NGSS Earth Science Unit Bundles

Find inspiration for your NGSS earth science scope and sequence with these phenomenon-based unit bundles for middle school science classrooms.

NGSS Earth Science Unit Bundles

As I shared in my post NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum Outline, it took me a while to realize that three-dimensional unit storylines are meant to be built from phenomena. While most resources instruct teachers to create the bundles first and find a phenomenon afterward, I’ve found that approach can leave storylines feeling disjointed, stretched, and somewhat less authentic. It’s like you’re trying to shove a round-peg-phenomenon into a square-hole-bundle. Plus, it just doesn’t reflect what science is really about. And if we want to truly engage our students in doing science, why not embrace that approach from the very get-go?

So with that in mind, I shifted my approach to put phenomena-first. I started with the big idea thing we were investigating and fleshed out my bundle from there.

You can learn the nitty gritty details of this storyline-planning process in The SOS System: Foundations Formula inside the Spark Subscription. Enroll now to get started!

The NGSS earth science unit bundles that you find below were created through this process. Again, as I shared in NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum Outline, these are not the super simple “scope and sequences” you may have seen in the past — the kind where each unit “checks off” one standard, and as long as you run through the units, you’ve “covered” all of the standards.

Instead, each unit bundle presents opportunities to address a variety of standards. You can choose which standards (Disciplinary Core Ideas and Performance Expectations) are most relevant to your classroom needs. You can tailor each bundle to address the concepts that you need to address. With that in mind, while these are in many ways focused on the NGSS earth science standards, they are not fully discipline-specific. If you have the opportunity, I hope you will embrace the chance to create an integrated unit and help your students see how Earth’s systems (and the study of the natural world we call science) is all interconnected!

Before Diving Into The NGSS Earth Science Bundles

To learn more about how to use these NGSS life science bundles in your classroom, please visit my post: NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum Outline. And if you would like to save some time and access Anchor Phenomenon Experiences and supplemental lessons designed just for these bundles, be sure to check out the Spark Subscription.

One Final Note On The NGSS Earth Science Bundles

Finally, these NGSS earth science bundles are a work-in-progress. There are a few standards that are not yet included as I haven’t found my right phenomenon — and basically, I can’t create my unit bundles until I do. I have listed the standards that are not yet included in this scope and sequence at the end of the post.

Please check back periodically to see how these bundles within this middle school science curriculum inspo unfolds!

NGSS Earth Science Focused Unit Bundles

Unit 1: Rising Tides

NGSS Earth Science Unit Bundles

In this Earth and space science focused storyline for the middle school science curriculum, students develop an understanding of the Earth-Sun-Moon system, gravity, and climate change.

This storyline also opens the door for students to explore the characteristics of waves through the lens of Earth’s tides and potentially ocean surface waves.

Phenomenon

In June 2021, a study published in Nature Climate Change warned of higher and more frequent tides resulting from the combined effects of rising sea levels (due to climate change) and the natural “wobble” in the moon’s orbit around Earth. Essentially, the angle of the moon’s orbit relative to Earth’s equator changes slightly as it orbits in a cycle that takes roughly 18 years. During one half of the cycle, the wobble suppresses the tides, and during the other half it amplifies them. While the “wobble” is nothing new, sea levels are rising as a result of climate change, and as we enter the “amplified” part of the cycle (peaking in the 2030s), nuisance flooding resulting from higher high tides is expected to cause major damage in coastal communities.

Essential Questions

  • What are tides?
  • What are high tide floods? What do high tide floods do? Why are they a problem? What causes high tide floods?
  • What is the moon? How did we get our moon? How do we keep our moon?
  • How does the moon influence tides? How do the moon’s phases affect the tides? What explains the moon’s phases?
  • How does the Moon fit into our solar system? What is beyond our planet? What is our place in space?
  • How does the moon suppress the tides? How does the moon amplify the tides? (Why do they behave like they do when this happens?)
  • Why are scientists predicting an increase in high tide flood days? What is causing the increase in high tide flood days? Why is sea level higher than normal? What is normal? What is the connection to climate change?

This Anchor Experience Invites Students To Investigate:

  • tides
  • the Moon
  • Earth-Sun-Moon system
  • gravity
  • solar system
  • global warming & climate change
  • patterns

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. The universe began with a period of extreme and rapid expansion known as the Big Bang. Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe.
  • ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.
  • PS2.B: Types of Interactions Gravitational forces are always attractive. There is a gravitational force between any two masses, but it is very small except when one or both of the objects have large mass—e.g., Earth and the sun.
  • ESS3.D: Global Climate Change Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.
  • ESS3.B: Natural Hazards Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geologic forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events.
  • PS4.A: Wave Properties A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude.

Performance Expectations (NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum)

MS-ESS1-1 Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons. [Clarification Statement: Examples of models can be physical, graphical, or conceptual.]

