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  • High School

    Earth's Systems

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features. HS-ESS2-1

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems. HS-ESS2-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  3. Develop a model based on evidence of Earth’s interior to describe the cycling of matter by thermal convection. HS-ESS2-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate. HS-ESS2-4

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes. HS-ESS2-5

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  6. Develop a quantitative model to describe the cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere. HS-ESS2-6

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  7. Construct an argument based on evidence about the simultaneous coevolution of Earth’s systems and life on Earth. HS-ESS2-7

    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).

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data.

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-ESS2-2), (HS-ESS2-3)
  • RST.11-12.2 - Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms. (HS-ESS2-2)
  • SL.11-12.5 - Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest. (HS-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4)
  • WHST.11-12.7 - Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (HS-ESS2-5)
  • WHST.9-12.1 - Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (HS-ESS2-7)


  • 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-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-2), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4), (HS-ESS2-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.2 - Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling. (HS-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4), (HS-ESS2-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.3 - Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities. (HS-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-2), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4), (HS-ESS2-5), (HS-ESS2-6)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-2), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4), (HS-ESS2-6)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (HS-ESS2-1), (HS-ESS2-3), (HS-ESS2-4), (HS-ESS2-6)

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.

    Teaching Climate Literacy Web resources is designed to help educators become prepared to teach climate science.  The resource addresses Earth’s climate system and the impact of human activities.…

  • A fictional town, where every home and most businesses have a private well, has discovered that the groundwater is contaminated with some kind of fuel. Possible sources of the fuel spill include the Heating Oil Company, the Trucking Company, or th…

  • CarbonTracker is a CO2 measurement and modeling system developed by NOAA to keep track of sources (emissions to the atmosphere) and sinks (removal from the atmosphere) of carbon dioxide around the world. CarbonTracker uses atmospheric CO2 observat…

  • In this lab students will work with Google Earth to explore temperature patterns, biome types, and climatographs from selected cities around the world. As they work  through the links and images in this activity, students can explore how clim…


    Soil color is often an indication of the presence of iron (Fe) oxides or organic matter on soil particles, not the soil itself. The minerals beneath are often quartz or feldspar, which are grey. In saturated soil (wet), Fe3+ is re…

  • This simulation allows for visualization of earthquake waves traveling through Earth's interior and radiating outward on the surface. It includes a selection of recent large earthquakes that can be chosen by users to view the resulting seismic…

  • The Rapid Earthquake Viewer (REV) provides access to data seismograms from seismograph stations around the world in three "mouse clicks". In REV you can seismic data for an event as three-component data from a single station or a record …

  • Seismic Monitor allows you to monitor global earthquakes in near real-time, visit seismic stations around the world, and search the web for earthquake headlines or region-related information. Earthquakes are shown as colored circles, where the siz…

  • In this exercise, students will learn about the various types of plate boundaries, investigate well-known examples of some of these boundaries using the IRIS Earthquake Browser. Students will then apply what they learned to East Africa t…

  • In this lesson, students will learn about the Yellowstone hotspot. They will analyze ground height data to determine how the magma in the Yellowstone hotspot is moving. Using their analysis of the ground height data, students will engage in argume…

  • In this lesson, students examine seismic evidence to determine that the Earth must have a layered internal structure and to estimate the size of Earth’s core. Students are divided into two teams (theoreticians and seismologists) to test the …

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