How To Map Out Your Earth and Space Science Curriculum

How to map out your Earth and Space science curriculum for the whole school year with tips for your teacher toolbox.

The start of any new course comes with excitement and a bit of trepidation about planning it all! I like to channel that excitement into planning so I can alleviate some stress. Maybe you’re like me and you like to map things out too. Having an overall plan means you’re able to work smarter not harder throughout the school year.

What is Earth and Space Science?

Earth and Space Science is a laboratory course that covers the study of our planet Earth and its neighbors in space. Students take on the role of Earth Scientists to examine scientific branches in detail including Astronomy, Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography. In addition to concepts, important relationships, processes, and mechanisms, students learn to use evidence-based reasoning, improve their reading, writing, and math skills, and exhibit creative problem solving and informed decision making.

Why study Earth and Space Science?

Earth and Space Science is part of everyday life. Whether you are walking your dog, driving your car, looking out your window, or planning a vacation, the concepts taught in an Earth and Space Science curriculum are constantly around us. This curriculum helps students prepare for changes in weather, climate, seasons, natural disasters and earth movements.

“The applied, and often visual, nature of Earth science helps learners see its relevance to their lives and to their communities.”

How to Map Your Earth and Space Science Curriculum

1. WORK BACKWARDS
The goal is to work from the end of the course to the beginning to figure out what you need along the way. 

  • Figure out how many school days you’ll have. Remember to leave a few days before/after breaks and towards the end of the year.
  • Establish how many units to cover. Look to curriculum documents to see what’s required. In this Earth and Science curriculum, there are eleven units that cover an introduction to the subject to earth’s atmosphere, weather, rocks and minerals, the solar system, and more!
  • Decide how many evaluations you’ll want or need students to complete. Choosing when to evaluate will make clear what skills and knowledge to cover. With that in mind, work backwards to figure out the content of each of your units.

2. DECIDE WHAT ASSESSMENTS TO INCLUDE
Once you’ve decided how many evaluations to have, the next step is assessments. Assessments can include a variety of options and they do not always need to be graded. Instead formatives provide an opportunity to check in on students’ comfort with and understanding of the material. 

For some assessments it might be a matter of how well they know a certain part of the earth and space science curriculum, but for others it could be about how they apply the knowledge. 
To read more about formatives, check out this blog post.

3. SCAFFOLD WITHIN THE COURSE AND WITHIN UNITS
Within any course it’s essential that the parts each contribute to the whole and this starts with individual units. 

For example, in this Earth and Space Science curriculum, the units are in a purposeful and sequential order. It starts with an introductory unit of essential skills for students to practice before diving deep into the four main branches of Earth Science: geology, meteorology, astronomy, and oceanography. This all leads to Geologic History–the final unit–where students investigate the geologic history of our planet and how scientists use fossils as an integral tool when interpreting the past. With plenty of fun activities, students work to understand somewhat abstract concepts that take into account those skills from unit 1 that they’ve developed throughout the course.

Once you have a clear sequence of units, you can scaffold lessons and activities within each unit. For example, in the Earth’s Dynamic Crust & Interior Unit, students first learn about Earth’s Interior, which is made up of mechanisms that drive the tectonic plates to move (next comes the plate tectonics unit). Then, they are introduced to earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, all of which occur as a result of shifting plates.

Additionally, part of scaffolding is meeting students where they are so differentiation is key! Using guided notes for your presentations or having projects with student choice are ideal. Click for a free student-choice-led project on severe weather.

4. BE FLEXIBLE
While you might have an overall plan, it’s important to remain flexible. Even if there are X number of days to cover curriculum things come up and plans have to change.

You can be flexible within a lesson in the Earth and Space Science curriculum, by trimming or changing most resources since they’re editable. 
If you have to be away and need to leave a sub-plan then a virtual field trip is just the right choice. You can still review curriculum with options to fit just about any unit in the course. Learn more about virtual field trips in this recent post.

5. ADD ELEMENTS TO MEET STUDENT NEEDS
Once a plan is in place it can open up time and opportunities for you! Just think with this curriculum you have all of your lessons and activities that require little to no prep plus all of the answer keys, so you can focus on your students!

As you get to know more about your students you can decide what else you might want to include. If a few students really love studying space then add a bit more about this topic for them. If others love virtual field trips then include more travel without leaving the classroom. (And with the curriculum bundle I’m just an email away to suggest other options to expand units or to help with any questions!)

Whether you’re teaching 8th grade honors students, 9th grade college prep students, or even 11th and 12th graders who might not be ready to take chemistry or physics just yet, this Earth and Space Science curriculum is the way to get excited about teaching the course without increasing your stress! Instead, you can save that stress for teaching vocabulary that sticks…but that’s a topic for another time!

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