MS-ESS1-2 Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis for the model is on gravity as the force that holds together the solar system and Milky Way galaxy and controls orbital motions within them. Examples of models can be physical (such as the analogy of distance along a football field or computer visualizations of elliptical orbits) or conceptual (such as mathematical proportions relative to the size of familiar objects such as students’ school or state).] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion or the apparent retrograde motion of the planets as viewed from Earth.]

MS-ESS1-3 Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the analysis of data from Earth-based instruments, space-based telescopes, and spacecraft to determine similarities and differences among solar system objects. Examples of scale properties include the sizes of an object’s layers (such as crust and atmosphere), surface features (such as volcanoes), and orbital radius. Examples of data include statistical information, drawings and photographs, and models.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling facts about properties of the planets and other solar system bodies.]

MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. [Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.]

MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded by phenomena that allow for reliable predictions, but others, such as earthquakes, occur suddenly and with no notice, and thus are not yet predictable. Examples of natural hazards can be taken from interior processes (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), surface processes (such as mass wasting and tsunamis), or severe weather events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods). Examples of data can include the locations, magnitudes, and frequencies of the natural hazards. Examples of technologies can be global (such as satellite systems to monitor hurricanes or forest fires) or local (such as building basements in tornado-prone regions or reservoirs to mitigate droughts).]

MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

The following standards are tangential to the anchor phenomenon and could be incorporated into this unit.

MS-PS4-1 Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on describing waves with both qualitative and quantitative thinking.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include electromagnetic waves and is limited to standard repeating waves.]

Unit 2: The Rock Files

In this Earth and space science focused storyline for the middle school science curriculum, students investigate Earth’s geologic history to understand mass extinction events, particularly the sudden loss of life Earth experience 66 million years ago (that spelled the end of the world of dinosaurs). As they explore the theories that explain the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, they gain a better understanding of the significance of today’s declining biodiversity.

This unit bundle sets students up to not only investigate Earth’s past (and the stories rocks hold) but also turn their eyes to the future, understanding disruptions in today’s ecosystems and what may be in store for them as a result of human activities.

Phenomenon

Roughly 66 million years ago, three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth suddenly disappeared from the rock record.

Essential Questions

  • What happened to the dinosaurs?
  • How has biodiversity changed over Earth’s history?
  • How do we learn about Earth’s ancient history?
  • How do Earth’s materials change?
  • How does matter and energy move through ecosystems?
  • How does the availability of resources affect life?
  • How can disruptions in ecosystems affect populations?
  • What can trigger an ecosystem collapse?
  • How can climate change disrupt ecosystem functioning?

This Anchor Experience Invites Students To Investigate:

  • the rock cycle
  • geologic history
  • rock strata
  • diversity of life
  • evolution
  • mass extinctions
  • ecosystems
  • food webs

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity The collection of fossils and their placement in chronological order (e.g., through the location of the sedimentary layers in which they are found or through radioactive dating) is known as the fossil record. It documents the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms throughout the history of life on Earth.
  • ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth The geologic time scale interpreted from rock strata provides a way to organize Earth’s history. Analyses of rock strata and the fossil record provide only relative dates, not an absolute scale.
  • ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.
  • LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms Plants, algae (including phytoplankton), and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars (food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen. These sugars can be used immediately or stored for growth or later use.
  • PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen. (secondary)
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction. Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.
  • PS3.A: Definitions of Energy Motion energy is properly called kinetic energy; it is proportional to the mass of the moving object and grows with the square of its speed.

Performance Expectations (NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum)

MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the processes of melting, crystallization, weathering, deformation, and sedimentation, which act together to form minerals and rocks through the cycling of Earth’s materials.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the identification and naming of minerals.]

MS-ESS1-4 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how analyses of rock formations and the fossils they contain are used to establish relative ages of major events in Earth’s history. Examples of Earth’s major events could range from being very recent (such as the last Ice Age or the earliest fossils of homo sapiens) to very old (such as the formation of Earth or the earliest evidence of life). Examples can include the formation of mountain chains and ocean basins, the evolution or extinction of particular living organisms, or significant volcanic eruptions.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling the names of specific periods or epochs and events within them.]

MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on finding patterns of changes in the level of complexity of anatomical structures in organisms and the chronological order of fossil appearance in the rock layers.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the names of individual species or geological eras in the fossil record.]

MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. [Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.]

MS-LS1-6 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on tracing movement of matter and flow of energy.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the biochemical mechanisms of photosynthesis.]

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on recognizing patterns in data and making warranted inferences about changes in populations, and on evaluating empirical evidence supporting arguments about changes to ecosystems.]

The following standards are tangential to the anchor phenomenon and could be incorporated into this unit.

