Teaching Earth’s Place in the Universe: Unpack the Standard

Do you find the NGSS standards to be helpful, yet completely overwhelming? On one hand, it is a helpful road map to guide science instruction, but on the other hand, the standards can be super challenging to unpack. Today I want to focus on NGSS Standard MS-ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe.

When you first look at that standard, it seems like a million different concepts could fall under that topic. The universe is just a *little* bit large, so where do we begin? As I began to unpack the standard, though, I realized that it actually isn’t as complicated as it seems. This standard focuses on the smaller system that the Earth is a part of, and how each entity impacts the other. When I teach Earth’s Place in the Universe, I focus on the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun and the following questions:

How does the Earth move in relation to the sun?

How does the Earth spin on its axis?

How does the Earth’s movement impact the seasons?

How does Earth’s movement determine daytime and nighttime?

How does the moon move in relation to the Earth?

How do the moon’s movement impact the way the moon looks to us on Earth?

What are the moon phases?

What is gravity, and how does it impact the way the Earth, moon, and sun move?

That seems like a lot of questions to unpack, but when you break it down they all work together really nicely to create a cohesive unit. Below are some ways that I like to teach these concepts:

1. First I assess my students to see what they know, and to determine what misconceptions they might be coming into the unit with.

2. Then I discuss gravity, what is actually is (not a downward force), and how it impacts the way the Earth moves.

3. Next, we discuss the different ways that the Earth moves, and how this causes daytime and nighttime, as well as the seasons.

4. Finally, we discuss the way that the moon moves, and how the moon’s movements around the Earth causes the moon’s phases.

5. We wrap up with an assessment, which allows me to determine if any of the above concepts need to be re-taught or reinforced!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *