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    Earth and Human Activity

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2

    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

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.

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.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-ESS3-2)
  • 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-ESS3-2)

Mathematics

  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-ESS3-2)

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.
  •   The activity "Evaluating Other Energy Sources" is the fourth in a series of five lessons in the High-Adventure Science Energy Module “What Are Our Energy Choices?” Students use real-world data to evaluate the cost ...

  • This activity asks students to consider the life cycle energy and carbon dioxide emission costs of gasoline, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol. The various pieces help students trace energy and matter through a complex system and critically analyz ...

  • This activity is divided into four parts. In the first part, students will analyze data detailing global energy sources and sinks (uses). In the second part, students construct a model to show energy sources and sinks.  In the third part, studen ...

  • In this board game, players take on the role of bioenergy crop farmers trying to earn a living while being good environmental stewards.  In the process, players explore the economic and environmental tradeoffs associated with growing different b ...

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  • Students will explore and understand the core question, “How will we sustainably feed 9 billion people by the year 2050?” These 6 lessons can be used in full or in part to help students understand the factors of human sustainability including soil he...

  • A collection of blog posts from the Library of Congress and Trey Smith, 2015-16 Science Teacher in Residence, about teaching science and engineering with historical primary sources.

  • This short video surveys the different current and potential sources of energy - both non-renewable and renewable. It provides some discussion of the pros and cons of the different sources and explains how they are used to produce energy that people...

  • This carbon footprint calculator is set up for easy-to-use inputs for three sectors: home energy use, local transportation, and home waste generation.

  • This is a team-based activity that teaches students about the scale of the greenhouse gas problem and the technologies that already exist which can dramatically reduce carbon emissions. Students select carbon-cutting strategies to construct a carbon...

  • This activity engages students in learning about ways to become energy efficient consumers. Students examine how different countries and regions around the world use energy over time, as reflected in night light levels. They then track their own en...

  • In this classroom activity, students measure the energy use of various appliances and electronics and calculate how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is released to produce that energy.

  • In this activity, student teams research and develop a proposal to decrease the carbon footprint of their city's/town's public transportation system and then prepare a report that explains why their transportation plan is the best for their community...

  • In this activity, students conduct an energy audit to determine how much carbon dioxide their family is releasing into the atmosphere and then make recommendations for minimizing their family's carbon footprint.

  • The activity follows a progression that examines the CO2 content of various gases, explores the changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 from 1958 to 2000 from the Mauna Loa Keeling curve, and the relationship between CO2 and temperature over the pas...

  • Students investigate passive solar building design with a focus on heating. Insulation, window placement, thermal mass, surface colors, and site orientation are addressed in the background materials and design preparation. Students test their project...

  • This multi-week project begins with a measurement of baseline consumptive behavior followed by three weeks of working to reduce the use of water, energy, high-impact foods, and other materials. The assignment uses an Excel spreadsheet that calculates...

  • Students use Google Earth to analyze oil consumption per capita in the US and around the world. Students then use spreadsheets to create graphs and calculate statistics regarding per capita energy use among various categories.

  • This is a semester-long jigsaw project in which students work in teams to explore the effects of energy resource development on local water resources, economics, and society. Students are presented with a contemporary energy resource development issu...

  • In this interactive simulation, students can explore global CO2 emissions displayed by different continents/countries and plotted based on the GDP. A map view is also accessible.

  • This activity engages students in a role play to negotiate an agreement between the United States and China about climate change policies. Students use given background material or can do their own additional research to present their assigned stakeh...

  • In this activity learners work in pairs or small groups to evaluate energy use in their school and make recommendations for improved efficiency. Students create and use an energy audit tool to collect data and present recommendations to their class. ...

  • This online calculator converts from one energy unit to another - from gallons to British thermal units (Btu), kilowatt/hours to megajoules, short tons to metric tons.

  • In this activity, students explore what types of energy resources exist in their state by examining a state map and data from the Energy Information Administration. Students identify the different energy sources in their state, including the state's ...

  • This lesson plan engages students in a real-life exploration of climate change as it is affected by greenhouse emissions from vehicles. The aim of this activity is for students to realize the impact of vehicle use in their family and to give students...

  • In this role-play activity, students take the roles of various important players in the climate change policy negotiation including politicians, scientists, environmentalists, and industry representatives. Working in these roles, students must take a...

  • This activity features video segments from a 2007 PBS program on solar energy. Students follow a seven-step invention process to design, build, and test a solar cooker that will pasteurize water. In addition, they are asked to describe how transmissi...

  • 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.

  • In this activity students trace the sources of their electricity, heating and cooling, and other components of their energy use though the use of their family's utility bills and information from utility and government websites.

  • In this activity, students will determine the environmental effects of existing cars and a fleet consisting of their dream cars. They compute how many tons of heat-trapping gases are produced each year, how much it costs to fuel the cars, and relate...

  • This introductory video summarizes the process of generating solar electricity from photovoltaic and concentrating (thermal) solar power technologies.

  • This video introduces the concept of daylighting - the use of windows or skylights for natural lighting and temperature regulation - and how it is a building strategy that can save operating costs for homeowners and businesses.

  • This short video shows how humanity uses energy today; what sources we use; and why, in the future, a growing global population will require more energy.

  • This video production is a part of a four-panel report from the National Academies' America's Climate Choices project. The video maps out the realm of our accumulated knowledge regarding climate change and charts a path forward, urging that research ...

  • This activity includes an assessment, analysis, and action tool that can be used by classrooms to promote understanding of how the complex current issues of energy, pollution, supply, and consumption are not just global but also local issues.

  • This video segment explores whether, in principle, renewable energy resources could meet today's global energy needs of about 15.7 terawatts.

  • This engaging video focuses on national and global wind energy potential by specifically highlighting Texas' role as wind energy leader and energy efficiency efforts in Houston, Texas.

  • These flow charts show carbon dioxide emissions for each state, the District of Columbia and the entire United States. Emissions are distinguished by energy source and end use.

  • In this activity, students construct a Global Warming Wheel Card, a hand-held tool that they can use to estimate their household's emissions of carbon dioxide and learn how they can reduce them. One side of the wheel illustrates how much carbon diox...

  • In this lab activity students generate their own biomass gases by heating wood pellets or wood splints in a test tube. They collect the resulting gases and use the gas to roast a marshmallow. Students also evaluate which biomass fuel is the best by t...

  • This detailed chemistry lesson from the U.S. Department of Energy focuses on transforming vegetable oil into biodiesel through a process of transesterification. The process described offers a good model for many chemical reaction processes that are u...

  • This introductory video describes the basic principles of residential geothermal heat pumps.

  • This video provides a simple introduction to wind turbines and how they generate electricity.

  • This introductory video covers the basic facts about how to keep residential and commercial roofs cool and why it is important to reducing the heat island effect and conserving energy.

  • This video from the U.S. National Academies summarizes the energy challenges the United States faces, including the technological challenges, and the need for changes in consumption and in energy policy.

  • This video provides an overview of the research of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on converting biomass to liquid fuels.

  • This video and accompanying essay examine ways to reduce the environmental impact of burning coal. Two technologies are discussed: turning solid coal into a clean-burning fuel gas (syngas), and capture and storage of CO2.

  • In this video from Young Voices for the Planet, four middle-school girls (The Green Team) talk about their efforts to work with their peers to reduce the carbon footprint of their school and how they made the school more energy efficient.

  • This video clip highlights the effort on by a group of young students to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in the city of Santa Monica. The video documents the effort and provides visual testimony of the effects that trash and specifically plastic...

  • This activity focuses on applying analytic tools such as pie charts and bar graphs to gain a better understanding of practical energy use issues. It also provides experience with how different types of data collected affect the outcome of statistical...

  • This is a debate-style learning activity in which student teams learn about energy sources and are then assigned to represent the different energy sources. Working cooperatively, students develop arguments on the pros and cons of their source over th...

  • This activity is a learning game in which student teams are each assigned a different energy source. Working cooperatively, students use their reading, brainstorming, and organizational skills to hide the identity of their team’s energy source whil...

  • This PBS video shows how Klaus Lackner, a geophysicist at Columbia University, is trying to tackle the problem of rising atmospheric CO2 levels by using an idea inspired by his daughter's 8th-grade science fair project. The video examines the idea of...

  • In this activity, students use Google Earth to investigate a variety of renewable energy sources and select sites within the United States that would be appropriate for projects based on those sources.

