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Level 7: Earth and space science

Who are our students?

The sample programme here is from a small urban girls’ school. The year 12 students have a broad range of ability. Some take Earth and space science as their main or only science subject, while others take it to complement another science subject or geography. These students enjoy stories and relating their learning to current events – we include lots of scientific literacy in this course. They often do not have strong physics or chemistry skills, but year 12 Earth and space science can lead on to careers in earth and environmental sciences. There are as yet no texts for this subject, which allows us to be flexible and follow student interest.

Focus statements

  • Earth scientists and astronomers use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet and beyond.
  • Scientists carry out investigations such classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, and fair testing.
  • A scientific perspective is important in many national and global issues – for example, understanding natural hazards.
  • Earth is a complex and changing system in which rock, water, air, and life are all interconnected.
  • Earth is dynamically part of the solar system and beyond.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • understand and use different types of scientific investigation to gain information about and an understanding of processes in the Earth system and astronomical processes
  • use scientific conventions when communicating complex ideas to a wider audience
  • use the science underpinning national and global issues to justify a point of view
  • understand how the internal heat source of Earth and the external heat source of the sun together drive the Earth system
  • understand how interacting processes within planet Earth cause extreme planetary events
  • understand the life cycles of stars, planets, and moons, including a consideration of energy changes.

Possible learning activities

  • Carry out an investigation showing how the relative energy from the sun changes at different times of the day, or over two or three seasons.
  • Use a telescope to look at nebulae, stars of different colours, planets, and open and closed star clusters.
  • Relate the colours and masses of different stars to their life cycles.
  • Follow the passage of selected planets in the night sky over several months.
  • Find out how the planets in our solar system were formed.
  • Use models, diagrams, photographs, and texts, to demonstrate:
    • key processes within the geosphere, such as tectonic plate movement
    • the causes of extreme events, such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis
    • how thermohaline circulation distributes heat around the world.
  • Take a field trip to a local geological feature to study the relationship between the type of rocks and the feature.
  • Draw flowcharts to show how the heat energy from the sun and the centre of the Earth drive important Earth cycles and processes.
  • Find out how the electromagnetic spectrum can be used for space exploration.
  • Explore the relationship between weather, climate, and other natural phenomena to predict events such as the arrival of seasons (as developed in Mātauranga Māori). Include traditional Māori stories based on these themes, such as stories about Tāwhirimātea and Ruāmoko.
  • Explore the background to Matariki and the reason for its celebration.
  • Research the science of a national or global issue in earth and space science to form and justify a position (for example, the classification of Pluto, what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, the removal (and storage?) of nuclear waste).

Possible assessments

Learning could be assessed using a variety of standards – for example:

  • AS91187 Earth and space science 2.1: Carry out a practical Earth and space science investigation (4 credits, internal)
  • AS91188 Earth and space science 2.2: Examine an Earth and space science issue and the validity of the information communicated to the public (4 credits, internal)
  • AS91189 Earth and space science 2.3: Investigate geological processes in a New Zealand locality (4 credits, internal)
  • AS91191 Earth and space science 2.5: Demonstrate understanding of extreme Earth events in New Zealand (4 credits, external)
  • AS91192 Earth and space science 2.6: Demonstrate understanding of stars and planetary systems (4 credits, external)
  • AS91193 Earth and space science 2.7: Demonstrate understanding of physical principles related to the Earth System (4 credits, external)
  • AS91297 Agricultural and horticultural science 2.9: Demonstrate understanding of land use for primary production in New Zealand (4 credits, internal)
  • AS91298 Agricultural and horticultural science 2.10: Report on the environmental impact of the production of a locally produced primary product (4 credits, internal)

Last updated December 12, 2012