chemistry of some of the greenhouse gases that affect Earth's climate. Third in a series of 9 lessons from an online module entitled 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change'.

Planning Curriculum gives connections to other areas of study for easier curriculum creation.