September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Natural Resources/Energy Unit for High School

Posted: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

by Heather Marshall

I feel that all students should be required to take an earth sciences course as a high school graduation requirement. They all need the basic understanding of the planet on which they live. It is even more important for all students to learn about energy. As we use our natural resources, we need to find new sources of energy, and ways to preserve and wisely use  the resources that remain. The following energy unit covers both of these issues.  My unit plan resources (PowerPoint presentations and labs) are available on my classroom website: under “Unit Folders”, and then “Energy and Climate”. The PowerPoint presentations serve as the outlines, not the full lectures.  Viewing the presentations will give you an overview of the lectures and the hands-on lab experiments conducted as a part of the energy unit.  This website is used as a tool in my classroom for students when they are absent or otherwise miss class.

The energy unit is taught after the basics of geology.  That way the students have the foundational knowledge of rocks, minerals, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, weathering and erosion, and relative and absolute dating methods as well as map reading skills (topographic, geological, and well logs).  This unit we will refer back to the carbon cycle specifically, therefore, students should have already covered biogeochemical cycles. This unit is designed be be taught on a traditional schedule, where the students meet daily for 181 days, for 55 minute classes. On average three of the five weekdays will be spent in lab experiments, and two of five on notes.  The energy unit is expected to take two and a half weeks to complete.

The California state standards covered by the energy unit include:

Energy in the Earth System

4.  Climate is the long-term average of a region’s weather and depends on many factors. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a.  Students know weather (in the short run) and climate (in the long run) involve the transfer of energy into and out of the atmosphere.
b.  Students know the effects on climate of latitude, elevation, topography, and proximity to large bodies of water and cold or warm ocean currents.
c.  Students know how Earth’s climate has changed over time, corresponding to changes in Earth’s geography, atmospheric composition, and other factors, such as solar radiation and plate movement.
d.  Students know how computer models are used to predict the effects of the increase in greenhouse gases on climate for the planet as a whole and for specific regions.

Biogeochemical Cycles

7.  Each element on Earth moves among reservoirs, which exist in the solid earth, in oceans, in the atmosphere, and within and among organisms as part of biogeochemical cycles. As a basis for understanding this concept:

a.  Students know the carbon cycle of photosynthesis and respiration and the nitrogen cycle.
b.  Students know the global carbon cycle: the different physical and chemical forms of carbon in the atmosphere, oceans, biomass, fossil fuels, and the movement of carbon among these reservoirs.
c.  Students know the movement of matter among reservoirs is driven by Earth’s internal and external sources of energy.
d.  Students know the relative residence times and flow characteristics of carbon in and out of its different reservoirs.

I have restated these goals into the following for students to use:

Know about energy resources—renewable and non renewable—as they pertain to long term climate fluctuations. Differentiate between common alternative energies for cars and for home/industry use and identify the pros and cons of each. Differentiate between all forms of energy and how they affect climate fluctuations.

The Energy Unit (about 2.5 weeks)

  • What Do You Think? PowerPoint presentation: students answer questions on the upcoming unit based on what they know before the unit, opinions, and preconceptions. This is used as a pre-assessment.
  • Fossil Fuel Notes: these notes follow with descriptions of how oil, gas, and coal are formed,  some uses for petroleum, and some statistics on remaining reservoirs.
  • Fuel Energy Lab: this lab looks at the amount of energy available by fuel type by mass and volume.  This lab helps students to understand the differences in fuel types.
  • Modeling Oil Reserves Lab: this lab is a model for exploration geology.  It models the processes petroleum geologists use to find oil reserves underground.
  • Products Made from Petroleum Computer Research Lab: this lab asks students to do computer research on different products made from petroleum.  The students then compare the production  of some objects to their standard of living.
  • Global Warming Notes: these notes describe in more detail what is happening in terms of global warming, the causative elements, and how those elements are increasing in our atmosphere.  The notes also address the question: “What can we do about it?”
  • Earth Warming Lab: this lab looks at the environmental and economic effects of the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and what we can do about it.
  • Alternative Energy Notes: these notes look at the currently available alternative energy resources that power our homes and businesses. They address some of the pros and cons of using these energies instead of fossil fuels.
  • Alternative Fuel Notes: these notes look at the currently available alternative fuel resources that power our automobiles.  They address the pros and cons of using these energies instead of fossil fuels.
  • Assessment: a test is given at the end of the energy portion of the unit. NOTE: The test requires updating and revision. (I will also be adding updates and revisions to the PowerPoint lectures as well, as we get closer to teaching the unit.  I try to add current issues into the notes.)

After the energy work, we go into the climate portion where we discuss climates of the world, climate factors (things that affect local climate), and then global climate change issues.  This portion is currently under revision and expansion, a full description will be available in a future issue of California Classroom Science.

Heather Marshall teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill and is CSTA’s high school director.

Written by Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant

Heather Wygant teaches CP geology at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill, CA and is a member of CSTA.

One Response

  1. Thank you for all these resources Heather! I definitely agree with you about students having at least a basic understanding of the Earth Sciences and our planet. I have heard lately that schools are trying to phase out Earth Science because it’s not a college tracked course. What are your experiences and thoughts?

    Your mentoree,

    Liz Mitchell

Leave a Reply


California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.