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Physical and Earth and Space Sciences

Enduring Understandings

Course Overview | Enduring Understandings | Common Student Misconceptions
Additional Resources | Pacing Guide | Pacing Guide Calendar | Inquiry Challenge

Enduring understandings are key ideas that students should grasp deeply in order to be considered scientifically literate. The table below illustrates what enduring, or fundamental, understandings should students have upon entering this course, what understandings should they learn through this course, and what understandings will they study in their advanced coursework.

Enduring UnderstandingsWHAT STUDENTS SHOULD ALREADY KNOW AND BE ABLE TO DOWHAT STUDENTS NEED TO LEARN AND DO IN THIS COURSEWHAT STUDENTS WILL LEARN AND DO IN THEIR ADVANCED STUDIES
Grades 6-8Grades 9-10Grades 11-12
The Universe
The universe is regular and predictable.Understand that motion in the universe occurs in predictable cycles such as days, years, seasons, tides and lunar cycles.

Know that gravity is the dominant force acting on objects in orbit and that it holds matter together in the universe.
Explore how gravity affects the motion of planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system.Explain large-scale motion of objects in the universe.

Explore how technology is used to study the universe.

Understand the role of electromagnetic radiation (EM) in the universe and how gravity and EM interact.
Stars form and change over time in a predictable sequence.Understand that stars are categorized by predictable stages.Understand that nuclear reactions generate energy to produce stars and form elements larger than H and He.
The universe formed at a specific time in the past, and it has been expanding ever since. Understand that the objects in the universe (galaxies, stars, and other planets) are light years away, and that studying them requires special tools.Give evidence for the big bang theory and describe how the universe evolved under the influence of gravitational force. Learn that the universe is expanding and light waves from distant galaxies can be measured.
Nature of Energy (in the Context of the Universe)
The total energy of the universe is constant.

Nuclear energy comes from the conversion of matter.
Understand that the total amount of energy remains constant.

Understand that energy is distributed among many forms and that it can be redistributed, but the total amount of energy remains constant.
Waves carry energy and interact with matter.`Recognize the electromagnetic spectrum and understand the properties of waves that are affected by the medium through which they travel.
Earth Systems
The surface of Earth is constantly changing and no feature on Earth is permanent.Describe the historical development of plate tectonics and know that energy from within Earth drives plate movement.

Describe the interior structure of Earth.

Identify different types and typical features of plate boundaries and understand that geologic processes (e.g., weathering, erosion, deposition) create landforms as do volcanic and seismic activity resulting from plate movement.

Know the role that sedimentary rock layers play in interpreting geologic history and describe the process of relative dating.
Explain how energy transfer (conduction and convection) and gravity drive plate tectonics and describe the results of plate movement.

Explore evidence for Earth’s history through the fossil record and explain the appearance of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.
Examine historical theories in context to understand the relationships among observation, research, and the advancement of new scientific ideas.
Earth operates in cycles.Characterize types of rocks and minerals, and know how they were formed in the rock cycle.

Understand how energy is transferred through Earth’s different spheres and can explain some impacts on environmental quality including climate, weather and natural disasters.
Trace the transfer of energy through the spheres of Earth and understand the results in real-world contexts (e.g., ocean currents, climate).

Know how biogeochemical cycles relate to each other and to human activity and to natural resources.
Explain the relationships among different forms of energy transfer (radiation, conduction, advection, convection) and resulting Earth or environmental impacts.

Describe the impact of human activity on the spheres of Earth and natural cycles, including global warming.
Nature of Energy (in the Context of Earth Systems)
The total energy of the universe is constant.

Heat energy tends to move spontaneously from hotter to colder objects by conduction, convection and radiation.

Earth systems have both internal and external sources of energy which create heat.
Understand that energy is distributed among many forms and that it can be redistributed, but the total amount of energy remains constant.Understand the transfer of energy by conduction, convection and radiation.

Describe interactions of waves within the medium and with each other.
Nature of Matter
All matter is made of atoms.Understand the existence of small particles responsible for chemical and physical properties of substances. Students should not yet identify atoms, molecules or subatomic particles. Describe the structure of atoms in terms of electrons, protons and neutrons; the formation of ions and the existence of isotopes.
Gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces hold matter together.Explain that electrical forces contribute to bonding and that bonding of atoms results in the production of new substances.

Describe the process of radioactive decay.
Explain bonding molecular structures including organics and crystal patterns.
The way a material behaves depends on the arrangement of its atoms.Describe chemical and physical changes of matter (at the macro level).

Explain the concept of density as the relationship between the mass and volume of a material, but students should not yet use the term or formula to define it.
Understand how the periodic table was formed through the discovery of repeating patterns of similar chemical and physical properties of atoms resulting from the arrangement of their electrons.

Discriminate between the physical properties of mixtures and pure substances.
Explain biological, chemical, and physical phenomena in terms of atoms and molecules.

Describe superconductivity.
Chemical reactions occur all around us.Investigate how small particles are conserved when materials interact.Understand that mass is conserved in a chemical reaction and recognize a balanced chemical equation.

Use the pH scale to classify substances as acidic, basic, or neutral.
Describe equilibrium and the effects of disturbances.

Eplain that matter tends toward states of disorganization.
Nature of Energy (within the Context of Nature of Matter)
The total energy of the universe is constant.Understand that energy is distributed among many forms and that it can be redistributed, but the total amount of energy remains constant.Understand how energy changes forms and is redistributed but never lost or gained.
Chemical reactions may release or consume energy.Identify energy transformations in simple chemical reactions (exothermic and endothermic) and nuclear reactions.

Know the source of thermal energy, and recognize what differences in temperature indicate about molecular motion.
Forces and Motion
Laws help predict and describe motion.Understand and describe the motion of objects within a frame of reference.

Explain how unbalanced forces affect the speed and/or direction of falling objects and objects moving in a straight line, curve, arc, or circle.

Conceptually understand acceleration.

Represent the relative magnitude and direction of forces.

Measure distance and time to represent speed graphically or in a ratio and also discuss speed and velocity.

Do not use a formula to calculate speed/velocity.
Understand and explain the motion of objects by applying Newton’s laws to observed phenomena.

Measure aspects of motion and calculate speed, velocity and acceleration
Analyze more complex cases of motion using Newton’s laws, mathematical skills, and conceptual understandings of the cumulative effects of forces on objects and systems.
Electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same force. Explore the effects of nuclear, gravitational, and electromagnetic forces on objects and systems such as motors and generators to describe and predict outcomes in real-world applications on Earth’s surface and in space.
Nature of Energy (in the Context of Forces and Motion)
The total energy of the universe is constant.Understand that energy is distributed between among many forms and that it can be redistributed.

Understand that the total amount of energy remains constant.
Trace the transformations of energy in simple mechanical and electrical systems and explain changes in thermal energy.
All energy can be considered as kinetic, potential or field.Understand the relationship between an object’s energy and its mass and speed.

Describe the effect of gravitational force on objects.