MS-PS3-1 Construct and interpret graphical displays of data to describe the relationships of kinetic energy to the mass of an object and to the speed of an object. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on descriptive relationships between kinetic energy and mass separately from kinetic energy and speed. Examples could include riding a bicycle at different speeds, rolling different sizes of rocks downhill, and getting hit by a wiffle ball versus a tennis ball.]

Available Resources For Your Middle School Science Curriculum From iExploreScience

Unit 3: Catastrophic Cycles

In this Earth and space science focused storyline for the middle school science curriculum, students dig into primary and secondary sources to understand the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD in order to launch a learning journey into Earth’s geology.

This storyline opens the door for students to explore matter and energy in Earth’s interior, the geoscience processes that shape Earth’s surface, how Earth’s surface has changed over time (plate tectonics), and the interaction between society and these processes. 

Phenomenon

In 79 CE, a catastrophic eruption destroyed and completely buried great Roman cities on the plain of Campania in Italy, sending them into obscurity for over 1500 years. Late in the 16th century, the ruins of Pompeii were first uncovered, with the discovery of Herculaneum following in the early 1700s. However, a true excavation effort did not begin there until 1738.

Uncovering Pompeii and Herculaneum have provided archaeologists and social scientists with a plethora of knowledge about ancient Roman life and the events of the past. And yet, deadly eruptions like that which destroyed the area around Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE are not things of the past.

Volcanic eruptions happen regularly all over the world, and some of these have been just as cataclysmic as that which Italy experienced in 79 CE.

And yet, human civilization continues on in their shadows.

Excerpt from “Mount Vesuvius Erupts: Earth Tremors and Great Tongues Of Fire
{An iExploreScience Spark Subscription Anchor Experience}

Essential Questions

  • What is inside Earth? How does matter and energy move in Earth’s interior?
  • How do volcanoes form? What happens when volcanoes erupt? What causes volcanic eruptions?
  • How do geoscience processes change Earth’s surface?
  • How has Earth’s surface changed?
  • What is plate tectonic theory?
  • What are the impacts (positive and negative) of geoscience processes in human society?
  • How can we prepare for catastrophic events?
  • How do we study geologic activity?

This Anchor Experience Invites Students To Investigate

  • volcanoes
  • plate tectonics
  • Earth’s structure
  • the rock cycle
  • earthquakes
  • rocks and minerals
  • natural resources
  • catastrophic events

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth Tectonic processes continually generate new ocean sea floor at ridges and destroy old sea floor at trenches. (HS.ESS1.C GBE)
  • ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms. The planet’s systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth’s history and will determine its future.
  • ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions Maps of ancient land and water patterns, based on investigations of rocks and fossils, make clear how Earth’s plates have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart.
  • ESS3.A: Natural Resources Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.
  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations.
  • ESS3.B: Natural Hazards Mapping the history of natural hazards in a region, combined with an understanding of related geologic forces can help forecast the locations and likelihoods of future events.
  • PS4.A: Wave Properties A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude.

Performance Expectations (NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum)

MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the processes of melting, crystallization, weathering, deformation, and sedimentation, which act together to form minerals and rocks through the cycling of Earth’s materials.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the identification and naming of minerals.]

MS-ESS2-2 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how processes change Earth’s surface at time and spatial scales that can be large (such as slow plate motions or the uplift of large mountain ranges) or small (such as rapid landslides or microscopic geochemical reactions), and how many geoscience processes (such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteor impacts) usually behave gradually but are punctuated by catastrophic events. Examples of geoscience processes include surface weathering and deposition by the movements of water, ice, and wind. Emphasis is on geoscience processes that shape local geographic features, where appropriate.]

MS-ESS2-3 Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions. [Clarification Statement: Examples of data include similarities of rock and fossil types on different continents, the shapes of the continents (including continental shelves), and the locations of ocean structures (such as ridges, fracture zones, and trenches).] [Assessment Boundary: Paleomagnetic anomalies in oceanic and continental crust are not assessed.]

MS-ESS3-1 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how these resources are limited and typically non-renewable, and how their distributions are significantly changing as a result of removal by humans. Examples of uneven distributions of resources as a result of past processes include but are not limited to petroleum (locations of the burial of organic marine sediments and subsequent geologic traps), metal ores (locations of past volcanic and hydrothermal activity associated with subduction zones), and soil (locations of active weathering and/or deposition of rock).]

MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded by phenomena that allow for reliable predictions, but others, such as earthquakes, occur suddenly and with no notice, and thus are not yet predictable. Examples of natural hazards can be taken from interior processes (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), surface processes (such as mass wasting and tsunamis), or severe weather events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods). Examples of data can include the locations, magnitudes, and frequencies of the natural hazards. Examples of technologies can be global (such as satellite systems to monitor hurricanes or forest fires) or local (such as building basements in tornado-prone regions or reservoirs to mitigate droughts).]

MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on cause and effect relationships between resources and growth of individual organisms and the numbers of organisms in ecosystems during periods of abundant and scarce resources.]

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on recognizing patterns in data and making warranted inferences about changes in populations, and on evaluating empirical evidence supporting arguments about changes to ecosystems.]

MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

The following standards are tangential to the anchor phenomenon and could be incorporated into this unit.

MS-PS4-1 Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on describing waves with both qualitative and quantitative thinking.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include electromagnetic waves and is limited to standard repeating waves.]

MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on both light and mechanical waves. Examples of models could include drawings, simulations, and written descriptions.]

Available Resources For Your Middle School Science Curriculum From iExploreScience

Unit 4: Solar Energy In The Desert

In Solar Energy In The Desert, students will examine a debate unfolding in the Mojave Desert — should solar farms be installed in delicate desert ecosystems? — in order to develop an understanding of natural resources, including renewable solar energy, and the factors that influence climates.

This bundle also sets the stage to investigate change and stability in ecosystems, particularly the Mojave Desert ecosystem already threatened by climate change.

Phenomenon

What’s the fuss about building solar power plants in the desert? Read more here.

Essential Questions

  • How is our energy produced?
  • What are renewable and nonrenewable resources?
  • What are the pros and cons of different energy sources?
  • Why is the Mojave Desert so hot?
  • What explains patterns in Earth’s climate?
  • How do living things depend on and interact with their environment?
  • How do changes in ecosystems impact organisms and populations?

This Anchor Experience Invites Students To Investigate:

  • solar energy
  • renewable resources
  • climate
  • climate change
  • biomes
  • ecosystems
  • resource availability
  • changes in ecosystems

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns. Variations in density due to variations in temperature and salinity drive a global pattern of interconnected ocean currents.
  • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns. The ocean exerts a major influence on weather and climate by absorbing energy from the sun, releasing it over time, and globally redistributing it through ocean currents. 
  • ESS3.D: Global Climate Change Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.
  • ESS3.A: Natural Resources Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things. Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction.  Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources.  Similarly, predatory interactions may reduce the number of organisms or eliminate whole populations of organisms. Mutually beneficial interactions, in contrast, may become so interdependent that each organism requires the other for survival. Although the species involved in these competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions vary across ecosystems, the patterns of interactions of organisms with their environments, both living and nonliving, are shared. 
  • LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all its populations. Biodiversity describes the variety of species found in Earth’s terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems. The completeness or integrity of an ecosystem’s biodiversity is often used as a measure of its health.

Performance Expectations (NGSS-Aligned Middle School Science Curriculum)

MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on cause and effect relationships between resources and growth of individual organisms and the numbers of organisms in ecosystems during periods of abundant and scarce resources.]

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on recognizing patterns in data and making warranted inferences about changes in populations, and on evaluating empirical evidence supporting arguments about changes to ecosystems.]

MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how patterns vary by latitude, altitude, and geographic land distribution. Emphasis of atmospheric circulation is on the sunlight-driven latitudinal banding, the Coriolis effect, and resulting prevailing winds; emphasis of ocean circulation is on the transfer of heat by the global ocean convection cycle, which is constrained by the Coriolis effect and the outlines of continents. Examples of models can be diagrams, maps and globes, or digital representations.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the dynamics of the Coriolis effect.]

MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century. [Clarification Statement: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.]

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence include grade-appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.]*

The following standards are tangential to the anchor phenomenon and could be incorporated into this unit.

MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on predicting consistent patterns of interactions in different ecosystems in terms of the relationships among and between organisms and abiotic components of ecosystems. Examples of types of interactions could include competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial.]

Available Resources For Your Middle School Science Curriculum From iExploreScience

NGSS Earth Science Standards Yet To Be Addressed

As I mentioned, because I use a phenomenon-first approach, I haven’t mapped out every unit bundle. Once I find my right phenomenon (which may or may not be right for you and your students), I’ll create the next unit bundle. The following standards have yet to be addressed fully in this batch of NGSS earth science unit bundles.

Be sure to check back periodically for updates! {Dumping Grounds is coming soon!}

Missing NGSS Earth Science Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the ways water changes its state as it moves through the multiple pathways of the hydrologic cycle. Examples of models can be conceptual or physical.]

MS-ESS3-1 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how these resources are limited and typically non-renewable, and how their distributions are significantly changing as a result of removal by humans. Examples of uneven distributions of resources as a result of past processes include but are not limited to petroleum (locations of the burial of organic marine sediments and subsequent geologic traps), metal ores (locations of past volcanic and hydrothermal activity associated with subduction zones), and soil (locations of active weathering and/or deposition of rock).]