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Geological Processes | NGSS

Geological Processes | NGSS

~25-35 40 to 50 minute class periods

Where should we store our nuclear waste?
Students learn about both gradual and sudden changes to the Earth’s surface, what causes them, and how they are monitored. They also explore how different kinds of rocks are formed and learn about some natural resources, where we find them, and how we use them.

PE Assessment Example: Would you select one of the four suggested sites for storing nuclear waste? Explain. Use evidence from this unit to support your decision and identify any trade-offs.

Geological Processes is part of Issues and Science three year middle school program, designed by SEPUP at the Lawrence Hall of Science. This six to seven week unit anchors the lessons around the the socio-science issue: Where should we store our nuclear waste? Investigative phenomena within the 18 activities connect back to the issue and storyline. This unit builds towards and assesses PEs ESS2-1, ESS2-2, ESS2-3, ESS3-1, ESS3-2.


Content in Geological Processes | NGSS is organized into 18 activities, as follows:

Activity Title Activity Type Activity Overview
1. Storing Nuclear Waste Talking It Over Students are introduced to the compelling issue of determining a central location to store nuclear waste in the United States. In the activity, they learn about nuclear waste and begin to consider the challenges associated with storing radioactive material. The activity elicits students’ initial ideas about natural hazards, which could have an impact on safety of a nuclear waste storage site. The crosscutting concept of patterns helps students make sense of the data presented in this activity.
2. Investigating Groundwater Investigation Students carry out an investigation to learn how water enters and flows through earth materials. They analyze and interpret the data they collect as they compare two different earth materials. In doing so, they learn that aquifers form in locations with certain geological features. Students then reconsider the issue of where to store nuclear waste as they examine a map showing the uneven distribution of aquifers across the continental United States.
3. Modeling Landslides View and Reflect Students learn how scientists use models and technology to develop an understanding of the phenomenon of landslides. They watch and discuss a video showing a team of scientists using a model to investigate how and why landslides happen.
4. Natural Hazards Caused by Earthquakes and Volcanoes Reading By reading cases of real geological events, students learn about natural hazards caused by earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as how these natural hazards are monitored and mitigated.
5. Modeling Vocanic Eruptions Modeling Students use a model to understand what happens during a volcanic eruption. By analyzing and interpreting the data from the model, students learn how the amount of gas in the magma that feeds a volcano can result in more- or less-explosive eruptions. Students consider how the type of eruption might affect the type of igneous rock formed.
6. Mapping Locations of Earthquakes and Volcanoes Investigation In previous activities, students learned about hazards associated with earthquakes and volcanoes. In this activity, students use the science and engineering practice of analyzing and interpreting data as they map the locations of significant earthquakes and major volcanoes around the world. They look for patterns in the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes as a first step in discovering that Earth’s surface is broken into plates. In subsequent activities, students build on this knowledge as they learn about plate movement, its causes, and the consequences of it.
7. Observing Earth's Moving Surface Problem Solving In this activity, students learn how to analyze and interpret data from GPS measurements over time, which they use to determine the rate and direction of tectonic plate movement. They work collaboratively in groups and then share their findings. While students do not provide explanations for the motions shown in the GPS data in this activity, the analyzed data display the types of plate boundary interactions students will encounter in subsequent activities.
8. Beneath Earth's Surface Reading Through a reading about the structure of Earth’s interior, students learn how Earth’s surface is broken into lithospheric plates that move. They integrate information from the reading and a table of data about Earth’s layers to create a scale model of Earth’s interior.
9. Modeling Earthquakes Modeling In previous activities, students have learned that earthquakes occur at plate boundaries, and that some plates move apart, some move towards each other, and move past each other. In this activity, students plan and carry out an investigation using a model to simulate the buildup and release of energy in an earthquake. They investigate cause-and- effect relationships as they choose variables to change in the model.
10. Plate Boundaries Computer Simulation Students use a model to observe the changes to Earth’s lithosphere at plate boundaries. By carefully observing a computer simulation, students investigate how Earth’s surface changes over time due to geological processes caused by plate motion. Students analyze and interpret data from the computer simulation to identify the similarities and differences between the geological processes that happen at the three plate boundaries.
11. Understanding Plate Boundaries Reading Students read about the geological processes that shape Earth’s surface near plate boundaries. They consider how these geological processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales. They apply their understanding of the geological processes happening at plate boundaries and their associated natural hazards to the nuclear waste issue.
12. The Continent Puzzle Investigation Students analyze and interpret data about continent shapes, as well as fossil and rock information from different continents. Students use the patterns found in this data as evidence to explain that the continents have moved great distances, collided, and spread apart over geological time.
13. The Theory of Plate Tectonics View and Reflect Students learn about the development of the theory of plate tectonics, beginning with a review of the fossil and geological evidence that led to Alfred Wegener’s ideas about continental drift. Through watching and discussing a video, students see that scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence and that scientific findings are subject to revision as new evidence becomes available. Finally, students use the evidence they’ve collected throughout the unit to construct an explanation about how plate tectonic processes have shaped Earth’s surface at different spatial and time scales. This activity provides an assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS2-2.
14. What Makes the Plates Move? Laboratory Students learn about the flow of energy and the forces that are thought to drive the movement of Earth’s lithospheric plates. They use a model to discover the conditions necessary for convection to take place, and relate their findings to the flow of energy and resulting movement in Earth’s interior. Students also use a model to learn about the role of gravity in plate motion. This activity provides a formal assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS2-3.
15. The Rock Cycle Investigation Throughout the unit, students have learned about many geological processes that have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales. In this activity, students use a model to connect the cycling of earth materials to the geological processes that result in the formation of different kinds of rock. Students also consider how the flow of energy drives various geological processes that form rock. Finally, students develop a model that describes the cause-and-effect relationships between geological processes and the cycling of Earth’s materials. This activity provides a formal assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS2-1.
16. Rocks as a Resource Reading Students learn about the geological processes that result in the formation of three different natural resources. They connect those processes to maps showing the uneven distribution of these natural resources to make inferences about the past geological activity in those locations. This activity provides a formal assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS3-1, with a focus on mineral and energy resources.
17. Enough Resources for All Investigation Students continue to learn about the limited nature of some natural resources due to the geological processes that create them. In this activity, they model aquifer inputs and outputs, and monitor water levels in aquifers over time. Students then construct an explanation of why aquifers are a limited but renewable resource. This activity provides a formal assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS3-1, with a focus on groundwater resources.
18. Evaluating Site Risk Talking It Over Students analyze and interpret data about four possible nuclear waste disposal sites from maps showing information such as natural hazard risk, location of natural resources, and human population density in the continental United States. Students are given the opportunity to apply their findings as they make a decision about which site should be studied further. Using evidence, they evaluate the risks and trade-offs of storing nuclear waste at each site. Students create connections between scientific knowledge and society by making a recommendation about which site should be considered for the long-term storage of nuclear waste. This activity provides a formal assessment opportunity for Performance Expectation MS-ESS3-2.

