The Standards

High School

History of Earth

Students who demonstrate understanding can:




Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks. HS-ESS1-5

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the ability of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks. Examples include evidence of the ages oceanic crust increasing with distance from mid-ocean ridges (a result of plate spreading) and the ages of North American continental crust increasing with distance away from a central ancient core (a result of past plate interactions).

Assessment Boundary: none


Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history. HS-ESS1-6

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using available evidence within the solar system to reconstruct the early history of Earth, which formed along with the rest of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Examples of evidence include the absolute ages of ancient materials (obtained by radiometric dating of meteorites, moon rocks, and Earth’s oldest minerals), the sizes and compositions of solar system objects, and the impact cratering record of planetary surfaces.

Assessment Boundary: none


Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features. HS-ESS2-1

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how the appearance of land features (such as mountains, valleys, and plateaus) and sea-floor features (such as trenches, ridges, and seamounts) are a result of both constructive forces (such as volcanism, tectonic uplift, and orogeny) and destructive mechanisms (such as weathering, mass wasting, and coastal erosion).

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include memorization of the details of the formation of specific geographic features of Earth’s surface.

Science and Engineering Practices

Developing and Using Models

Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed world(s).

Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (HS-ESS2-1)

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Apply scientific reasoning to link evidence to the claims to assess the extent to which the reasoning and data support the explanation or conclusion. (HS-ESS1-6)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Evaluate evidence behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments. (HS-ESS1-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas

PS1.CNuclear Processes

Spontaneous radioactive decays follow a characteristic exponential decay law. Nuclear lifetimes allow radiometric dating to be used to determine the ages of rocks and other materials. (secondary to HS-ESS1-5), (secondary to HS-ESS1-6)

ESS1.CThe History of Planet Earth

Continental rocks, which can be older than 4 billion years, are generally much older than the rocks of the ocean floor, which are less than 200 million years old. (HS-ESS1-5)

Although active geologic processes, such as plate tectonics and erosion, have destroyed or altered most of the very early rock record on Earth, other objects in the solar system, such as lunar rocks, asteroids, and meteorites, have changed little over billions of years. Studying these objects can provide information about Earth’s formation and early history. (HS-ESS1-6)

ESS2.AEarth Materials and Systems

Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes. (HS-ESS2-1) (Note: This Disciplinary Core Idea is also addressed by HS-ESS2-2.)

ESS2.BPlate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

Plate tectonics is the unifying theory that explains the past and current movements of the rocks at Earth’s surface and provides a framework for understanding its geologic history. (secondary to HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS2-1)

Plate movements are responsible for most continental and ocean-floor features and for the distribution of most rocks and minerals within Earth’s crust. (HS-ESS2-1)

Common Core State Standards Connections

  • RST.11-12.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • RST.11-12.8 - Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6)
  • SL.11-12.5 - Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest. (HS-ESS2-1)
  • WHST.9-12.1 - Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • WHST.9-12.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (HS-ESS1-5)
  • HSF-IF.B.5 - Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • HSN-Q.A.1 - Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6), (HS-ESS2-1)
  • HSN-Q.A.2 - Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6), (HS-ESS2-1)
  • HSN-Q.A.3 - Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6), (HS-ESS2-1)
  • HSS-ID.B.6 - Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related. (HS-ESS1-6)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-ESS1-5), (HS-ESS1-6), (HS-ESS2-1)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (HS-ESS2-1)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors