Standards, therefore, is to enable all students to achieve scientific literacy-the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.

Although the Standards address many areas of the science program, the one that is probably the most familiar is the content—and for good reason. The content is the heart of the science program, what teachers teach and students learn.

The content standards outline what students need to know, understand, and be able to do at the completion of grades 4, 8, and 12. The following example illustrates statements from one earth science standard at each of these levels.

Example of Statements from the Earth Science Standards at Three Grade Levels

Grade Level

What Students Should Understand


The sun provides the light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the earth.


The sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on the earth's surface, such as growth of plants, winds, ocean currents, and the water cycle. Seasons result from variations in the amount of the sun's energy hitting the surface, due to the tilt of the earth's rotation on its axis and the length of the day.


Heating of earth's surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.

(National Science Education Standards, National Academy Press, 1996)

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