ERIC Identifier: ED482726
Publication Date: 2003
Author: Lee, Hyonyong
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science Mathematics and Environmental
Teaching and Learning about the Earth. ERIC Digest.
The "National Science Education Standards" (NSES), developed by the
Research Council (NRC, 1996), provide educators in the United States
with a broad
framework for developing science programs. Within that framework, the
Space Science guidelines frequently refer to 'the earth system' as
well as individual
components within the system, such as plate tectonics, the water cycle,
and the carbon
cycle. For example, the Standards refer to the "structure of the earth
system", "energy in the earth system", and the "origin and evolution of
the earth system". According to the Standards, "the idea of systems provides
a framework in which students can investigate the four major interacting
components of the earth system-geosphere (crust, mantle, and core), hydrosphere
(water), atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (the realm of all living things)"
(NRC, 1996, pp. 158-159). In short, the "Standards" promote study of the
Earth as a totality, as something more than a collection of parts to be
studied in isolation.
The concept of "earth system" appears in other science education reform
well. The "Benchmarks for Science Literacy" (American Association for
Advancement of Science, 1993) also emphasized systems as one of the
common to all the sciences. According to Mayer (1995, p.385), the Benchmarks
can be "an important tool for earth systems educators as they locate more
specific information for the construction of curricular models for their
particular school districts. Also, Biological Science Curriculum Study
(2000) indicated that "Earth systems" is used as a major theme of integrated
science in many states. For instance, in the Utah science core curriculum,
integrated science at grade nine focuses on the theme of "Earth systems"
and the Ogden City School District integrates the Earth, physical, space,
and life sciences around the theme with this being one of the primary goals:
"Students will develop an understanding of interactions and interdependence
within and between Earth systems and changes in Earth systems over time"
EARTH SYSTEMS SCIENCE
During the last several decades there have been many advances in our
of planet Earth, its processes, and interactions among subsystems.
economic and technological activity, people as a part of the Earth
system have alsocontributed to significant global changes in the system. These developments
Earth System Sciences Committee (ESSC) to identify three reasons for
Earth Systems Science (ESS) approach to science teaching: Science for
benefits, global change, and the Earth as a planet (ESSC, 1988). So,
what is Earth
Systems Science? "ESS takes the main components of planet Earth-the
oceans, freshwater, rocks, soils, and biosphere-and seeks to understand
major patterns and processes in their dynamics. To do this we need to study
not only the processes that go on within each component, but also interactions
between these components. It is the need to study and understand these
between-component interactions that defines ESS as a discipline in its
own right" (Lawton, 2001, p. 1965).
Johnson, Ruzek, and Kalb (1997) stated that, "the Earth systems science
concept fosters synthesis and the development of a holistic model in which
and action lead to synergistic interdisciplinary relevance" (p. 688).
The concept of the Earth as a system has led to the development of an integrated science
EARTH SYSTEMS EDUCATION
Earth Systems Education (ESE) has been described as a major effort to
school science education in the United States since the early 1990s
(Mayer, Armstrong, Barrow, Brown, Crowder, Fortner, Graham, Hoyt, Humphris,
Jax, Shay, & Shropshire, 1992). ESE is a grassroots movement supported
by scientists, science educators, and strong theoretical bases. ESE can
be defined as a wide-scale science education program which studies the
planet Earth as a system of many interacting subsystems and focuses on
the changes and evolution within and between subsystems of water (hydrosphere),
land (lithosphere), air (atmosphere), ice (cryosphere), and life
(biosphere). One of the important features of ESE for science curriculum
restructuring is an emphasis on the use of Earth and Earth's subsystems
as the context for the content to be covered (Mayer, 1993).
Fortner (1999) indicated that the relevant ESE components are derived
traditional sciences: ESE primarily focuses on biology and Earth science,
physical sciences (Physics and Chemistry) as they relate to the Earth
addition to those sciences, ESE includes some ideas and content from
education. Environmental issues and interrelationships provide excellent
systems interaction, and demonstrate the need to treat earth components
as pieces of
an integrated whole. Issue consideration is also justification for
learning science as part
of the real world that surrounds and affects students (Fortner, 1991,
1995). Attention to topics such as environmental stewardship and Earth
appreciation distinguishes ESE from major previous science curricula.
