Core Curriculum Content Standards

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Science Standards Learning Progressions

5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
A. Objects in the Universe: Our universe has been expanding and evolving for 13.7 billion years under the influence of gravitational and nuclear forces. As gravity governs its expansion, organizational patterns, and the movement of celestial bodies, nuclear forces within stars govern its evolution through the processes of stellar birth and death. These same processes governed the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
By the end of Grade 2 By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: The Sun is a star that can only be seen during the day. The Moon is not a star and can be seen sometimes at night and sometimes during the day. The Moon appears to have different shapes on different days.

5.4.2.A.1 Determine a set of general rules describing when the Sun and Moon are visible based on actual sky observations.
Content: Objects in the sky have patterns of movement. The Sun and Moon appear to move across the sky on a daily basis. The shadows of an object on Earth change over the course of a day, indicating the changing position of the Sun during the day.

5.4.4.A.1 Formulate a general description of the daily motion of the Sun across the sky based on shadow observations. Explain how shadows could be used to tell the time of day.
Content: The height of the path of the Sun in the sky and the length of a shadow change over the course of a year.

5.4.6.A.1 Generate and analyze evidence (through simulations) that the Sun’s apparent motion across the sky changes over the course of a year.
Content: The relative positions and motions of the Sun, Earth, and Moon result in the phases of the Moon, eclipses, and the daily and monthly cycle of tides.

5.4.8.A.1 Analyze moon-phase, eclipse, and tidal data to construct models that explain how the relative positions and motions of the Sun, Earth, and Moon cause these three phenomena.
Content: Prior to the work of 17th-century astronomers, scientists believed the Earth was the center of the universe (geocentric model).

5.4.12.A.1 Explain how new evidence obtained using telescopes (e.g., the phases of Venus or the moons of Jupiter) allowed 17th-century astronomers to displace the geocentric model of the universe.
Content: The observable shape of the Moon changes from day to day in a cycle that lasts 29.5 days.

5.4.4.A.2 Identify patterns of the Moon’s appearance and make predictions about its future appearance based observational data.
Content: Earth’s position relative to the Sun, and the rotation of Earth on its axis, result in patterns and cycles that define time units of days and years.

5.4.6.A.2 Construct and evaluate models demonstrating the rotation of Earth on its axis and the orbit of Earth around the Sun.
Content: Earth’s tilt, rotation, and revolution around the Sun cause changes in the height and duration of the Sun in the sky. These factors combine to explain the changes in the length of the day and seasons.

5.4.8.A.2 Use evidence of global variations in day length, temperature, and the amount of solar radiation striking Earth’s surface to create models that explain these phenomena and seasons.
Content: The properties and characteristics of solar system objects, combined with radioactive dating of meteorites and lunar samples, provide evidence that Earth and the rest of the solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago.

5.4.12.A.2 Collect, analyze, and critique evidence that supports the theory that Earth and the rest of the solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas 4.6 billion years ago.
Content: Earth is approximately spherical in shape. Objects fall towards the center of the Earth because of the pull of the force of gravity.

5.4.4.A.3 Generate a model with explanatory value that explains both why objects roll down ramps as well as why the Moon orbits Earth.
Content: The Sun’s gravity holds planets and other objects in the solar system in orbit, and planets’ gravity holds moons in orbit.

5.4.6.A.3 Predict what would happen to an orbiting object if gravity were increased, decreased, or taken away.
Content: Gravitation is a universal attractive force by which objects with mass attract one another. The gravitational force between two objects is proportional to their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the objects.

5.4.8.A.3 Predict how the gravitational force between two bodies would differ for bodies of different masses or bodies that are different distances apart.
Content: Stars experience significant changes during their life cycles, which can be illustrated with an Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) Diagram.

5.4.12.A.3 Analyze an H-R diagram and explain the life cycle of stars of different masses using simple stellar models.
Content: Earth is the third planet from the Sun in our solar system, which includes seven other planets.

5.4.4.A.4 Analyze and evaluate evidence in the form of data tables and photographs to categorize and relate solar system objects (e.g., planets, dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, and comets).
Content: The Sun is the central and most massive body in our solar system, which includes eight planets and their moons, dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets.

5.4.6.A.4 Compare and contrast the major physical characteristics (including size and scale) of solar system objects using evidence in the form of data tables and photographs.
Content: The regular and predictable motion of objects in the solar system (Kepler’s Laws) is explained by gravitational forces.