  • This animated slideshow introduces biodiesel as a fuel alternative. With concern about the use of petroleum-based fuels at an all-time high, biodiesel is experiencing a popularity surge. And algae—otherwise known to some as pond scum— are grabbin...

  • This animation illustrates how heat energy from deep in Earth can be utilized to generate electricity at a large scale.

  • This map shows how much electrical power is produced from wind in each state from 1999 through 2010. The animation shows a general increase in the amount of wind power produced per state and the number of states producing it.

  • This video segment from the Earth Operators Manual summarizes how fossil fuels are made, provides a comparison of how long it takes to store energy in coal, oil and natural gas, and discusses how fast we're using them.

  • This video describes the foundation Plant for the Planet, a foundation created by a 9-year-old German boy, Felix. This foundation has planted more than 500,000 trees in Germany, which he says help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions...

  • Sankey (or Spaghetti) diagrams parse out the energy flow by state, based on 2008 data from the Dept. of Energy. These diagrams can help bring a local perspective to energy consumption. The estimates include rejected or lost energy but don't necessari...

  • This Flash animation describes how hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors and can be configured to obtain different objectives, such as improved fuel economy, increased power, or additional auxili...

  • This is a series of 10 short videos, hosted by the National Science Foundation, each featuring scientists, research, and green technologies. The overall goal of this series is to encourage people to ask questions and look beyond fossil fuels for inno...

  • This video segment, adapted from Need to Know, discusses how the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is used to extract natural gas and how the process may be polluting water resources with hazardous chemicals, leading to health concerns.

  • This short video discusses where carbon dioxide, the gas that is mainly responsible for warming up our planet and changing the climate, comes from. It discusses how the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide comes directly from the burning of fossil fue...

  • This video is part of the Climate Science in a Nutshell video series. This short video looks at the effects of climate change happening right now around the globe, including: more extreme weather events, droughts, forest fires, land use changes, alte...

  • This short video makes the case that rapid climate change affects the whole planet, but individuals can make a difference and make their carbon footprint smaller. Common suggestions are identified for young children to consciously consider what they ...

  • This short video reviews how nations and individuals can work together to reduce the emission of CO2. It discusses strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (energy conservation, renewable energies, change in energy use) and the role that govern...

  • This video segment examines ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently.

  • This video segment is adapted from Building Big, a PBS series hosted by David Macaulay. It explores Hoover Dam's hydroelectric capabilities by explaining how it is able to harness the potential energy stored in the reservoir and convert it to electri...

  • This video segment, adapted from NOVA scienceNOW, addresses how new technology can help monitor and modernize the infrastructure of the U.S. power grid, which is ill-equipped to handle our increasing demand for electricity. Video provides a great ove...

  • This video segment from 'What's Up in the Environment,' shares how an entire home can be constructed using green energy sources (solar and geothermal energy). Video is narrated by young boy whose father is the chief engineer on the project.

  • In this video segment from NOVA's Saved By the Sun hour-long video, students learn about photovoltaics and see how two families are using solar technologies in their homes. The video introduces the ideas of state incentives and net metering benefit...

  • This is a utility-scale, land-based map of the mean annual wind speed 80 meters above the ground. This map can be used to evaluate the potential for wind energy in the US. State maps and more information are linked from the main map.

  • In this activity, students explore energy production and consumption by contrasting regional energy production in five different US regions.

  • This animation presents the characteristics of wind power as a source of clean energy. The viewer may examine how a wind turbine works by pausing and clicking on its components. They include a gear box, rotor, high-speed shaft, generator, wind vane, ...

  • This set of six interactive slides showcases how a typical photovoltaic cell converts solar energy into electricity. Explore the components of a photovoltaic cell, including the silicon layers, metal backing, antireflective coating, and metal conduct...

  • This video describes how geothermal heat resources in California have been tapped to supply 850 MW of electricity. Images and animations show how the area known as The Geysers has been developed to capture steam, produced from trapped rainwater and ...

  • In this video clip from Earth: The Operators' Manual, host Richard Alley discusses China's efforts to develop clean energy technologies and to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, by building coal plants using CO2 sequestration technology. (scroll down pa...

