• Back
  • 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. 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
  3. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. MS-ESS3-1

    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.

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.

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.6-8.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. (MS-ESS3-1)
  • SL.8.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest. (MS-ESS2-1)
  • WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (MS-ESS3-1)
  • WHST.6-8.9 - Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis reflection, and research. (MS-ESS3-1)


  • 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-ESS3-1)
  • 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-ESS3-1)

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 are introduced to the environment of the Amazon rainforest. They compare differences between the Amazon and California forests. Next students act out the water cycle within the Amazon rainforest. After performing in their s ...

  • In this activity, students compare a map of world wide copper distribution sites to a tectonic map detailing active volcano and plate boundary locations. Once their analysis is complete, students will be able to construct an explanation describing th ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • The Geology for Investors website is a source of information about why mineral deposits are where they are. The link takes you to the page, “Minerals on the Edge – Plate Boundaries and Minerals.” This provides a basic understanding of how minerals ...

  • 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 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 ...

  • Do you have a great resource to share with the community? Click here.
  • 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 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 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 about renewable and nonrenewable resources, how we use them, how they are distributed, and how they get replenished — or don’t. The Natural Resources learning objective — based on NGSS and state stand...

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