National Standards

Every textbook and educational TV program now publishes a list of standards "covered" by their materials. P2K treats the National Science Education Standards and Project 2061 "Benchmarks" somewhat differently. Using the excellent resources made available by MCREL, we use the standards as a conceptual checklist of the most relevant essential scientific concepts as we begin to structure the combination of video, online and hands-on materials we'll be offering. We've come to think of the standards as a kind of "canon" of key ideas, just as folks like Allan Bloom think of Shakespeare and Dante in the humanities. (We know some people sneer at this--but surely every student deserves to understand something about Copernicus and Darwin?) Newton's gravity, Einstein's general relativity or Herschel's discovery of infrared light are just as much the common heritage of all mankind as great literature, and we hope to find current and even "hip" ways of engaging today's students in exploring them.

We'll share more and more ideas about how PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE allows you to touch on topics already found in your course of instruction in future UPDATES and on the website. We'll even publish detailed correlations with key state science education frameworks to make it easier for you to see how all this can help you meet your teaching goals in the most practical way. But as a beginning, here are some Standards/Benchmarks we plan to cover:

Summary of Standards covered by PASSPORT TO THE UNIVERSE

Science Standard 3:
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it

Science Standard 10:
Understands basic concepts about the structure and properties of matter

Science Standard 11:
Understands energy types, sources, and conversions, and their relationship to heat and temperature

Science Standard 12:
Understands motion and the principles that explain it

Science Standard 13:
Knows the kinds of forces that exist between objects and within atoms

Science Standard 14:
Understands the nature of scientific knowledge

Science Standard 15:
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry

Science Standard 16:
Understands the scientific enterprise

Details and specifics of selected Science Standards/Benchmarks covered, arranged by Grade Level:

Science Standard: 3 Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it

Level II: Upper Elementary (Grades 3-5):
3.2.5 Knows that astronomical objects in space are massive in size and are separated from one another by vast distances (e.g., many stars are more massive than our Sun but so distant they look like points of light)

Level III: Middle School/Jr. High (Grades 6-8):
3.3.1 Knows characteristics of our Sun and its position in the universe (e.g., the Sun is a medium-sized star; it is the closest star to Earth; it is the central and largest body in the Solar System; it is located at the edge of a disk-shaped galaxy)
3.3.4 Knows that gravitational force keeps planets in orbit around the Sun and moons in orbit around the planets
3.3.7 Knows that many billions of galaxies exist in the universe (each containing many billions of stars), and that incomprehensible distances separate these galaxies and stars from one another and from the Earth

Level IV: High School (Grades 9-12):
3.4.1 Knows that although the origin of the universe remains one of the greatest questions in science, current scientific evidence supports the "big bang" theory, which states that between 10 and 20 billion years ago, the entire contents of the universe expanded explosively into existence from a single, hot, dense chaotic mass; our solar system formed from a nebular cloud of dust and gas about 4.6 billion years ago
3.4.2 Knows the ongoing processes involved in star formation and destruction (e.g., stars condense by gravity out of clouds of molecules of the lightest elements; nuclear fusion of light elements into heavier ones occurs in the stars' extremely hot, dense cores, releasing great amounts of energy; some stars eventually explode, producing clouds of material from which new stars and planets condense)
3.4.3 Knows common characteristics of stars in the universe (e.g., types of stars include red and blue giants, white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes; stars differ in size, temperature, and age, but they all appear to be made up of the same elements and to behave according to the same principles; most stars exist in systems of two or more stars orbiting around a common point)
3.4.4 Knows ways in which technology has increased our understanding of the universe (e.g., visual, radio, and x-ray telescopes collect information about the universe from electromagnetic waves; computers interpret vast amounts of data from space; space probes gather information from distant parts of the Solar System; accelerators allow us to simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe) 3.4.5 Knows that evidence suggests that our universe is expanding (e.g., the Doppler shift of light from distant galaxies reaching telescopes on Earth suggests that galaxies are moving away from the Earth; the relationship of the red shift to the "big bang" theory of the origin of the universe)

Science Standard: 10 Understands basic concepts about the structure and properties of matter

Level III: Middle School/Jr. High (Grades 6-8):
10.3.1 Knows that matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms, and different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances

Level IV: High School (Grades 9-12):
10.4.5 Knows the structure of an atom (e.g., negative electrons occupy most of the space in the atom; neutrons and positive protons make up the nucleus of the atom; protons and neutrons are almost two thousand times heavier than an electron; the electric force between the nucleus and electrons holds the atom together)
10.4.6 Knows that the number of electrons in an atom determines whether the atom is electrically neutral or an ion (i.e., electrically neutral atoms contain equal numbers of protons and electrons; a positively charged atom has lost one or more electrons; a negatively charged atom has gained one or more electrons)
10.4.9 Knows that electrons, neutrons, and protons are made up of even smaller constituents

Science Standard: 11 Understands energy types, sources, and conversions, and their relationship to heat and temperature

Level III: Middle School/Jr. High (Grades 6-8):
11.3.3 Knows how the Sun acts as a major source of energy for changes on the Earth's surface (i.e., the Sun loses energy by emitting light; some of this light is transferred to the Earth in a range of wavelengths including visible light, infrared radiation, and ultraviolet radiation)

Level IV: High School (Grades 9-12):
11.4.2 Knows that all energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy (energy of motion), potential energy (depends on relative position), or energy contained by a field (electromagnetic waves)
11.4.5 Knows how the energy associated with individual atoms and molecules can be used to identify the substances they comprise; each kind of atom or molecule can gain or lose energy only in particular discrete amounts, and thus can absorb and emit light only at wavelengths corresponding to these amounts
11.4.6 Knows that nuclear reactions convert a fraction of the mass of interacting particles into energy (fission involves the splitting of a large nucleus into smaller pieces; fusion is the joining of two nuclei at extremely high temperature and pressure) and release much greater amounts of energy than atomic interactions

Science Standard: 12 Understands motion and the principles that explain it

Level II: Upper Elementary (Grades 3-5):
12.2.2 Knows that light can be reflected, refracted, or absorbed

Level III: Middle School/Jr. High (Grades 6-8):
12.3.2 Knows ways in which light interacts with matter (e.g., transmission, including refraction; absorption; scattering, including reflection)
12.3.3 Knows that only a narrow range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation can be seen by the human eye; differences of wavelength within that range of visible light are perceived as differences in color

Level IV: High School (Grades 9-12):
12.4.2 Knows the range of the electromagnetic spectrum (e.g., radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, gamma rays); electromagnetic waves result when a charged object is accelerated or decelerated, and the energy of electromagnetic waves is carried in packets whose magnitude is inversely proportional to the wavelength
12.4.3 Knows that apparent changes in wavelength can provide information about changes in motion because the observed wavelength of a wave depends upon the relative motion of the source and the observer; if either the source or observer is moving toward the other, the observed wavelength is shorter; if either is moving away, the wavelength is longer

Science Standard: 13 Knows the kinds of forces that exist between objects and within atoms

Level II: Upper Elementary (Grades 3-5):
13.2.3 Knows that the Earth's gravity pulls any object toward it without touching it

Level III: Middle School/Jr. High (Grades 6-8):
13.3.2 Understands general concepts related to gravitational force (e.g., every object exerts gravitational force on every other object; this force depends on the mass of the objects and their distance from one another; gravitational force is hard to detect unless at least one of the objects, such as the Earth, has a lot of mass)