5.4.8.A.4 Analyze data regarding the motion of comets, planets, and moons to find general patterns of orbital motion.
Content: The Sun is one of an estimated two hundred billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, which together with over one hundred billion other galaxies, make up the universe.

5.4.12.A.4 Analyze simulated and/or real data to estimate the number of stars in our galaxy and the number of galaxies in our universe.
Content: The Big Bang theory places the origin of the universe at approximately 13.7 billion years ago. Shortly after the Big Bang, matter (primarily hydrogen and helium) began to coalesce to form galaxies and stars.

5.4.12.A.5 Critique evidence for the theory that the universe evolved as it expanded from a single point 13.7 billion years ago.
Content: According to the Big Bang theory, the universe has been expanding since its beginning, explaining the apparent movement of galaxies away from one another.

5.4.12.A.6 Argue, citing evidence (e.g., Hubble Diagram), the theory of an expanding universe.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
B. History of Earth: From the time that Earth formed from a nebula 4.6 billion years ago, it has been evolving as a result of geologic, biological, physical, and chemical processes.
By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago, including whether they lived on the land or in the sea as well as ways species changed over time.

5.4.4.B.1 Use data gathered from observations of fossils to argue whether a given fossil is terrestrial or marine in origin.
Content: Successive layers of sedimentary rock and the fossils contained in them tell the factual story of the age, history, changing life forms, and geology of Earth.

5.4.6.B.1 Interpret a representation of a rock layer sequence to establish oldest and youngest layers, geologic events, and changing life forms.
Content: Today’s planet is very different than early Earth. Evidence for one-celled forms of life (bacteria) extends back more than 3.5 billion years.

5.4.8.B.1 Correlate the evolution of organisms and the environmental conditions on Earth as they changed throughout geologic time.
Content: The evolution of life caused dramatic changes in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere, which did not originally contain oxygen gas.

5.4.12.B.1 Trace the evolution of our atmosphere and relate the changes in rock types and life forms to the evolving atmosphere.
Content: Earth’s current structure has been influenced by both sporadic and gradual events. Changes caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can be observed on a human time scale, but many geological processes, such as mountain building and the shifting of continents, are observed on a geologic time scale.

5.4.6.B.2 Examine Earth’s surface features and identify those created on a scale of human life or on a geologic time scale.
Content: Fossils provide evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed. The principle of Uniformitarianism makes possible the interpretation of Earth’s history. The same Earth processes that occurred in the past occur today.

5.4.8.B.2 Evaluate the appropriateness of increasing the human population in a region (e.g., barrier islands, Pacific Northwest, Midwest United States) based on the region’s history of catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and floods.
Content: Relative dating uses index fossils and stratigraphic sequences to determine the sequence of geologic events.

5.4.12.B.2 Correlate stratigraphic columns from various locations by using index fossils and other dating techniques.
Content: Moving water, wind, and ice continually shape Earth’s surface by eroding rock and soil in some areas and depositing them in other areas.

5.4.6.B.3 Determine if landforms were created by processes of erosion (e.g., wind, water, and/or ice) based on evidence in pictures, video, and/or maps.
Content: Absolute dating, using radioactive isotopes in rocks, makes it possible to determine how many years ago a given rock sample formed.

5.4.12.B.3 Account for the evolution of species by citing specific absolute-dating evidence of fossil samples.
Content: Erosion plays an important role in the formation of soil, but too much erosion can wash away fertile soil from ecosystems, including farms.

5.4.6.B.4 Describe methods people use to reduce soil erosion.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
C. Properties of Earth Materials: Earth’s composition is unique, is related to the origin of our solar system, and provides us with the raw resources needed to sustain life.
Preschool By the end of Grade 2 By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Observations and investigations form a basis for young learners’ understanding of properties of Earth materials.

5.4.P.C.1 Explore and describe characteristics of and concepts about soil, rocks, water, and air.
Content: Soils are made of many living and nonliving substances. The attributes and properties of soil (e.g., moisture, kind and size of particles, living/organic elements, etc.) vary depending on location.

5.4.2.C.1 Describe Earth materials using appropriate terms, such as hard, soft, dry, wet, heavy, and light.
Content: Rocks can be broken down to make soil.

