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Here you can find suggested activities based on the National Science Education Standards. Each activity is also marked with an appropriate grade level. Also included are many general Earth science activities that are fun and educational. To access these activities, click on the activity name in the chart below.

Activities Based on the National Science Education Standards

Check out the latest Activity Calendar!

Earth Science
Related Activities
Suggested Grade Level Content Standards
K-4 5-8 9-12 A B C D E F G
A Bit of Engineering              
A Model of Three Faults        
A Paste with Taste      
Analyzing Hurricanes Using Web and Desktop GIS              
Are You a Water Waster              
Birdseed Mining      
Build a Rain Gauge              
Build a Weather Station        
Burning Issues          
Celebrate Wilderness                
Chemistry of Burning          
Chocolate Rock Cycle            
Climate and Temperature            
Connecting With Nature          
Conservation in Action            
Cookie Mining          
Core Sampling      
Critical Zone                  
Cupcake Core Sampling            
Dangerous Atmosphere              
Dating Popcorn      
Deep-Sea Drilling              
Dig Into Soil          
Disaster Supplies Kit          
Discovering Fossils        
Drill Site Dilemma                  
Earth's Hydrologic Cycle      
EarthCaching        
Earthquake Machine        
Earthquake on the Playground        
Energy and Population                
Energy Efficiency      
Engineer a Satellite          
Exploring 'Wild' Places with GIS            
Exploring Caves (guide)      
Exploring Caves (poster)      
Exploring Change with GIS      
Exploring Climate Change with GIS          
Exploring Color Maps                
Exploring Energy with GIS      
Exploring for Petroleum        
Exploring Porosity          
Finding Slope        
Flood          
Food Sources                
Fossil Formation        
Freddy the Fish        
Geography of a Pencil                
Geologic Age      
Geologic Time Scale Analogy            
Geosscience and Petroleum Careers          
Getting the Oil Out            
GIS and Careers      
Glacier Slide            
Global Change      
Gold Panning          
Groundwater Movement      
Hands-On Experiments to Test for Acid-Mine Drainage      
How Can You Test Your Soil?        
How Much Soil Is There?              
Hurricane Tracking        
Ice Core Clues          
Identifying Your Watershed        
Investigating Different Rock Types              
Investigating Soil        
Investigating Water Use in Your Home      
It's About Time          
Know Your Energy Costs        
Land and People- Finding a Balance        
Lightning              
Logs of Straw          
Look Up!                
Looking for Wild Elements            
Magnets at the Core          
Make a Thunderstorm            
Make Your Own Compass            
Making a Cave            
Making Your Own National Park Geologic Tour                
Map-Making Basics              
Mapping a Refuge      
Mapping Quake Risk                
Mapping the Atmosphere                
Mapping Vertical Movements                  
Mapping Your Soil                
Measure for Measure          
Measuring Permeabilities of Soil, Sand, and Gravel                
Mineral Electrical Conductivity                
Mineral Identification          
Model of a Normal Fault      
Model of a Well          
Modeling an Oil Reserve              
Modeling Earthquake Waves        
Modeling Oil and Gas Reservoirs              
Modeling Oil and Gas Reservoirs                  
Monitoring Life in the Rocky Intertidal Ecosystem            
Mud Fossils    
Mystery Mollusc          
Name that Natural Resource        
Natural Gas Formation        
Ocean Currents      
Ocean Currents Change Our Earth          
Oil Trap Model          
Particle Size and Oil Production          
Places on the Planet: Latitude and Longitude              
Plant an Ozone Monitoring Garden          
Predict the Flow                
Products from Petroleum        
Products Made from Petroleum                
Properties of Fluids in Reservoirs          
Properties of Fresh Water and Sea Water          
Recognizing our Dynamic Wetlands        
Ring Of Fire                
Rock Abrasion          
Rock Around the World                
Rock Art in the National Parks        
Rock Pop                
Sea and Ice Salinity            
Sea Level and the Terrapin          
Seismic Calendar          
Seismic Mapping                
Sinkholes in a Cup            
Sky and Cloud Windows          
Soil Color and Redox Chemistry              
Soil Properties        
Soil, Plants, and the Energy Cycle          
Soil, the Forgotten Resource        
Solar Cell Energy Nationwide      
Splish Splash: Water's Journey to my Glass          
Step by Step Weather Observations              
Survey Mark Hunting                
Take the Pulse of Your Classroom              
Texas Rocks                
The EarthTrek Gravestone Project          
The Great Ocean Conveyor          
The Mountain Blows its Top            
The Slope of Land in Your Community            
Third from the Sun    
Tracking Dinosaurs            
Traveling Nitrogen      
Tropical Atlantic Aerosols        
Using Energy Resources Wisely      
Wash This Way            
Watch Out for Landslides                
Water Filtration        
Water, A Never Ending Story        
What Lies Beneath the Upper Crust?          
What's Down There?                
Where Growth Meets Growth        
Wordsearch: Kinds of Tephra              
Your Own El Niño              
Your Own Greenhouse        

In addition to the activities above, we have a classroom activity to accompany the USGS Global GIS CD-ROM found in the 2003 Earth Science Week Toolkit.