  • This slideshow lays out a photo story with short descriptions of how designers of city buildings all over the world are taking climate change and rising sea level seriously.

  • This video reviews the benefits and drawbacks associated with growing corn to make ethanol.

  • This carbon calculator, developed by the EPA, guides students in calculating their carbon footprint and then using that information to make decisions about how to reduce their carbon emissions.

  • This activity comes at the beginning of a sequence of activities in an energy module. Students observe the transfer of solar energy to different appliances with a solar cell and then they investigate the effect of using different solar sources to s...

  • This activity leads students through a sequence of learning steps that highlight the embedded energy that is necessary to produce various types of food. Students start by thinking through the components of a basic meal and are later asked to review t...

  • In this interactive, students can investigate a typical hydrogen fuel cell prototype car from its fuel cell stacks to its ultracapacitor, a kind of supplementary power source. The limited-production vehicle seen in this feature is a Honda 2005 FC...

  • This video is from the Energy 101 video series. It explains the process for converting micro-algae into fuel and makes the case that algae-based biofuels hold enormous potential for helping reduce our dependence on imported oil.

  • In this activity, students conduct a life cycle assessment of energy used and produced in ethanol production, and a life cycle assessment of carbon dioxide used and produced in ethanol production.

  • This video is one of a series of videos from the Switch Energy project. It describes three types of geothermal sources -- rare ones in which high temperatures are naturally concentrated near the surface, deep wells that require fracturing the rock an...

  • This video is one of a series from the Switch Energy project. It reviews the environmental impacts of various energy resources including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewables. CO2 emissions as a specific environmental impact are discussed.

  • In this activity, students learn about the pros and cons of co-firing woody biomass fuels with coal to produce electricity.

  • In this video, students explore the work of Jay Keasling, a biologist who is experimenting with ways to produce a cleaner-burning fuel from biological matter using genetically modified microorganisms.

  • In this activity, students consider the impact and sustainability of use of different classes of biofuels on the economy, the environment, and society. Students also learn about bioelectricity and how converting biomass to electricity may be the more...

  • This video highlights the benefits of electric vehicles, including improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, and lower maintenance costs.

  • This hands-on activity introduces students to the process of fermenting different carbohydrate sources into ethanol. Teachers demonstrate yeasts’ inability to metabolize certain food sources.

  • In this activity, students analyze data detailing global energy sources and sinks (uses) and construct a diagram to show the relative scale and the connections between them. Discussions of scale; historical, socio-environmental, and geographic variat...

  • This video is one of a series of videos produced by the Switch Energy project. It presents the pros and cons of wind power, such as where to build, affordability, efficiency, transmission.

  • This video is one of a series produced by the Switch Energy project. It reviews the pros and cons of natural gas as a source of energy.

  • This suite of short video clips is part of a series produced by the Switch Energy project. There are several video segments that discuss different perspectives of biofuels as a renewable source of energy.

  • This short video shows how different biomass feedstocks are processed and refined into sustainable biofuels via biochemical and thermochemical processes.

  • This video explains what is involved in conducting a home energy audit. Such an audit evaluates how much energy you use in your house and suggests the most cost-effective measures you can take to improve the energy efficiency of your home. The outcom...

  • The Electricity data browser allows individuals and organizations to create, download, or view graphs, reports, and tables based on energy data sets from the US Energy Information Administration. These data sets are updated periodically and include...

  • This is a long-term inquiry activity in which students investigate locations they believe harbor cellulose-digesting microbes, collect samples, isolate them on selective media, and screen them for cellulase activity. These novel microbes may be usefu...

  • This video reviews key points as well as pros and cons of nuclear power.

  • This short video describes the Hestia project - a software tool and data model that provide visualizations of localized CO2 emissions from residential, commercial, and vehicle levels, as well as day versus night comparisons, in the city of Indianapol...

  • This video illustrates the advantages of woody biomass as a renewable, carbon-neutral energy source. Woody biomass is underutilized and often overlooked as a renewable fuel, and it can be harvested sustainably and burned cleanly.

  • This visualization includes a series of flow charts showing the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States for the years 2008-2012.

  • This is the seventh of nine lessons in the 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change' website. This lesson addresses climate feedback loops and how these loops help drive and regulate Earth's unique climate system.