5.4.4.C.1 Create a model to represent how soil is formed.
Content: Soil attributes/properties affect the soil’s ability to support animal life and grow plants.

5.4.6.C.1 Predict the types of ecosystems that unknown soil samples could support based on soil properties.
Content: Soil consists of weathered rocks and decomposed organic material from dead plants, animals, and bacteria. Soils are often found in layers, each having a different chemical composition and texture.

5.4.8.C.1 Determine the chemical properties of soil samples in order to select an appropriate location for a community garden.
Content: Soils are at the interface of the Earth systems, linking together the biosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere.

5.4.12.C.1 Model the interrelationships among the spheres in the Earth systems by creating a flow chart.
Content: Earth materials in nature include rocks, minerals, soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. Attributes of rocks and minerals assist in their identification.

5.4.4.C.2 Categorize unknown samples as either rocks or minerals.
Content: The rock cycle is a model of creation and transformation of rocks from one form (sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic) to another. Rock families are determined by the origin and transformations of the rock.

5.4.6.C.2 Distinguish physical properties of sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic rocks and explain how one kind of rock could eventually become a different kind of rock.
Content: Physical and chemical changes take place in Earth materials when Earth features are modified through weathering and erosion.

5.4.8.C.2 Explain how chemical and physical mechanisms (changes) are responsible for creating a variety of landforms.
Content: The chemical and physical properties of the vertical structure of the atmosphere support life on Earth.

5.4.12.C.2 Analyze the vertical structure of Earth’s atmosphere, and account for the global, regional, and local variations of these characteristics and their impact on life.
Content: Rocks and rock formations contain evidence that tell a story about their past. The story is dependent on the minerals, materials, tectonic conditions, and erosion forces that created them.

5.4.6.C.3 Deduce the story of the tectonic conditions and erosion forces that created sample rocks or rock formations.
Content: Earth’s atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor. The atmosphere has a different physical and chemical composition at different elevations.

5.4.8.C.3 Model the vertical structure of the atmosphere using information from active and passive remote-sensing tools (e.g., satellites, balloons, and/or ground-based sensors) in the analysis.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
D. Tectonics: The theory of plate tectonics provides a framework for understanding the dynamic processes within and on Earth.
By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Lithospheric plates consisting of continents and ocean floors move in response to movements in the mantle.

5.4.6.D.1 Apply understanding of the motion of lithospheric plates to explain why the Pacific Rim is referred to as the Ring of Fire.
Content: Earth is layered with a lithosphere, a hot, convecting mantle, and a dense, metallic core.

5.4.8.D.1 Model the interactions between the layers of Earth.
Content: Convection currents in the upper mantle drive plate motion. Plates are pushed apart at spreading zones and pulled down into the crust at subduction zones.

5.4.12.D.1 Explain the mechanisms for plate motions using earthquake data, mathematics, and conceptual models.
Content: Earth’s landforms are created through constructive (deposition) and destructive (erosion) processes.

5.4.6.D.2 Locate areas that are being created (deposition) and destroyed (erosion) using maps and satellite images.
Content: Major geological events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building, result from the motion of plates. Sea floor spreading, revealed in mapping of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and subduction zones are evidence for the theory of plate tectonics.

5.4.8.D.2 Present evidence to support arguments for the theory of plate motion.
Content: Evidence from lava flows and ocean-floor rocks shows that Earth’s magnetic field reverses (North – South) over geologic time.

5.4.12.D.2 Calculate the average rate of seafloor spreading using archived geomagnetic-reversals data.
Content: Earth has a magnetic field that is detectable at the surface with a compass.

5.4.6.D.3 Apply knowledge of Earth’s magnetic fields to successfully complete an orienteering challenge.
Content: Earth’s magnetic field has north and south poles and lines of force that are used for navigation.

5.4.8.D.3 Explain why geomagnetic north and geographic north are at different locations.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
E. Energy in Earth Systems: Internal and external sources of energy drive Earth systems.
Preschool By the end of Grade 2 By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Observations and investigations form the basis for young learners’ understanding of energy in Earth systems.

5.4.P.E.1 Explore the effects of sunlight on living and nonliving things.
Content: Plants need sunlight to grow.

5.4.2.E.1 Describe the relationship between the Sun and plant growth.
Content: Land, air, and water absorb the Sun’s energy at different rates.

