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  • High School

    Earth and Human Activity

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems. HS-ESS3-4

    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

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

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-ESS3-4)
  • 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-ESS3-4)

Mathematics

  • 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-ESS3-4)
  • HSN-Q.A.2 - Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling. (HS-ESS3-4)
  • HSN-Q.A.3 - Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities. (HS-ESS3-4)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-ESS3-4)

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.
  • In this activity, students create a 3-D visual of global carbon pools and net fluxes between pools with anthropogenic influences. Students work in teams of 2-4 to complete the activity. On day one, students discuss carbon pools and forms of carbon, a ...

  •   Students will represent the citizens who live and work in a small town called Priceford. A major business development company called Zanec Corporation has asked Priceford for permission to install five 10,000 gallon Underground Storage Tank ...

  • In this activity, students are introduced to black carbon as a major source for global climate change. Students read through an article and identify several topics, through discussion, for further study about issues concerning black carbon production ...

  • 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 ...

  • The Stabilization Wedges Game is a team-based exercise that teaches players about the scale of the greenhouse gas problem, plus technologies that already exist to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and get us off the path toward dramatic and da ...

  • National Geographic created a series of three lessons exploring human impact on the environment. In the first activity, students explore maps and identify patterns of human population and impact on the environment. In the second activity, students le ...

  • Students will practice close reading of several articles related to E-waste regulation. After the close reading, students will write an argumentative paper that answers the question, "Should the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality estab ...

  • For this lesson, students will explore ideas related to data and how communities can respond to the effects of climate change. They will use their critical thinking skills to address the big question: how can a community become more resilient to the ...

  • In this activity, students will act as members of the UN Climate Council and working within teams, identify and address the major factors of climate change. Students are instructed to identify three major factors of climate change through research. T ...

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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...

  • 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 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...

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • In this activity, students collect data and analyze the cost of using energy in their homes and investigate one method of reducing energy use. This activity provides educators and students with the means to connect 'energy use consequences' and 'clim...

  • Students explore their own Ecological Footprint in the context of how many Earths it would take if everyone used the same amount of resources they did. They compare this to the Ecological Footprint of individuals in other parts of the world and to t...

  • In this activity, students take a Home Energy Quiz to identify improvements that could make their homes more energy-efficient.

  • Students investigate how much greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide and methane) their family releases into the atmosphere each year and relate it to climate change. To address this, students use the Environmental Protection Agency Personal Emissions Calcul...

  • This activity describes the flow of carbon in the environment and focuses on how much carbon is stored in trees. It goes on to have students analyze data and make calculations about the amount of carbon stored in a set of trees at three sites in a w...

  • 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 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 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 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 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.

  • 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...

  • 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 Flash-based simulation explores the relationship between carbon emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide using two main displays: (1) graphs that show the level of human-generated CO2 emissions, CO2 removals, and the level of CO2 in the atmosphe...

  • In this activity, students research various topics about ocean health, e.g. overfishing, habitat destruction, invasive species, climate change, pollution, and ocean acidification. An optional extension activity has them creating an aquatic biosphere ...

  • 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...

  • These slide sets (one for the Eastern US and one for the Western US) describe how citizen observations can document the impact of climate change on plants and animals. They introduce the topic of phenology and data collection, the impact of climate c...

  • 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 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 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 focuses on the science of climate change and its impacts on wildlife on land and in the sea, and their habitats in the U.S. There are short sections on walruses, coral reefs, migrating birds and their breeding grounds, freshwater fish, bee...

  • This narrated slide show gives a brief overview of coral biology and how coral reefs are in danger from pollution, ocean temperature change, ocean acidification, and climate change. In addition, scientists discuss how taking cores from corals yields...

  • In this video, students learn that the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989 was not the sole cause of the decline of species in the local ecosystem. Rather, an explanation is posited for why some animal populations were already in decline when th...

  • 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 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 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 ...

  • 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 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...

  • 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...

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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 visualization is a website with an interactive calculator that allows for estimation of greenhouse gas production from croplands in the United States.

  • 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 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.

  • Global Forest Watch is an interactive, online forest monitoring and alert system that provides users globally with the information they need to better manage and conserve forest landscapes.

  • 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.

  • 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 uses Bangladesh as a case study by describing climate change adaptation strategies being implemented in Bangladeshi communities as well as in other countries.

  • 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.

  • In this activity, students explore factors that have caused the rise in global temperature over the last century. Educators have the opportunity to assess how modeling activities (the game), analogies (the cake), and mathematical models (graphs) dev...

  • Through this lab, students are introduced to energy sciences as they explore redox reactions and how hydrogen fuel cells turn the energy released when hydrogen and oxygen are combined into electrical energy that can be read on a standard multimeter. ...

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