• Back
  • Middle School

    History of Earth

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth's 4.6-billion-year-old history. MS-ESS1-4

    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, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions. MS-ESS2-3

    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

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.

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-ESS1-4), (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • 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)
  • SL.8.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (MS-ESS1-4), (MS-ESS2-2)

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-ESS1-4), (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • 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-ESS1-4), (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (MS-ESS2-2), (MS-ESS2-3)

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.
  • This activity introduces the Active Reading approach for teaching students how to analyze visual representations in science texts. Students will annotate the text and visual representations in the article, Disaster in Japan: Earthquake and Tsunami, w ...

  • Deep Thinking Over Geologic Time is a seven-part unit consisting of hands on activities and graphical analysis designed to investigate the role of fossils and rock layers in determining the Earth’s age and geologic history. Individual lessons b ...

  •   This activity is based on a large number of U. S. National Parks that were created because of their geologic formations. Students will use the U.S. National Park Service’s website and the American Geosciences Institute Image Bank webs ...

  • Flash Flood Fantasy is a stand alone lesson contained within the Caves, Canyons, Cactus and Critters curriculum for Carlsbad Canyon National Park.  In this activity, students construct individual stream trays in order to observe and describe can ...

  • 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, ...

  • Who’s on First? A Relative Dating Activity is a hands on exercise which introduces students to the concepts of sequencing and using fossils to establish relative dates for rock strata.  In the first part of the activity, students are asked ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 ...

  • Do you have a great resource to share with the community? Click here.
  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the accumulation of rock strata and other geologic features, and how scientists study them along with the fossil record to shed light on the Earth’s natural history. The Fossil Record learning o...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the earth’s geologic timeline and how scientists find and use clues to color in the details of our planet’s history. The Geologic Time learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — de...

  • 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...

  • From Space to Earth: Meteor Craters turns students into experimenters in the investigation of the scientific processes of impact cratering.

  • 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 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...

  • This contains the PPT presentation and resource links for the session.

  • An interactive simulation that allows the user to adjust mountain snowfall and temperature to see the glacier grow and shrink in response.

  • In this activity students explore recent changes in the Arctic's climate that have been observed and documented by indigenous Arctic residents. Students watch a video, take notes, and create a concept map. Students also examine and graph historical w...

  • This is a five-activity module that explores the evidence for and impacts of melting glacial ice, with resources from major institutions and scientists who study glaciers -- primarily in Arctic areas. The suite of activities includes both glaciers an...

  • In this activity, students chart temperature changes over time in Antarctica's paleoclimate history by reading rock cores. Students use their data to create an interactive display illustrating how Antarctica's climate timeline can be interpreted fro...

  • This lesson plan has students working in small groups to research the Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado and other inter-mountain Western states. Students identify the factors that control pine beetle population and research how warmer winters and decr...

  • A collection of repeat photography of glaciers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The photos are taken years apart at or near the same location, and at the same time of year. These images illustrate how dramatically glacier positions...

  • This collection of photos from the NASA Climate website features images of global change, such as floods, wildfires, and retreating glaciers. Not all images show change caused directly by climate change and energy use, and descriptive captions indica...

  • In this video, a team of paleontologists, paleobotanists, soil scientists, and other researchers take to the field in Wyoming's Bighorn Basin to document how the climate, plants, and animals there changed during the Paleocene- Eocene Thermal Maximum ...

  • This short NASA video focuses on the Aquarius satellite, which was launched in 2011 to observe how variations in ocean salinity relate to climatic changes. By measuring salinity globally, Aquarius shows the ocean's role in climate change and climate'...

  • This video segment, from the 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' featuring climate expert Richard Alley, shows how ice cores stored at the National Ice Core Lab provide evidence that ancient ice contains records of Earth's past climate - specifically carb...

  • This video segment from 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' explores how we know that today’s increased levels of CO2 are caused by humans burning fossil fuels and not by some natural process, such as volcanic out-gassing. Climate scientist Richard Alle...

  • A simple three-part diagram from UNEP GRID Vital Water Graphics showing how global warming could impact coastlines and populated areas of Bangladesh with a 1 and 1.5 meter sea level rise relative to the current coastline.

  • This short video uses animated imagery from satellite remote sensing systems to illustrate that Earth is a complex, evolving body characterized by ceaseless change. Adapted from NASA, this visualization helps explain why understanding Earth as an int...

  • An applet about the Milankovitch cycle that relates temperature over the last 400,000 years to changes in the eccentricity, precession, and orbital tilt of Earth's orbit.

