Earth System Evolution
The module, Earth System Evolution leads students to an understanding
of changes in the earth system that have created the present physical
environment and the evolution of life using a student based inquiry
approach. The module consists of three chapters: Astronomy, Climate
Change, and Changing Life. The chapters lead students from an understanding
of the formation of our planet and its role as a subsystem in a dynamic
universe, to an examination of the relationships between the physical
environment and climate through time, and finally to an understanding
of how and why the organisms found in their community have changed over
Through their inquiry in this module, students develop understandings
of the evolution of Earth’s systems. The major themes addressed
include the following portions of the National Science Education Standards
for Grades 9-12:
- Earth is a part of the solar system, which in turn is part of the
galaxy, and on a larger scale, the universe.
- Earth’s external energy depends on varying factors, including
distance from the sun, solar variability, and gravitational forces.
- The Earth’s physical environment includes land masses, atmosphere,
and oceans, which have all contributed to its formation and continued
- Fossil evidence has shown how organisms have evolved from ancient
environments and continue to change as our environment evolves.
and Your Community
This chapter gives students a feeling of their place as a member of
not only of their local community, but also of the Earth community,
the solar system, and the universe. In Astronomy and Your Community,
students are presented with a hypothetical situation in which an asteroid
is predicted to pass very close to Earth. Students are asked to prepare
a booklet for their community that discusses some of the possible hazards
from outer space and the benefits of living in our solar system. Students
begin the chapter by putting the scale of the solar system into prespective
and learning how our solar system formed. Students then examine the
relationship between the Earth and Moon and the Earth and Sun. Students
investigate how an asteroid collision would affect their community.
Finally, students examine Earth’s place within the Milky Way galaxy.
By the end of the chapter, students understand the history and size
of our planetary community, and how processes and events that occur
within the solar system influence the Earth, and what the chances are
of those events happening.
Change and Your Community
The Chapter Challenge for Climate Change and Your Community is for students
to write a series of newspaper articles that explore global climate
change. As students move through the chapter, they gain the knowledge
needed to write articles concerning how global climate has changed over
time, what causes global climate change, and the meaning of “global
warming” and how it might affect their community. Finally, students
are asked to use the knowledge they have acquired to write an editorial
piece that states whether or not their community should be concerned
about global warming, and what steps the community should take in response
to the possibility of global warming.
Life and Your Community
In this chapter, students are challenged to produce a display that illustrates
the biological changes that their community has experienced over several
years of geologic time. Students begin the chapter by exploring the
process of fossilization and determining which organims in their community
are most likely to be preserved in the fossil record. Students look
at how climate influences the types of organisms found in a specific
place. Students use this information to hypothesize about how organisms
in their community might have differed 20,000 years ago, when glaciers
covered portions of North America. Extinction events and how they fit
into the evolutionary scheme are explored. Finally, students investigate
how their community has changed throughout geologic time, and what effect
this might have had on the types of organisms found in their community.