Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Earth & Space Science: About the Course

Course Overview

From the soil and rocks beneath our feet to our connection to the Moon and Sun, the story of Earth is a fascinating one — and most of what is known about the Earth has been gathered through observation and interpretation. Children are careful observers of their surroundings, and try to make sense of their world from a very early age.

As teachers, it is important to encourage students’ curiosity, help them sharpen their skills of observation and interpretation, foster their development of science knowledge, and share with them the excitement of exploring Earth and the solar system. The challenge is to ensure that their understandings are scientifically accurate. To do this, teachers need to be comfortable with the science content they teach, and to have their own sound understandings of core science concepts. Essential Science for Teachers: Earth and Space Science is a content course designed to help K-6 teachers enhance their understandings of “big ideas” in Earth and Space Science.

This course is composed of eight sessions, each with a one-hour video program addressing a topic area in Earth and Space science that emphasizes the science content that is likely to be part of any elementary school science curriculum. Posing the question "What is Earth’s structure and its place in the universe?", the course begins by looking at soil, the top layer of the solid Earth and interface between rock, water and atmosphere. We then explore the nature of the dynamic Earth and the internal and external processes that are continually at work shaping the planet. Moving on from the Earth, the course continues with an investigation into Earth’s neighborhood in space. Video examples, colorful graphics, lively animations, models, and other visual strategies are used as learning tools to bring meaning to the content being addressed.

Essential Science for Teachers: Earth and Space Science also highlights the ideas that children bring to the classroom about these topics. The programs include interviews with children that uncover their ideas about science concepts related to the content of each program, providing participants the opportunity to confront their own science ideas. The programs also feature first- through sixth- grade classrooms in which students and teachers explore Earth and Space Science topics. Connections to current science knowledge are made through scientist interviews about the ideas they apply on a daily basis.

By exploring topics that range from soil to the solar system, Essential Science: Earth and Space Science strives to provide participants the opportunity to increase their science content knowledge, become better informed of students’ science conceptions, and develop new understandings of how this content connects to K - 6 classrooms.

Session Descriptions

Session 1.Earth's Solid Membrane: Soil
How does soil appear on a newly formed, barren volcanic island? In this session, participants explore how soil develops, its composition and structure, its role in certain Earth processes, and its place in the structure Earth.

Session 2.Every Rock Tells A Story
How can we use rocks to understand events in the Earth’s past? In this session, participants examine the processes that form sedimentary rocks, learn how fossils are preserved, and are introduced to the theory of plate tectonics.

Session 3.Journey To The Earth's Interior
How do we know what the interior of the Earth is like if we’ve never been there? In this session, participants investigate the internal structure of the Earth and focus on features that are connected to tectonic plate movement.

Session 4.The Engine That Drives The Earth
What drives the movement of tectonic plates? This question is explored by looking at how plates interact at their margins, what makes volcanoes work, and the story of Hawaii's formation.

Session 5.When Continents Collide
How is it possible that marine fossils are found on Mount Everest, the world's highest continental mountain? In this session, participants examine what happens when continents collide and how this process shapes the surface of the Earth.

Session 6.Restless Landscapes
If almost all mountains are formed the same way, why do they look so different? This session focuses on forces continuously at work on the surface of the Earth that sculpt the ever-changing landscape.

Session 7.Our Nearest Neighbor: The Moon
Why is the Moon, our nearest neighbor in the solar system, so different from the Earth? This session explores the complex connections between the Earth and Moon, the origin of the Moon, and the roles played by gravity and collisions in the Earth–Moon system.

Session 8: Order Out of Chaos: Our Solar System
Why do all the planets orbit the Sun in the same direction? Why are the planets closest to the Sun so different from the gas giants farther out? In this session, participants examine the nature of the solar system by considering scientific evidence about its formation.