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  • Middle School

    Earth's Systems

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process. MS-ESS2-1

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales. MS-ESS2-2

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  3. Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, contintental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions. MS-ESS2-3

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  4. Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. MS-ESS2-4

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  5. Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions. MS-ESS2-5

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary
  6. Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. MS-ESS2-6

    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 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to developing, using, and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Planning and carrying out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include investigations that use multiple variables and provide evidence to support explanations or design solutions.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 6–8 builds on K–5 experiences and progresses to include constructing explanations and designing solutions supported by multiple sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

ELA/Literacy

  • RST.6-8.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3), (MS-ESS2-5)
  • RST.6-8.7 - Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table). (MS-ESS2-3)
  • RST.6-8.9 - Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic. (MS-ESS2-3), (MS-ESS2-5)
  • SL.8.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest. (MS-ESS2-1), (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3), (MS-ESS2-6)
  • WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (MS-ESS2-2)
  • WHST.6-8.8 - Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. (MS-ESS2-5)

Mathematics

  • 6.EE.B.6 - Use variables to represent numbers and write expressions when solving a real-world or mathematical problem; understand that a variable can represent an unknown number, or, depending on the purpose at hand, any number in a specified set. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • 6.NS.C.5 - Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, credits/debits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation. (MS-ESS2-5)
  • 7.EE.B.4 - Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem, and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3), (MS-ESS2-5)

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.
  • Plate Tectonics is an interactive simulation in which users design scenarios involving plate interactions and observe the results over time. The simulation consists of two screens.  In the first, entitled Crust, students can investigate the phys ...

  • This activity gives students a visual representation of how volcanoes and earthquakes are related to plate boundaries and gets students working with real data. This lab also introduces students to the concept of vectors in the form of GPS data showin ...

  • This three-minute video from the Field Museum of Chicago shows scientists locating and digging for fossils in Antarctica. This is the first video in a series documenting the team’s daily life and field work during a fossil hunting expedition. T ...

  • In this activity, students manipulate and graph data collected by the research vessel, JOIDES Resolution, to determine whether sediment thickness located near the Juan de Fuca Ridge supports the concept of seafloor spreading.  Teachers can choos ...

  • This two-minute video from NBC Nightly News illustrates the role of ocean waves in the geoscience processes of erosion, deposition and weathering.  This clip can be used as an introduction to MS-ESS2-2 which focuses on how these processes have c ...

  • In this activity, students use information from the Deep Sea Drilling Project to look for evidence of seafloor spreading in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  Using temporal and spatial data obtained from core samples, students create and analyze a graph, ...

  • Interactives: The Rock Cycle is a collection of activities, with accompanying readings and animations, that provides information on rock types, the processes that affect rocks and the interrelationships among the three types.  In Part 1,Types of ...

  • Air Masses and Fronts is a detailed lesson plan from Better Lesson in which students study the movement of air masses across North America and how their interactions cause weather to change. The lesson begins with a split tank demonstration to illust ...

  • Activity 4: The Water Cycle is part of Introduction to the Atmosphere, which is Section 1 of the Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere module created by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.  This module consists of lesson plans and ...

  • What-a-Cycle is a kinesthetic activity developed as part of the JetStream Online School for Weather. In this activity, students take on the role of a water molecule and follow it through a portion of the water cycle. To start the activity, teachers w ...

  • In Plate Tectonics, students are introduced to the theory behind this geophysical phenomenon and investigate the evidence that supports it.  In Part 1, students view Flash interactives and QuickTime videos which delineate the relationship betwee ...

  • Hot Spot Activity is a lesson plan that tasks students with calculating the speed and direction of the Pacific Plate using data from the Hawaiian Archipelago.  Students will use computational and graphing skills to search for patterns in the mov ...

  • Synoptic meteorology is the study of large scale weather systems providing a broad view of the weather at a particular time and location. In this lesson, students determine the location of weather systems and draw trend lines on basic weather maps pr ...

  • Weather Lab is an online interactive tool, or app, that helps students visualize how North America’s weather is formed in the Spring. The app models the interactions between various air masses and ocean currents and describes probable weather o ...

  • The purpose of the activity is to encourage students to (1) engage in a scientific literature review, in this case the mass extinction event that marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods; (2) apply their understanding of that ev ...

  • In this investigation students will create a model to visualize and predict how sequences of sedimentary rocks give us information about how sea level has changed over time. These changes in sea level can control the lateral and vertical facies near ...

  • In this investigation, students will use sand to build a mountain and then use a straw and watering can to simulate wind erosion and water erosion. Students will make observations and then propose ways to slow the erosion and/or speed the erosion. St ...

  • This activity consists of 2 parts created by different entities. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools created a superior worksheet that goes with the Glencoe Publisher online simulation: How can fossil and rock data determine when an organism lived? ...