Lab-Aids® provides several useful tools to guide you and your students through the Geological Processes unit:

Geological Processes | NGSS

Student Book

The Student Book guides students in exploring a socio-science issue and connected phemonena through a series of varied activity types. Activity types use one of twelve different instructional strategies to apply Science and Engineering Practices to specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts.

SEPUP's integrated literacy strategies help students process new science content, develop their analytical skills, make connections between related concepts, and express their knowledge orally and in writing. The built-in assessment system helps teachers identify students' strengths and weaknesses from the beginning of the unit. This allows them to adjust activities when needed so that all students get the best chance to build their knowledge and appreciation of science. At the back of the Student Book there is an Appendix containing additional resources for students, such as science skills, literacy strategies, and media literacy among others.

Geological Processes | NGSS

Lab-Aids® Science Lab Notebook

A science notebook not only models the way scientists work, but it helps to develop and reinforce students’ science learning and literacy skills.

The Lab-Aids Science Lab Notebook is designed to support best practice note-booking strategies. It includes three-hole punched pages in a two-column design for Cornell-style notes. GraphAnywhere pages allow students to both write and easily create data-tables and graphs anywhere on the page. The unique “Lab-Log” column serves as a blank canvas for drawings, connections, and self-reflective notes. 160 pages total.

Complete Equipment Package

Lab-Aids programs include high-quality equipment for each activity. This includes innovative lab-ware to be used throughout the year, specific solutions and materials for unique labs, as well as items needed for card sorts, modeling, role-plays, and projects.

Materials for up to 5 classes of 32 students, mobile storage cart, Online Portal for one teacher includes online subscription to Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book in English/Spanish (E/S), student sheets (E/S), visual aids (E/S), PowerPoints, online assessment system, LABsent, and supplemental resources

Teacher's Edition and Resources

The SEPUP Teacher Edition (TE) guides you through each activity in the Student Book and helps you see the development of concepts within the big picture of the unit. It helps you set up the equipment from the kit, organize the classroom, conduct activities, and manage practical details, all of which enhance students’ learning environment.

The Teacher Edition text is broken down into several sections, such as Activity Overview, NGSS Connections and Correlations, Materials and Advanced Prep, Teaching Summary, and Background information to name a few. The Teacher Edition is packaged as a color-printed, loose-leaf binder which allows you to personalize it with highlighting, annotations, rearrangements, and insertions. It provides full support for teaching the program. Additional support resources can also found in the Teacher Resource book.

The Teacher Resource (TR) provides background and suggestions to increase the overall effectiveness of implementing the program across all levels of learners. Some sections include: SEPUP’s Approach to Teaching and Learning, Differentiation Strategies for Diverse Learners, Literacy Strategies for Supporting Reading Comprehension and for Enhancing Students’ Writing, and comprehensive instruction on the SEPUP Assessment System. There is also a section containing unit specific resources, such as overviews, unit storyline and phenomena table, NGSS correlations, assessment blueprints, and item banks.

Online Portal for Students

Access to Student online portal for 1 year, which includes: the digital Student Book (Spanish coming soon), additional resources, and LABsent sheets and videos for absent students. Ability to highlight, bookmark and make notes in the Student Book, complete homework and assessments, and communicate with the teacher. Also available as multi-year subscriptions.

Online Portal for Teachers

Access to Teacher online portal for 7 years, which includes: online subscription to the Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book (Spanish coming soon), LABsent sheets & videos for absent students, Editable PowerPoints for each lesson, and integrated online assessment system. Ability to highlight, bookmark, and make notes in personal Student and Teacher books, create and assign homework and assessments, and communicate with students. Available as multi-year subscriptions. Single Sign-On (SSO) available