5.4.4.E.1 Develop a general set of rules to predict temperature changes of Earth materials, such as water, soil, and sand, when placed in the Sun and in the shade.
Content: The Sun is the major source of energy for circulating the atmosphere and oceans.

5.4.6.E.1 Generate a conclusion about energy transfer and circulation by observing a model of convection currents.
Content: The Sun provides energy for plants to grow and drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds, ocean currents, and the water cycle.

5.4.8.E.1 Explain how energy from the Sun is transformed or transferred in global wind circulation, ocean circulation, and the water cycle.
Content: The Sun is the major external source of energy for Earth’s global energy budget.

5.4.12.E.1 Model and explain the physical science principles that account for the global energy budget.
Content: Earth systems have internal and external sources of energy, both of which create heat.

5.4.12.E.2 Predict what the impact on biogeochemical systems would be if there were an increase or decrease in internal and external energy.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
F. Climate and Weather: Earth’s weather and climate systems are the result of complex interactions between land, ocean, ice, and atmosphere.
Preschool By the end of Grade 2 By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Observations and investigations form the basis for young learners’ understanding of weather and climate.

5.4.P.F.1 Observe and record weather.
Content: Current weather conditions include air movement, clouds, and precipitation. Weather conditions affect our daily lives.

5.4.2.F.1 Observe and document daily weather conditions and discuss how the weather influences your activities for the day.
Content: Weather changes that occur from day to day and across the seasons can be measured and documented using basic instruments such as a thermometer, wind vane, anemometer, and rain gauge.

5.4.4.F.1 Identify patterns in data collected from basic weather instruments.
Content: Weather is the result of short-term variations in temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

5.4.6.F.1 Explain the interrelationships between daily temperature, air pressure, and relative humidity data.
Content: Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather.

5.4.8.F.1 Determine the origin of local weather by exploring national and international weather maps.
Content: Global climate differences result from the uneven heating of Earth’s surface by the Sun. Seasonal climate variations are due to the tilt of Earth’s axis with respect to the plane of Earth’s nearly circular orbit around the Sun.

5.4.12.F.1 Explain that it is warmer in summer and colder in winter for people in New Jersey because the intensity of sunlight is greater and the days are longer in summer than in winter. Connect these seasonal changes in sunlight to the tilt of Earth’s axis with respect to the plane of its orbit around the Sun.
Content: Climate is the result of long-term patterns of temperature and precipitation.

5.4.6.F.2 Create climatographs for various locations around Earth and categorize the climate based on the yearly patterns of temperature and precipitation.
Content: Climate is influenced locally and globally by atmospheric interactions with land masses and bodies of water.

5.4.8.F.2 Explain the mechanisms that cause varying daily temperature ranges in a coastal community and in a community located in the interior of the country.
Content: Climate is determined by energy transfer from the Sun at and near Earth’s surface. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes, such as cloud cover and Earth’s rotation, as well as static conditions, such as proximity to mountain ranges and the ocean. Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, also affect the global climate.

5.4.12.F.2 Explain how the climate in regions throughout the world is affected by seasonal weather patterns, as well as other factors, such as the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and proximity to mountain ranges and to the ocean.
Content: Weather (in the short term) and climate (in the long term) involve the transfer of energy and water in and out of the atmosphere.

5.4.8.F.3 Create a model of the hydrologic cycle that focuses on the transfer of water in and out of the atmosphere. Apply the model to different climates around the world.
Content: Earth’s radiation budget varies globally, but is balanced. Earth’s hydrologic cycle is complex and varies globally, regionally, and locally.

5.4.12.F.3 Explain variations in the global energy budget and hydrologic cycle at the local, regional, and global scales.
5.4 Earth Systems Science All students will understand that Earth operates as a set of complex, dynamic, and interconnected systems, and is a part of the all-encompassing system of the universe.
G. Biogeochemical Cycles: The biogeochemical cycles in the Earth systems include the flow of microscopic and macroscopic resources from one reservoir in the hydrosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, or biosphere to another, are driven by Earth's internal and external sources of energy, and are impacted by human activity.
Preschool By the end of Grade 2 By the end of Grade 4 By the end of Grade 6 By the end of Grade 8 By the end of Grade 12
Content: Investigations in environmental awareness activities form a basis for young learners’ understanding of biogeochemical changes.