  • This video is a segment from the Switch Energy Project focusing on energy security. Switch Energy Project is a multi-pronged effort designed to build a balanced national understanding of energy.

  • This interactive visualization created by FRED (Free Energy Data), displays energy supply (by source) and demand (by use) for each state in the US from 1960 to 2010; forecasts through 2035 are available as well. FRED is an open platform to help s...

  • This is the ninth and final lesson in a series of lessons about climate change. This lesson focuses on the various activities that humans can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. This includes information on current and predicted CO2 emissi...

  • This video is essentially an infomercial about electric cars - components, challenges, benefits - narrated by Antonio Neves of the.News and featuring various members of the auto industry.

  • This video features the story of a multi-generational, family-run dairy business in Oregon. The family strives for sustainability in their operations by conserving energy and reducing greenhouse gases across many aspects of their business.

  • This introductory video addresses key points as well as pros and cons of oil as an energy source for transportation.

  • This video addresses the importance of efficiency in providing power to an increasingly large global population.

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    This interactive addresses the question if we can reduce CO2 emissions by 20% of 1990 levels and help avoid dangerous climate change? Users of this interactive can manipulate changes to various sources and uses (supply and demand) of energy with the ...

  • In this hands-on activity, students explore whether rooftop gardens are a viable option for combating the urban heat island effect. The guiding question is: Can rooftop gardens reduce the temperature inside and outside of houses?

  • These five short videos are an introduction to the pros and cons of energy issues, including cost, choices, efficiency, environmental impact, and scale. The videos are segments of a feature documentary entitled, Switch: Discover the Future of Energy.

  • In this activity, students learn about the energy sources used by their local utility provider to generate electricity, and work in small groups to evaluate the sustainability of either a renewable or non-renewable energy source used to generate elec...

  • In this activity, students use Google Earth to investigate ideal features of wind farms.

  • This video describes how Colorado has planned for and uses clean energy resources to reduce its carbon footprint.

  • This video discusses how methane digesters turn waste from dairy cows, food garbage, and other organic matter into usable gases and other fuels.

  • This series of informative graphics provide a regional overview of US energy resources.

  • This video features a number of different climate scientists describing the effects of the increasing amount of carbon dioxide on global climate and proposing a series of solutions to mitigate these effects. Video addresses health problems and other ...

  • This video is about the Rebuild by Design competition offered to address the structural and social vulnerabilities exposed by Superstorm Sandy.

  • This video discusses carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that have increased due to the burning of fossil fuels in electricity generation, transportation, and industrial processes. Video includes history of Keeling and his research, as we...

  • This flow chart shows the sources and activities across the U.S. economy that produce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • This interactive visualization provides information in text, graphic, and video format about renewable energy technologies. Resource in the Student's Guide to Global Climate Change, part of EPA Climate Change Division.

  • This activity is the first of five in the High Adventure Science Energy module and focuses on sources of electricity in the US by state as well as consumption in the US by sector and globally per capita.

  • This activity challenges students to try and meet the world's projected energy demand over the next century, decade by decade, by manipulating a menu of available energy sources in the online Energy lab simulator all while keeping atmospheric CO2 und...

  • In this activity, students play the role of energy consultants to a CEO, assessing and documenting the feasibility, cost, and environmental impact of installing solar power on 4 company facilities with the same design but in different geographical lo...

  • In this activity, students become familiar with the online Renewable Energy Living Lab interface and access its real-world solar energy data to evaluate the potential for solar generation in various U.S. locations.

  • This small-group activity uses engineering concepts to design energy systems for three off-the-grid towns in Mali, Ethiopia, and Namibia.

  • This series of activities introduces students to the technologies of batteries and fuel cells. Activities include a mix of lectures, demonstrations, and lab activities.

  • In this activity, students calculate electricity use by state and determine, using Google Earth, how much land would be required to replace all sources of electricity with solar panels.

  • In this activity, students investigate the impacts of changing climatic conditions on human health and consider the benefits of climate mitigation and adaptation to human health.

  • This video, one in a series of Global Weirding videos featuring Texas climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, attempts to dispel the misconception that Texans don't care about climate change.

  • This online activity challenges students to design a renewable energy system for one of five different cities, each with different energy resource potential and budgets. Students can test their designs using real-time weather data in each city.

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