  • In this activity, students learn about the tools and methods paleoclimatologists use to reconstruct past climates. In constructing sediment cores themselves, students will achieve a very good understanding of the sedimentological interpretation of pa...

  • In this activity, students reconstruct past climates using lake varves as a proxy to interpret long-term climate patterns. Students use data from sediment cores to understand annual sediment deposition and how it relates to weather and climate patter...

  • In this learning activity, students use a web-based geologic timeline to examine temperature, CO2 concentration, and ice cover data to investigate how climate has changed during the last 715 million years.

  • This is an interactive map of California and the Sierra Nevada mountains, showing how the amount of water stored in the snowpack will vary under different climate scenarios. The tool shows observations and projections from 1950 to 2090, and uses low ...

  • In this audio slideshow, an ecologist from the University of Florida describes the radiocarbon dating technique that scientists use to determine the amount of carbon within the permafrost of the Arctic tundra. Understanding the rate of carbon release...

  • This short video describes how the compression of Antarctic snow into ice captures air from past atmospheres. It shows how ice cores are drilled from the Antarctic ice and prepared for shipment and subsequent analysis.

  • In this video, a PhD Student from the University of Maine explains how ice cores are used to study global climate change.

  • In this video segment, a team of scientists seeks evidence to support their hypothesis that atmospheric warming may cause water to form beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet. This water causes ice streams to flow much more quickly than the rest of the...

  • This simulation is an interdisciplinary timeline that has been developed to show key events in the climatic history of the planet, alongside events in human history.

  • This video and accompanying essay review the impacts of rising surface air temperatures and thawing permafrost on ecosystems, geology, and native populations in Alaska.

  • This is a collection of five short videos that show how climate change is affecting fishing, native populations and access for the oil and gas industry in the Arctic. The videos include personal reflections by writers Andrew C. Revkin and Simon Romer...

  • In this video from the Polaris Project Website, American and Siberian university students describe their research on permafrost.

  • In this video, students see how data from the ice core record is used to help scientists predict the future of our climate. Video features ice cores extracted from the WAIS Divide, a research station on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

  • In this video, adapted from KUAC-TV and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, viewers learn how one-celled organisms in permafrost may be contributing to greenhouse gas levels and global warming.

  • This web page from the National Snow and Ice Data Center contains two related visualizations and supporting information about them. The first visualization gives an estimate of the percent contribution to sea level change since the 1990s from three ...

  • This video, from ClimateCentral, features a team of scientists from the Northern Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Project who study atmospheric air bubbles trapped in an ice core. This work highlights a period in Greenland's ice sheet which began abou...

  • In this short video from ClimateCentral, host Jessica Harrop explains what evidence scientists have for claiming that recent global warming is caused by humans and is not just part of a natural cycle.

  • This video highlights the work of climate scientists in the Amazon who research the relationship between deforestation, construction of new dams, and increased amounts of greenhouse gases being exchanged between the biosphere and the atmosphere.

  • For this lesson, the guiding Concept Question is: What is climate change and how does climate relate to greenhouse gas concentrations over time? This activity is the second lesson in a nine-lesson module 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of...

  • This is an animated interactive that displays, on a Global Viewer, NOAA datasets on hazards, ocean, and climate. User can visualize data on phenomena such as hurricanes, humpback whale migrations, carbon tracker, sea ice extent, IPCC scenarios on glo...

  • This visualization explains in simple and easy-to-understand visuals the causes of sea-level change.

  • This interactive tool allows viewers to explore, by county, the areas of California threatened by a rise in sea level through this century.

  • In this activity, students explore the role of combustion in the carbon cycle. They learn that carbon flows among reservoirs on Earth through processes such as respiration, photosynthesis, combustion, and decomposition, and that combustion of fossil ...

  • In this activity students work with data to analyze local and global temperature anomaly data to look for warming trends. The activity focuses on the Great Lakes area.

  • This video, from Yale Climate Connections, explores the 2014 melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet that captured headlines. Interviews, animations, and news broadcasts explore what the melting meant for both the future of some of the Antarctic glac...

  • This data viewing tool from NOAA offers nearly instant access to dozens of datasets about Earth through an engaging interface. Users can select data categories from atmosphere, ocean, land, cryosphere, and climate and drill down from there into more ...

  • This visualization is a collection of maps, by continent, that project the impact on coastlines of a 216-foot rise in sea level, which is assumed to be the result of melting all the land ice on Earth.

  • This NASA video provides a nice overview of Earth's water cycle from the perspective of looking at Earth from space.

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