Middle school students are ready to exercise their inferential thinking, and the study of Earth history is made to order for this effort. They can begin to grapple with Earth's processes and systems that have operated over geological time. Students should make observations and do investigations that involve constructing and using conceptual models. They should generate questions for investigation, which may lead to new questions. Through their study of Earth history, students should become more confident in their ability to ask good questions and to recognize and use evidence from the rocks to come up with explanations of past environments.
In this course, some of the concepts students will learn are:
- Every place on Earth's surface has a unique geological story.
- Limestone, sandstone, and shale are rocks that can be identified by their characteristics.
- Rock can be weathered into sediments by a number of processes.
- Most landforms are shaped by slow, persistent processes that proceed over the course of millions of years.
- Sediments deposited by water usually form flat, horizontal layers.
- The relative ages of sedimentary rock can be determined by the sequence of layers.
- The processes we observe today probably acted in the same way millions of years ago.
- The fossil record represents what we know about ancient life and is constantly refined as new fossil evidence is discovered.
- Earth is composed of layers of earth materials, from its hard crust of rock all the way down to its hot core.
- Heat inside Earth melts rocks; melted rock can cool and form igneous rocks.
- Volcanoes and earthquakes occur along plate boundaries.
- Earth's crust and solid upper mantle make up Earth's plates. Plates can be the size of continents or larger or smaller.
- Interactions between tectonic plates at their boundaries deform the plates, producing landforms on Earth's surface.
- When plates interact, high heat and immense pressure can change rock into new forms of rock (metamorphic rock).
- The rock cycle describes how rock is constantly being recycled and how each type of rock can be transformed into other rock types.
- Evidence and observations of a site's geology provide clues to tell the geological story.
- Knowledge of uplift, plate tectonics, volcanism, weathering, erosion, and fossil evidence plus the principles of uniformitarianism, superposition, and original horizontality can help the story of a place.
For a description of each investigation in the Earth History Course and the correlations to the National Science Education Standards, download the Course Summary PDF.
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