  •   This activity is a kinesthetic activity where students will use logic and evidence to reconstruct the position of large islands and continents as they appeared 220 million years ago. Students will review what they know about plate tectonics ...

  •   Musical Plates-A Study of Plate Tectonics is an internet-based multidisciplinary project. Musical Plates - A Study of Plate Tectonics is one of 3 Musical Plates projects found on the k12 science.org” This review is a description of th ...

  • In this short unit students are introduced to erosion and propose solutions to an erosion problem on school grounds. The teacher first briefly demonstrates what erosion is, and then students investigate examples of natural or human caused erosion on ...

  • Engaging in Argumentation with a Science Seminar: Regional Climate in the Atacama Desert is a three-day lesson in which students apply their understanding of how ocean surface temperatures, prevailing winds, and topography affect regional climates th ...

  • Clues to Past Environments is a three day lesson culminating with a kinesthetic activity. It is part of a larger unit plan Change and Earth’s History. The three day lesson is organized with specific details including a teacher’s ...

  • Students construct climographs showing both precipitation and temperature for 3 coastal cities and describe how ocean surface currents affect climate on nearby land. They are provided with the research question, “Do ocean currents influence cli ...

  • Students add ice to a glass/jar of water. Students will observe water beginning to form on the outside of the glass/jar.

  • This is one activity that is part of a larger unit on the Hydrologic Cycle. Students place a bag around a living tree limb or bush, making sure it is sealed. The bag is left there for at least 2 hours. Water will have collected in a corner of the b ...

  • This is an activity that is part of a larger unit on the Hydrologic Cycle. Students create “precipitation” by suspending a bag of ice over a container with hot water. The water vapor in the air condenses on the bag. When enough water accumulates th ...

  • Students will observe/investigate the movement of water through the different stages of the water cycle and determine what drives this cycle. Students are asked to think about what precipitation is then watch a video about why the water cycle is imp ...

  • This activity is for the students to cutout, color code and piece together a puzzle of the supercontinent Pangaea based on fossil and rock evidence of the present day continents. The students will move the continents together using the ...

  • Dynamic Earth is an interactive website where students can learn about the structure of the Earth, the movements of its tectonic plates, as well as the forces that create mountains, valleys, volcanoes and earthquakes. This site consists of four secti ...

  • This interactive tool allows students to gather data using My NASA Data microsets to investigate how differential heating of Earth results in circulation patterns in the oceans and the atmosphere that globally distribute the heat. They examine the re ...

  • This is an activity out of one of the DLESE Teaching boxes. The Teaching Box is titled Mountain Building. This activity is from Lesson 4 Activity #2 called Rock Cycle Journey. Stations are set up to represent different parts of the rock cycle. There ...

  • This is Activity 12 of a set of Level 1 activities designed by the Science Center for Teaching, Outreach, and Research on Meteorology (STORM) Project. The authors suggest that previous activities in the unit be completed before Activity 12: Air Masse ...

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  • WeatherSchool@AAAS was developed by researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to help you explore how different factors—time of the year, location, or elevation—work together to produce the day-to-day weather you e...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the topography of the ocean floor and the tectonic processes that cause it to constantly change. The Seafloor Spreading and Subduction learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — de...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the rock cycle and the water cycle, and their relationship to the flow of solar and geothermal energy. The Earth Processes: Matter Cycling and Energy Flowing learning objective — based on NGSS a...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the vast array of geological processes that happen on Earth, both small and large, and fast and slow. The Earth Processes: Scales of Time and Space learning objective — based on NGSS and state s...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about Earth’s geological history, the maps that scientists use to model it, and the evidence that helps them create those maps. The Plate Tectonics learning objective — based on NGSS and state standar...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the stages of the water cycle and the factors that drive its processes. The Water Cycle learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the movement of water and air in the atmosphere and how this movement causes changes in the weather. The Water Cycle and Weather Patterns learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards —...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the way the sun’s energy and the earth’s gravity combine to cause the motion of water through the water cycle. The Role of Sunlight and Gravity in the Water Cycle learning objective — based on N...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn why ocean currents exist, what keeps them in motion, and how scientists study them. The Ocean Currents learning objective delivers improved student engagement and academic performance in your classroo...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the process of erosion, how it alters the planet, and why it is so powerful. The Weathering and Erosion learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagem...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn the difference between weather and climate, and the characteristics that affect them both. The Weather and Climate Factors learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved st...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the observational tools meteorologists use to forecast the weather, and what those forecasts mean. The Weather Prediction learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improv...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about ocean currents and how they transfer thermal energy to change air temperatures. The Influence of Oceans on Weather and Climate learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers i...

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