Earth Systems for Teachers of Grades K-8
This comprehensive professional development course for grades K-8 science teachers is in the second year of development. The materials have been piloted with classroom teachers and have all the components of a completed course.
Session 1: Systems
Thinking about Earth and its enormous complexity can be tough to swallow, but break it down into pieces and it becomes much easier to digest. This session explores the idea of a system having boundaries, components, interactions, and inputs and outputs of matter and energy, by using a physical model of an ecosystem. In the process, teachers are introduced to the idea of dividing Earth into five systems (hydrosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, atmospheres, and biosphere). It also introduces five principles of system thinking that teachers will use throughout the course.
Session 2: Hydrosphere
While all of Earth’s materials are essential, none is more obviously so than water. It forms clouds in the sky and precipitation that helps rain forests flourish. It fills the oceans we swim in to escape the summer heat. This session explores the physical properties and behaviors of water, as well as the properties and behaviors of the hydrosphere in a variety of ecosystems. The session also allows teachers to think about the utility of water cycle diagrams in representing the hydrosphere.
Session 3: Geosphere
What do mountains, creek beds, and sidewalks all have in common? They are all made out of rock. But as common as rock is, it is a complex material that is part of it’s own Earth system—the geosphere. This session allows teachers to explore how the physical properties of rocks result from the way the rock formed. Teachers practice identifying the process that formed various rocks and think about what makes rock different from other Earth and human-made materials.
Session 4: Pedosphere
Soil is not only life sustaining, it’s life containing. Thousands of different species — from microscopic bacteria to furry groundhogs — all live in and are part of the soil ecosystem. This session gives teachers an opportunity to examine a variety of soil types, think about soil composition, and the factors that influence the characteristics and development of soil over time.
Session 5: Pollution
In this session teachers explore different types of pollution — pollution from matter, energy, and waves. They think about the negative and positive effects of pollution, sources of pollution, and the importance of the systems thinking habit of analyzing both short and long time frames. Teachers explore pollutants in their regions, as well as some controversial types of pollution (heat energy pollution and genetic pollution).
EARTH SYSTEMS OVERVIEW (PDF)
Download a printable version of the session-by-session course overview.