multiple systems’ interconnections and feedbacks. In addition, Earth is part of a broader system—the solar system—which is itself a small part of one of the many galaxies in the universe.
Because organizing ESS content is complex, given its broad scope and interdisciplinary nature, past efforts to promote earth sciences literacy have presented this content in a wide variety of ways. In this chapter, we begin at the largest spatial scales of the universe and move toward increasingly smaller scales and a more anthropocentric focus. Thus, the first core idea, ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe, describes the universe as a whole and addresses its grand scale in both space and time. This idea includes the overall structure, composition, and history of the universe, the forces and processes by which the solar system operates, and Earth’s planetary history.
The second core idea, ESS2: Earth’s Systems, encompasses the processes that drive Earth’s conditions and its continual evolution (i.e., change over time). It addresses the planet’s large-scale structure and composition, describes its individual systems, and explains how they are interrelated. It also focuses on the mechanisms driving Earth’s internal motions and on the vital role that water plays in all of the planet’s systems and surface processes.
The third core idea, ESS3: Earth and Human Activity, addresses society’s interactions with the planet. Connecting the ESS to the intimate scale of human life, this idea explains how Earth’s processes affect people through natural resources and natural hazards, and it describes as well some of the ways in which humanity in turn affects Earth’s processes. See Box 7-1 for a summary of the core and component ideas.
The committee’s efforts have been strongly influenced by several recent efforts in the ESS community that have codified the essential sets of information in several fields. These projects include the Earth Science Literacy Principles: The Big Ideas and Supporting Concepts of Earth Science , Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Science K-12 , Atmospheric Science Literacy:
Vast amounts of new data, especially from satellites, together with modern computational models, are revealing the complexity of the interacting systems that control Earth’s ever-changing surface. And many of the conclusions drawn from this science, along with some of the evidence from which they are drawn, are accessible to today’s students.