SELECTED MATERIALS RELATED TO EARTH SYSTEMS EDUCATION
* Activities for the Changing Earth System (ACES)
This book includes 20 activities for middle and high school students,
using an integrated earth systems approach to teach concepts in Earth,
Biological and Environmental Sciences (Mayer, Fortner, & Murphy, 1993).
* Great Lakes Instructional Materials for the Changing Earth System
This book of activities provides a packet of scientific scenarios of
how global warming
could affect the Great Lakes region, a review of climate models, and
teaching about those changes in secondary science and social studies
Miller, & Sheaffer, 1995).
* A Set of Earth Systems Education Activities for Great Lakes Schools
1. Land & Water Interactions in the Great Lakes
2. Great Lakes Climate & Water Movement,
3. Great Lakes Shipping
4. Life in the Great Lakes
5. Great Lakes Environmental Issues
These books are designed to take a concept or idea from the existing
school curriculum and develop it in a Great Lakes context, using teaching
approaches and materials appropriate for students in middle and high school.
The activities are characterized by subject matter compatibility with existing
curriculum topics, including basic principles of lake effect, climate/water
relationships, storm surges, and their relationship to the Great Lakes
* Science is a Study of Earth: A Resource Guide for Earth Systems Education
Provides a background in Earth Systems Education. The sections focus
on a variety of
themes that including: background articles, current national climate
education, implementation strategies, assessment, sources of materials,
activities (Mayer & Fortner, 1995).
EARTH SYSTEMS EDUCATION ON THE WEB
An Earth Science curriculum developed
American Geological Institute (AGI) and supported by the National Science
Foundation and donors of the American Geological Institute Foundation.
EarthComm focuses attention on the national deficiency in high school Earth
Science education (grades 9-12) and on development of a complete high-school
Earth Science curriculum. The EarthComm vision is the teaching, learning,
and practice of Earth science by all students in all U.S. high schools.
This website contains resources for teachers, students and parents as well
as information on the development of the curricula.
* Earth Systems Education (ESE)
The official website of Earth Systems Education Program at The Oho
This site provides resources and programs for teaching and learning
* Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)
Constructed cooperatively by the Earth System education community with
assistance of interested groups in information technology and library
science. This site
serves as an information system for the collection, enhancement, and
materials that facilitate learning about the Earth system at all educational
* Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA)
State-of-the-art, online courses to promote understanding of Earth
Systems Science, to encourage communication and cooperation among teachers,
and to facilitate the use of exceptional classroom materials.
* Earth System Science Online (ESSO)
Useful information about Earth System Science education and research
the undergraduate level, including primary research findings and data
that related to the
Earth as a system.
* Galileo Education
Materials aimed at K-12 teachers and students for NASA's mission to
study Jupiter and its moons.
* Destination: Earth
An official website for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). "Benchmarks
science literacy." New York: Oxford University Press.
Biological Science Curriculum Study. (2000). "Making sense of integrated
guide for high schools." Colorado Springs, CO: Author.
Earth System Sciences Committee. (1988). "Earth system science: A closer
Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Fortner, R. W. (1991). Back to the Earth for science education. "Science
Activities," 28(1), 6-7.
Fortner, R.W. (1995). Earth system changes: Using environmental data
teaching. "International Journal of Geographical and Environmental
Education," 4 (1),
Fortner, R. W. (1999). Earth systems education: An introduction to the
interdisciplinary science, examples of implementation, and implications
[Course presentation]. Columbus, OH: Author.
Fortner, R. W., Miller, H., & Sheaffer, A. (1995). "Great Lakes
instructional materials for the changing earth system." Columbus, OH: The
Ohio State University.
Johnson, D. R., Ruzek, M., & Kalb, M. (1997). "What is Earth system
science?" Paper presented at the 1997 International Geoscience and Remote
Sensing Symposium, Singapore.
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Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental
Education. [Available online at: http://www.ericse.org/digests/dse93-2.html]
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J. N., Fortner, R. W., Graham, M., Hoyt, W. H., Humphris, S. E., Jax, D.
W., Shay, E. L., & Shropshire, K. L. (1992). The role of planet Earth
in the new science curriculum. "Journal of Geological Education, 40," 66-72.
Mayer, V. J., & Fortner, R. W. (Eds.). (1995). "Science is a study
of Earth: A resource guide for science curriculum restructure." Columbus,
OH: The Ohio State University.
Mayer, V. J., Fortner, R. W., & Murphy, T. (1993). "Activities for
the changing Earth
system." Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.
National Research Council. (1996). "National science education standards."
Washington, DC: National Academy Press.