Blueprint: Earth the Habitable Planet

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This blueprint for high school Earth and Space science is designed to serve as a coherent framework for teachers to follow as they teach a one-year course (approximately 30 weeks). It is organized on themes in Earth system science that were presented in the NSF-sponsored TeXas Earth and Space Science (TXESS) Revolution teacher professional development program. The blueprint does not attempt to cover all of Earth and Space Science, but rather it takes an in-depth look at some key topics that are critical for understanding the challenges that humans face in living on this "restless planet." Although each unit in this blueprint looks at a different aspect of earth science, all of them emphasize the interconnections among the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere and the dynamic nature of our planet. Other overarching themes are the nature of science as practiced by contemporary Earth scientists, the intellectual processes essential to science such as inquiry and the use of data in drawing conclusions, the depth of geologic time, and the usefulness of Earth science in solving environmental challenges, addressing our need for resources and coping with natural hazards.

We begin with Earth's place in the solar system, followed by a unit on Earth's structure. Next we introduce plate tectonics, the unifying paradigm of understanding geologic processes before examining the elements that make Earth supportive of life. In the units that follow we take a look at Earth's global ocean and how it interacts with the atmosphere to influence weather and climate. In the next unit, students consider key events that occurred across the vast span of geologic time and the impacts of these events, and learn about locales emblematic of these iconic events. The course finishes with a unit on natural hazards and one that raises questions about human/Earth interaction and sustainability.

To open a unit or an activity in a new tab or window, right click the unit or activity link and select the preferred option.


1. The Solar System

2. Journey to the Center of Earth: Earth's Structure

3. The Dynamic Earth: Plate Tectonic Processes

4. Plate Tectonics: Earth in Motion

5. Earth is a Habitable Planet

6. Earth's Global Ocean

7. Earth's Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate

8. Earth's History: Events, Places and Impacts (in development)

9. Natural Hazards: Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

10. Living With the Planet