As a result of their activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop an understanding of:

  • Structure of the earth system

  •  Earth's history

  •  Earth in the solar system  

The text discusses the importance of teaching students about earth systems and their interactions.

A major goal of science in the middle grades is for students to develop an understanding of earth and the solar system as a set of closely coupled systems. 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). In this holistic approach to studying the planet, physical, chemical, and biological processes act within and among the four components on a wide range of time scales to change continuously earth's crust, oceans, atmosphere, and living organisms. Their study of earth's history provides students with some evidence about co-evolution of the planet's main features—the distribution of land and sea, features of the crust, the composition of the atmosphere, global climate, and populations of living organisms in the biosphere.

The material offering guidance for the standard explicitly ties the earth's history to the history of life:

Earth's History

The earth processes we see today, including erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are similar to those that occurred in the past. Earth's history is also influenced by occasional catastrophes, such as the impact of an asteroid or comet.

Fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed.

The standards for grades 5–8 cover the nature of science in the section on the history and nature of science:

As a result of activities in grades 5–8, all students should develop an understanding of:

  • Science as a human endeavor

  • Nature of science

  • History of science  

The guidance accompanying this standard offers the following discussion of these issues:

Nature of Science

Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using observation, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models. Although all scientific ideas are tentative and subject to change and improvement in principle, for most major ideas in science, there is much experimental and observational confirmation. Those ideas are not likely to change greatly in the future. Scientists do and have changed their ideas about nature when they encounter new experimental evidence that does not match their existing explanations.

In areas where active research is being pursued and in which there is not a great deal of experimental or observational evidence and understanding, it is normal for scientists to differ with one another about the interpretation of the evidence or theory being considered. Different scientists might publish conflicting experimental results or might draw different conclusions from the same data. Ideally, scientists acknowledge such conflict and work towards finding evidence that will resolve their disagreement.

It is part of scientific inquiry to evaluate the results of scientific investigations, experiments, observations, theoretical models, and the explanations proposed by other scientists. Evaluation includes reviewing the experimental procedures, examining the evidence, identifying faulty reasoning, pointing out statements that go beyond the evidence, and suggesting alternative explanations for the same observations. Although scientists may disagree about explanations of phenomena, about interpretations of data, or about the value of rival theories, they do agree that questioning, response to criticism, and open communication are integral to the process of science. As scientific knowledge evolves, major disagreements are eventually resolved through such interactions between scientists.

History of Science

Many individuals have contributed to the traditions of science. Studying some of these individuals provides further understanding of scientific inquiry,



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