CA Science Framework Description (Living Earth)

Highlighted Phenomena from High School Living Earth

  • When a freeway is built that blocks a population from accessing half its territory, the population shrinks.
  • Earth’s atmosphere began to decrease in CO2 and increase in O2 around the same time that plants first evolved.
  • A famous fossil of two dinosaurs fighting formed when the animals were instantly buried by a sudden landslide.
  • During the nineteenth century, tuberculous caused as many as 20 percent of all deaths some years. Today, fewer than 250 people in the entire state of California die of the disease in an average year.
  • Small animals called pikas are so well adapted to the colder climates of higher elevation that they can overheat in certain temperatures and die in temperatures as low as 80 degrees after a few hours.

Introduction to High School Living Earth

This course centers on the biosphere and examines how it interacts with each of the other Earth systems. For example, students define the carrying capacity of an ecosystem in terms of the resources available due to the physical conditions in the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Students investigate the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere, which changed dramatically when plants evolved due to photosynthesis and respiration. Students develop a model of how ancient life is recorded in the geosphere as fossils form through Earth’s surface processes. They then explain how fossils provide evidence of evolution. 

The framework also provides examples of how engineering is incorporated into an integrated Earth and space sciences and life science curriculum. In an engineering connection in IS2 (History of Earth’s Atmosphere: Photosynthesis and Respiration), students play the role of wastewater engineers to design a system for protecting the health of local waterways by adding bacteria to decompose organic waste. In another engineering connection, students explore how planting vegetation with root systems can stabilize hill slopes and reduce erosion. 

The example instructional sequence begins at the tangible, macroscopic scale of ecosystems in IS1 (Ecosystem Interactions and Energy) and then focuses on specific exchanges of matter and energy within ecosystems in IS2 (History of Earth’s Atmosphere: Photosynthesis and Respiration). Students develop models of how changes in the physical environment trigger evolutionary changes that are recorded in the fossil record in IS3 (Evidence of Evolution). Students develop macroscopic models of genetic inheritance in IS4 (Inheritance of traits). Finally in IS5 (Structure, Function, and Growth), students zoom into the detailed mechanisms that enable all the previous interactions to occur. They focus on how cells use DNA to construct proteins, build biomass, reproduce, and create complex multicellular organisms. As a capstone in IS6 (Ecosystem Stability and the Response to Climate Change), students return to the ecosystem scale and see how all these mechanisms interact in the face of Earth’s changing climate.

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 Living Earth Storyline

Graphic of Living Earth Instructional Segments

Image Source: 2016 CA Science Framework