Goals and Approach
Earth System Science in the Community (EarthComm) is an NSF-funded
curriculum project guided in design and approach by the National Science
Education Standards (1995), AGI’s Earth Science Content Guidelines
Grades K-12, and other major science education curriculum and reform
programs. This program builds on the strength of other successful AGI
earth science education projects such as the Earth Science Curriculum
Project (known to many as Investigating the Earth). When complete, EarthComm
will provide a comprehensive secondary-level educational program in
the Earth Sciences that includes student learning materials, teacher
resources (both materials and teacher-support networks), and assessment
tools for a hands-on, inquiry-driven, instructional program. EarthComm
does not cover as many topics as the traditional earth science textbook.
It emphasizes important concepts, understandings, and abilities that
all students can use to make wise decisions, think critically, and understand
and appreciate the earth system. The goals of the EarthComm program
- To teach students the principles and practices of Earth science
and to demonstrate the relevance of Earth science to their life and
- To approach Earth Science through the problem-solving, community-based
model in which the teacher plays the role of facilitator.
- To establish an expanded learning environment which incorporates
field work, technological access to data, and traditional classroom
and laboratory activities.
- To support the development of communities of learners by establishing
student teams and by building a greater regional and national community
through telecommunication access.
- To utilize local and regional issues and concerns to stimulate problem-solving
activities and to foster a sense of Earth stewardship by students
in their communities.
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Hundreds of teachers, scientists, and students have helped produce
EarthComm. In the summer of 1998, teams of Earth science educators wrote
the original drafts of inquiry-based investigations. Chapters were reviewed
and then pilot tested by 35 teachers in the spring of 1999. EarthComm
underwent a national field test in the 1999-2000 school year.
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EarthComm "Big Ideas"
EarthComm curriculum development was guided by ten fundamental ideas
that are emphasized in all units and are the primary goals for student
- Earth science literacy empowers us to understand our environment,
make wise decisions that affect quality of life, and manage resources,
environments, and hazards.
- Earth's dynamic equilibrium system contains subsystems from atoms
to planetary spheres. Materials interact among these subsystems due
to natural forces and energy that flows from sources inside and outside
of the planet. These interactions, changes, forces and flows tend
to occur in off-setting directions and amounts. Materials tend to
flow in chains, cycles, and webs that tend toward equilibrium states
in which energy is distributed as uniformly as possible. The net result
is a state of balanced change or dynamic equilibrium, a condition
that appears to have existed for billions of years.
- Change through time produced Earth, the net result of constancy,
gradual changes, and episodic changes over human, geological, and
astronomical scales of time and space.
- Extraterrestrial influences upon Earth include extraterrestrial
energy and materials, and influences due to Earth's position and motion
as a subsystem of an evolving solar system, galaxy, and universe.
- The dynamic geosphere includes a rocky exterior upon which ecosystems
and human communities developed and a molten interior with convection
circulation that generates the magnetosphere and drives plate tectonics.
It contains resources that sustain life, causes natural hazards that
may threaten life, and affects all of Earth’s other geospheres.
- Fluid spheres within the Earth system include the hydrosphere, atmosphere,
and cryosphere, which interact and flow to produce ever-changing weather,
climate, glaciers, seascapes, and water resources that affect human
communities, and which shape the land, transfer Earth materials and
energy, and change surface environments and ecosystems.
- Dynamic environments and ecosystems are produced by the interaction
of all the geospheres at the Earth’s surface and include many
different environments, ecosystems, and communities that affect one
another and change through time.
- Earth resources include the nonrenewable and renewable supplies
of energy, mineral, and water resources upon which individuals and
communities depend in order to maintain quality of human life, economic
prosperity, and requirements for industrialization.
- Natural hazards associated with Earth processes and events include
drought, floods, storms, volcanic activity, earthquakes, and climate
change can pose risks to humans, their property, and communities.
Earth science is used to study, predict, and mitigate natural hazards
so that we can assess risks, plan wisely, and adapt to the effects
of natural hazards.
- In order to sustain the presence and quality of human life, humans
and communities must understand their dependency on Earth resources
and environments, realize how they influence Earth systems, appreciate
Earth’s carrying capacity, manage and conserve nonrenewable
resources and environments, develop alternate sources of energy and
materials needed for human sustenance, and invent new technologies.
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EarthComm Goals and Expectations
- Use motivational teaching methods, interactive technologies, and
manipulatives to pique student interest and help all students to understand
the practical effects of Earth science and essential concepts and
principles that underlie energy within the Earth system, geochemical
cycles, and the origin and evolution of the Earth system.
- Facilitate students’ understanding of inquiry and ability
to inquire scientifically by having students identify questions about
local problems and issues, design and conduct investigations, use
technology and mathematics, form scientific explanations using logic
and evidence, analyze alternative explanations, and communicate and
defend scientific arguments.
- Emphasize the connections and relationships between Earth science
and other academic disciplines.
- Establish an expanded learning environment for students through
fieldwork, technological access to data, laboratory and other classroom
- Nurture communities of science learners by establishing student
teams, orchestrating discourse about scientific ideas, building networks
of local, regional and national information exchange, and using the
services of Earth and space organizations.
Raise students’ awareness of environmental and resource issues
and problems in their communities.
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EarthComm Goals and Expectations
- Develop knowledge and understanding of practical and essential Earth
science concepts and the principles Earth science shares with other
- Understand basic principles of Earth system science and think from
an Earth system science perspective.
- Develop an understanding of scientific inquiry and abilities needed
to conduct scientific inquiry.
- Develop technology-oriented abilities for human enterprises in Earth
- Understand the nature, origin, and distribution of Earth’s
energy, mineral, and water resources; technologies used to locate,
extract, and process these resources; and dependency on these resources
to satisfy our wants, needs, and expectations.
- Understand how terrestrial and extraterrestrial processes affect
Earth’s materials, environments, and organisms, how scientists
study these processes on Earth and from space, and how some processes
benefit humans while others pose risks.
- Understand how human activities influence Earth’s spheres,
processes, resources, and environments — factors that affect
the size and distribution of human population and Earth’s capacity
to support life.
Become aware of career opportunities in the Earth and space sciences,
how professions and businesses benefit from technologies used by Earth
and space scientists, and how these combined professions and businesses
are related to regional economies.
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