Lab 1: Think Globally, Act Locally


Much like a car or the human body, Earth is a complex system of interacting parts. Air, water, soil, and living things make up four overlapping, interconnected "spheres": the atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere. The study of the processes that move energy and matter among these four spheres is called Earth system science.

In the first part of this lab, you will learn more about Earth system science and the four interconnected spheres that make up the Earth system. In the second part of the lab, you will visit and observe a local study site to familiarize yourself with the components of the Earth system and ways in which they interact and influence one another.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:
  • identify the major components of the Earth system, and give examples from your local study site;
  • infer connections among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and pedosphere by describing connections among examples at the study site; and
  • predict some ways that changes in one component of the study site might affect changes in other components.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you engaged and focused on key concepts and to allow you to periodically check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills you should be learning from the lab activities and readings.
Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.