Content Standards Legend

A = Earth and Space Science

  • K-4
    1. Properties of earth materials
    2. Objects in the sky
    3. Changes in earth and sky

  • 5-8
    1. Structure of the earth system
    2. Earth's history
    3. Earth in the solar system
  • 9-12
    1. Energy in the earth system
    2. Geochemical cycles
    3. Origin and evolution of the earth system
    4. Origin and evolution of the universe
Back to the Top

B = Physical Science

  • K-4
    1. Properties of objects and materials
    2. Position and motion of objects
    3. Light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

  • 5-8
    1. Properties and changes of properties in matter
    2. Motions and forces
    3. Transfer of energy

  • 9-12
    1. Structure of atoms
    2. Structure and properties of matter
    3. Chemical reactions
    4. Motions and forces
    5. Conservation of energy and increase in disorder
    6. Interactions of energy and matter


Back to the Top

C = Life Science

  • K-4
    1. The characteristics of organisms
    2. Life cycles of organisms
    3. Organisms and environments
  • 5-8
    1. Structure and function in living systems
    2. Reproduction and heredity
    3. Regulation and behavior
    4. Populations and ecosystems
    5. Diversity and adaptations of organisms
  • 9-12
    1. The cell
    2. Molecular basis of heredity
    3. Biological evolution
    4. Interdependence of organisms
    5. Matter, energy, and organization in living systems
    6. Behavior of organisms

Back to the Top

D = Science and Technology

  • K-4
    1. Abilities of technological design
    2. Understanding about science and technology
    3. Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans

  • 5-8
    1. Abilities of technological design
    2. Understandings about science and technology

  • 9-12
    1. Abilities of technological design
    2. Understandings about science and technology

Back to the Top

E = Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

  • K-4
    1. Personal health
    2. Characteristics and changes in populations
    3. Types of resources
    4. Changes in environments
    5. Science and technology in local challenges

  • 5-8
    1. Personal health
    2. Populations, resources, and environments
    3. Natural hazards
    4. Risks and benefits
    5. Science and technology in society
  • 9-12
    1. Personal and community health
    2. Population growth
    3. Natural resources
    4. Environmental quality
    5. Natural and human-induced hazards
    6. Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

Back to the Top

F = History and Nature of Science

  • K-4
    1. Science as a human endeavor
  • 5-8
    1. Science as a human endeavor
    2. Nature of science
    3. History of science
  • 9-12
    1. Science as a human endeavor
    2. Nature of scientific knowledge
    3. Historical perspectives

Back to the Top

G = Science as Inquiry

  • K-4
    1. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    2. Understanding about scientific inquiry
  • 5-8
    1. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    2. Understandings about scientific inquiry
  • 9-12
    1. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    2. Understandings about scientific inquiry

Back to the Top


The National Science Education Standards

The National Science Education Standards provide a vision of science literacy for all students in our nation's schools. The content standards of NSES outline what students ought to know, understand, and be able to do at various stages of their K-12 education. Inquiry should play a central role in developing students' understandings. The Standards are a call for action from individuals and organizations at all levels of the system. Thus, standards for science teaching, professional development of science teachers, assessment, science education programs, and science education systems are incorporated into the Standards as well. Responsibility for providing the support necessary to attain science literacy falls on everyone involved in the science education system.

The K-4 Earth science standards target students' understandings of properties of Earth materials, objects in the sky, and changes in the Earth and sky. Science lessons for students at these grade levels should focus on observing the objects and materials in their environment; distinguishing one from another; noting their properties, patterns, and changes; and developing explanations of how things became what they are. Activities include observing changes in weather and in the positions of objects in the day and night sky, as well as examining the properties of Earth materials, such as soil, rocks, water, and fossils.

In grades 5-8, students build upon understandings gained through observation in earlier grades to develop an understanding of the Earth and solar system as a set of closely related systems. The rock and water cycles provide an opportunity to examine interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. Earth history can be examined to gather evidence about the CO-evolution of Earth's main features: the distribution of land and sea, crustal features, atmospheric composition, global climate, and populations within the biosphere. The study of earthquakes and volcanoes provides evidence necessary to better understand the nature and features of the dynamic geosphere. Students should also begin to construct mental models that explain the visual and physical relationships among objects within the solar system.

Earth and space science standards within grades 9-12 continue the system's approach by focusing on matter, energy, crustal dynamics, geochemical processes, and the expanded time scales needed to understand changes within the Earth system. Students in these grades should engage in examinations of the energy sources and processes which drive geochemical cycles within and on the planet. They are also ready to comprehend more abstract and long-term phenomena, including explanations for plate tectonics, the evolution of life, and the solar system.


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