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Level 8: Earth and space science

Who are our students?

The year 13 students have a broad range of ability, with a small but strong group each year doing scholarship assessment. Some have Earth and space science as their only science subject, but others take this subject as complementary to another science subject or geography. Often these students are “refugees” from year 12 physics and chemistry and so do not have strong physics or chemistry skills. They enjoy stories and relating their learning to current events – we include lots of scientific literacy (and literacy in science) in this course as well. Year 13 Earth and space science leads on to careers in earth and environmental sciences. We do not use prescribed texts for this subject, which gives us the flexibility to follow student interest.

Focus statements

  • Scientists connect their new ideas to current and historical scientific knowledge.
  • Evidence needs to be tested for validity and reliability.
  • How a message is communicated can change the message.
  • The Earth is a single system with four dynamically interconnected “spheres”.
  • Human activities are intimately interconnected with the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere and this changes over time.
  • Distance and time scales in Earth and space systems vary greatly.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • use relevant information to develop coherent understandings of socio-scientific issues in an Earth and Space Science context to identify possible personal and societal responses
  • use models to understand and demonstrate complex relationships
  • evaluate sources of information and methods of communication
  • understand the interrelationships between the four spheres and how human activities interact with these
  • understand planetary and astronomical distance and time scales.

Possible learning activities

  • Use techniques such as modelling and satellite imaging to understand the processes of Earth and space systems.
  • Evaluate sources of information for bias, misrepresentation, credibility, accuracy, balance, consistency, and corroboration.
  • Investigate a socio-scientific issue (for example, should we go to Mars; should we sequester excess carbon dioxide in underground geological formations; is fracking harmful?)
  • Learn about some of the space probes that have visited different parts of the solar system (not only other planets and moons, but also asteroids and comets).
  • Investigate the exchange of carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere by carrying out practical investigations and processing and interpreting secondary data.
  • Describe how to detect bodies such as Kuiper Belt Objects and extra-solar planets.
  • Study data from tree rings, and ice cores from glaciers or Antarctica, to find out about climate fluctuations and geological history.
  • Research the effects of sunspot cycles and solar flares on modern communications.
  • Find out how Polynesians discovered and navigated around the Pacific Ocean using their knowledge of astronomy and ocean currents.
  • Use data and information to explain:
    • the role of the ocean in absorbing excess carbon dioxide
    • the effect of the ocean’s acidity on ocean ecosystems.
  • Use models, diagrams, photographs, and texts to demonstrate:
    • the key processes within the atmosphere (such as the formation of winds)
    • the vast distance and time scales of the universe
    • the effect of human activities in unbalancing the cycles of the Earth system, with significant consequences for all parts of the Earth system.
  • Illustrate how the transmission, reflection, absorption, and scattering of all types of electromagnetic radiation and sound can aid the exploration of Earth and space systems.
  • Investigate the advantages and disadvantages of manned and unmanned space travel.
  • Explore a recent astronomical event or discovery and connect the new ideas associated with it to current and historical scientific knowledge.

Possible assessments

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

  • Earth and space science 3.2: Investigate a socio-scientific issue in an Earth and space science context
  • Earth and space science 3.3: Demonstrate understanding of techniques investigating geological events
  • Earth and space science 3.4: Demonstrate understanding of aspects of interactions between ocean and atmosphere
  • Earth and space science 3.6: Investigate an aspect of astronomy
  • Earth and space science 3.7: Demonstrate understanding of waves applied to Earth and space contexts
  • Agricultural and horticultural science 3.5: Analyse a New Zealand primary production environmental issue

Last updated April 30, 2013