5.4.P.G.1 Demonstrate emergent awareness for conservation, recycling, and respect for the environment (e.g., turning off water faucets, using paper from a classroom scrap box when whole sheets are not needed, keeping the playground neat and clean).
Content: Water can disappear (evaporate) and collect (condense) on surfaces.

5.4.2.G.1 Observe and discuss evaporation and condensation.
Content: Clouds and fog are made of tiny droplets of water and, at times, tiny particles of ice.

5.4.4.G.1 Explain how clouds form.
Content: Circulation of water in marine environments is dependent on factors such as the composition of water masses and energy from the Sun or wind.

5.4.6.G.1 Illustrate global winds and surface currents through the creation of a world map of global winds and currents that explains the relationship between the two factors.
Content: Water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat, and therefore significantly affects the global climate system.

5.4.8.G.1 Represent and explain, using sea surface temperature maps, how ocean currents impact the climate of coastal communities.
Content: Natural and human-made chemicals circulate with water in the hydrologic cycle.

5.4.12.G.1 Analyze and explain the sources and impact of a specific industry on a large body of water (e.g., Delaware or Chesapeake Bay).
Content: There are many sources and uses of water.

5.4.2.G.2 Identify and use water conservation practices.
Content: Rain, snow, and other forms of precipitation come from clouds; not all clouds produce precipitation.

5.4.4.G.2 Observe daily cloud patterns, types of precipitation, and temperature, and categorize the clouds by the conditions that form precipitation.
Content: An ecosystem includes all of the plant and animal populations and nonliving resources in a given area. Organisms interact with each other and with other components of an ecosystem.

5.4.6.G.2 Create a model of ecosystems in two different locations, and compare and contrast the living and nonliving components.
Content: Investigations of environmental issues address underlying scientific causes and may inform possible solutions.

5.4.8.G.2 Investigate a local or global environmental issue by defining the problem, researching possible causative factors, understanding the underlying science, and evaluating the benefits and risks of alternative solutions.
Content: Natural ecosystems provide an array of basic functions that affect humans. These functions include maintenance of the quality of the atmosphere, generation of soils, control of the hydrologic cycle, disposal of wastes, and recycling of nutrients.

5.4.12.G.2 Explain the unintended consequences of harvesting natural resources from an ecosystem.
Content: Organisms have basic needs and they meet those needs within their environment.

5.4.2.G.3 Identify and categorize the basic needs of living organisms as they relate to the environment.
Content: Most of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Water circulates through the crust, oceans, and atmosphere in what is known as the water cycle.

5.4.4.G.3 Trace a path a drop of water might follow through the water cycle.
Content: Personal activities impact the local and global environment.

5.4.6.G.3 Describe ways that humans can improve the health of ecosystems around the world.
Content: Movement of matter through Earth’s system is driven by Earth’s internal and external sources of energy and results in changes in the physical and chemical properties of the matter.

5.4.12.G.3 Demonstrate, using models, how internal and external sources of energy drive the hydrologic, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and oxygen cycles.
Content: The origin of everyday manufactured products such as paper and cans can be traced back to natural resources.

5.4.2.G.4 Identify the natural resources used in the process of making various manufactured products.
Content: Properties of water depend on where the water is located (oceans, rivers, lakes, underground sources, and glaciers).

5.4.4.G.4 Model how the properties of water can change as water moves through the water cycle.
Content: Natural and human activities impact the cycling of matter and the flow of energy through ecosystems.

5.4.12.G.4 Compare over time the impact of human activity on the cycling of matter and energy through ecosystems.
Content: Human activities have changed Earth’s land, oceans, and atmosphere, as well as its populations of plant and animal species.

5.4.12.G.5 Assess (using maps, local planning documents, and historical records) how the natural environment has changed since humans have inhabited the region.
Content: Scientific, economic, and other data can assist in assessing environmental risks and benefits associated with societal activity.

5.4.12.G.6 Assess (using scientific, economic, and other data) the potential environmental impact of large-scale adoption of emerging technologies (e.g., wind farming, harnessing geothermal energy).
Content: Earth is a system in which chemical elements exist in fixed amounts and move through the solid Earth, oceans, atmosphere, and living things as part of geochemical cycles.

5.4.12.G.7 Relate information to detailed models of the hydrologic, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and oxygen cycles, identifying major sources, sinks, fluxes, and residence times.