CA Science Framework Description (Earth and Space Science)

Highlighted Phenomena from High School Earth and Space Sciences

  • Deep red rocks called banded iron formations were deposited around the world at the time plants first evolved, but they do not form at all today.
  • Global average temperatures have been rising over the last 150 years but remained roughly constant for more than a decade in the late 1990s before rising again to record highs.
  • The 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California was about the same magnitude as a 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran. About 70 people died in California, but more than 25,000 died in Iran.
  • Suburbs with trees can be as much as 40 degrees cooler than urban downtown areas.
  • If you look closely enough at a rainbow, certain colors are much dimmer than others.

Introduction to High School Earth and Space Sciences

The framework’s high school Earth and space sciences section articulates the level of depth and complexity that the CA NGSS expect in high school. High school students integrate knowledge from physics, chemistry, and biology to understand the mechanisms by which Earth systems interact (e.g., combustion, photosynthesis, and respiration for the carbon cycle; nuclear processes for radiometric dating and stellar fusion; electromagnetic radiation for stellar spectra; gravity for orbital motion). High school also blurs the line between cause and effect as students investigate feedback mechanisms in climate, erosion, and star lifecycles. Students have been expanding the scale of their investigations continuously since kindergarten, and high school students are ready to contemplate and quantify deep timescales by focusing on the age of crustal rocks and the origin of the universe itself. 

The framework also provides examples of how engineering applies in an Earth and space sciences curriculum. In an engineering connection for IS2 (Climate), students evaluate how different renewable energy solutions meet society’s needs for energy, public health, and environmental protection. In an engineering connection in IS3 (Mountains, Valleys, and Coasts), students design a solution to reduce coastal erosion hazards. Their solution must account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics. Students then consider and evaluate the environmental impacts of their design and refine it to reduce those impacts. Students become launch engineers of a weather satellite and employ computer models to examine the tradeoffs between payload mass and fuel cost in IS8 (Motion in the Universe). Other engineering connections revisit challenges that students may have completed with less complex designs and conceptual understanding in earlier grades such as designing an effective water filter (IS4 Water and Farming) or reducing urban runoff (IS6 Urban Geosciences). 

The Earth and Space Sciences course is divided into seven instructional segments that follow a storyline framed around climate change. The course begins with the origin of fossil fuels in IS1 (Oil and Gas) to set up the exploration of climate and global warming in IS2 (Climate). Students consider the impact of climate change as they investigate different Earth system interactions in IS3 (Mountains, Valleys, and Coasts), IS4 (Water and Farming), and IS6 (Urban Geosciences). Students drill down into the solid Earth in IS5 (Causes and Effects of Earthquakes) and turn their eyes skyward in IS7 (Star Stuff) and IS8 (Motion in the Universe). A vignette about urban heat islands in IS6 (Urban Geosciences) illustrates how students can analyze remote sensing data, plan and conduct a hands-on investigation driven by their own research questions, apply what they have learned in an urban design challenge, and conceptualize their understanding in systems models.

from d’Alessio, Matthew A. (2018). Executive Summary: Science Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve. Sacramento: Consortium for the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

High School Four-Course Model Earth and Space Science Storyline

High School Four-Course Model Earth and Space Sciences Storyline
High School Four-Course Model Earth and Space Sciences Storyline

Image Source: 2016 CA Science Framework