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Blueprint for Instruction: TXESS Revolution Themes

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 twelve large 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 chapter 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 geohazards.

TXESS Revolution Chapter 2: Earth Outside In: Features observed at surface of our planet are in part a manifestation of Earth’s internal processes. This module introduces learners to plate tectonics as the framework for understanding how the Earth works. Students will discover plate tectonics as scientists originally did, by mapping the locations of earthquakes and volcanoes and examining real data collected by the Deep Sea Drilling Project in 1968. They will learn about plate boundaries, and how the processes that drive plate movements shape the earth. They will examine real data collected by UNAVCO for the EarthScope program to track plate motions, use Google Earth to explore active rifting, and analyze geochemical data to investigate the rates of tectonic processes in the southwest Pacific. Students will know: (1) how plate tectonic theory was developed; (2) how plates move and interact; (3) how scientists measure recent plate motion; (4) how plate reconstructions are created and their limitations.

Time: 15  50-minute class period (about 3 weeks)



Instructional Strategies

ESS TEKS and Literacy Principles

     Time Allotment

Discovering Plate Boundaries

Helps students appreciate the fundamentals of the theory of plate tectonics and its relevance to our modern understanding of earth science.

Direct teaching using lecture in combination with guided inquiry using maps, hands on activities and web-based visualizations.

ESS: 9A, 10A, B, C, E, 11C, D


ES Literacy Principles:  2.4, 3.6, 4.3, 4.5

3 (50-minute) class periods

In the Plate Tectonics Simulation Board Game students consider processes and features along plate boundaries and develop a basic understanding of plate reconstruction models, such as Texas Through Time

Experiential learning using a board game to develop an understanding of web-based tools and visualizations that show plate reconstructions through time

ESS: 9A, 10C, D, 11B, C


ES Literacy Principles: 1.6, 2.1, 2.4, 3.6, 4.3, 4.5

2 (50-minute) class periods

Plate Tectonics and Contributions from Scientific Ocean Drilling

Students use DSDP data to test the hypothesis of seafloor-spreading

Direct teaching with lecture/ video to introduce students to scientific ocean drilling. Guided inquiry using real data; may involve application of Google Earth. Students practice graphing skills.

ESS: 7A, C, 9C, 10A, C, D, E, 11D


ES Literacy Principles: 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 2.1, 2.4, 3.4, 3.6, 4.3, 4.5

2 (50-minute) class periods

Visualizing Relationships between Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Plate Boundaries in the Western U.S. Using the EarthScope Jr. Data Tool

Exploring Plate Motion and Deformation in California Using GPS Time Series Plots

Guided inquiry using real GPS data, and computer-based visualizations and tools (e.g., EarthScope Voyager, Jr.). Integrates concepts in mathematics (e.g., vectors)

ESS: 10D, E, 11B, C, D


ES Literacy Principles: 1.4, 1.7, 3.4, 3.6

5 (50-minute) class periods