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The Curriculum Cosmic Evolution Planetary Evolution Origin of Life Evolution of Life Hominid Evolution Evolution of Technology
Standards & Assessment

The primary benchmark for Cosmic Evolution module, to which all of the lessons in the module contribute, is:

"On the basis of scientific evidence, the universe is estimated to be over ten billion years old. The current theory is that its entire contents expanded explosively from a hot, dense, chaotic mass. Stars condensed by gravity out of clouds of molecules of the lightest elements until nuclear fusion of the light elements into heavier ones began to occur. Fusion released great amounts of energy over millions of years. Eventually, some stars exploded, producing clouds of heavy elements from which other stars and planets could later condense. The process of star formation and destruction continues." BSL: (9-12), p. 65

The following standards and benchmarks are specific to lessons in the module:

Lesson 1: Introduction/Pre-Assessment

The pre-assessment concept map activity provides insight into students' understanding of earlier grade-level standards and benchmarks that pertain to the module.

Lesson 2: What's in the Sky?

"Increasingly sophisticated technology is used to learn about the universe. Visual, radio and x-ray telescopes collect information from across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves; computers handle an avalanche of data and increasingly complicated computations to interpret them; space probes send back data and materials from the remote parts of the solar system; and accelerators give subatomic particles energies that simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe before stars formed." BSL: (9-12), p. 65

"Accelerating electric charges produce electromagnetic waves around them. A great variety of radiations are electromagnetic waves: radio waves, microwaves, radiant heat, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays. These wavelengths vary from radio waves, the longest, to gamma rays, the shortest. In empty space, all electromagnetic waves move at the same speed." BSL: (9-12), p. 92

Lesson 3: Cosmic Distances

"The sun is many thousands of times closer to the earth than any other star. Light from the sun takes a few minutes to reach the earth, but light from the next nearest star takes a few years to arrive. The trip to that star would take the fastest rocket thousands of years. Some distant galaxies are so far away that their light takes several billion years to reach the earth. People on earth, therefore, see them as they were that long ago in the past." BSL: (6-8), p. 64

"The sun is a medium-sized star located near the edge of a disk-shaped galaxy of stars, part of which can be seen as a glowing band of light that spans the sky on a very clear night. The universe contains many billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains many billions of stars. To the naked eye, even the closest of these galaxies is no more than a dim, fuzzy spot." BSL: (6-8), p. 64

"Make and interpret scale drawings." BSL: (9-12), p. 297

Lesson 4: Origin of the Universe

"The origin of the universe remains one of the greatest questions in science. The "big bang" theory places the origin between 10 and 20 billion years ago, when the universe began in a hot, dense state; according to this theory, the universe has been expanding ever since." NSES: (9-12), p. 190

"The observed wavelength of a wave depends upon the relative motion of the source and the observer. If either is moving toward the other, the observed wavelength is shorter; if either is moving away, the wavelength is longer. Because the light seen from almost all distant galaxies has longer wavelengths than comparable light here on earth, astronomers believe that the whole universe is expanding." BSL: (9-12), p. 92

Lesson 5: Formation of Galaxies

"Gravitation is a universal force that each mass exerts on any other mass. The strength of the gravitational attractive force between two masses is proportional to the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them." NSES: (9-12), p. 180

"Early in the history of the universe, matter, primarily the light atoms hydrogen and helium, clumped together by gravitational attraction to form countless trillions of stars. Billions of galaxies, each of which is a gravitationally bound cluster of billions of stars, now form most of the visible mass in the universe." NSES: (9-12), p.190

Lesson 6: Evolution of Stars

"The stars differ from each other in size, temperature and age, but they appear to be made up of the same elements that are found on the earth and to behave according to the same physical principles. Unlike the sun, most stars are in systems of two or more stars orbiting around one another." BSL: (9-12), p.65

"Stars produce energy from nuclear reactions, primarily the fusion of hydrogen to form helium. These and other processes in stars have led to the formation of all the other elements." NSES: (9-12), p. 190

"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. These wavelengths can be used to identify the substance." NSES: (9-12), p. 180

Lesson 7: Closing

The closing assessment activities are a sampling of key ideas from across all of the lessons and address all of the standards and benchmarks from the lessons. The inclusion of main concepts in the concept map will vary by student.

Other standards and benchmarks are addressed across the lessons of the module. These include the following:

History and Nature of Science

"Science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism, as scientists strive for the best possible explanations about the natural world." NSES: (9-12), p. 201

"The historical perspective of scientific explanations demonstrates how scientific knowledge changes by evolving over time, almost always building on earlier knowledge." NSES: (9-12), p. 204

Abilities to Do Inquiry

"Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence." NSES: (9-12), p. 175

"Use tables, charts, and graphs in making arguments and claims in oral and written presentations." BSL: (9-12), p. 297


The content, abilities, and skills to be achieved by students in the Voyages Through Time curriculum are based on standards from the National Science Education Standards (NSES), National Research Council, 1996, and on benchmarks from Benchmarks for Science Literacy (BSL), American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993.


Student Activity
Concept Map
1.1 Introduction   *     Not to be “graded”
2.1 What We do See 1     *  
2.2 What We Don’t See 1     * Reader article
2.3 Cosmic Objects 1   *   Project assigned
3.1 The Solar System 1     *  
3.2 Milky Way and Beyond   *   * Map for quiz prep
4.1 The Big Bang 1   * *  
4.2 The Early Universe       *  
4.3 Cosmic Timeline 1   *    
5.1 What is Gravity 2     * Reader article
5.2 Galaxies and Stars   *     Map for quiz prep
6.1 Stellar Spectra 2   * * Reader article
6.2 Stellar Diversity       * Reader article
6.3 Life Cycles of Stars 1     *  
6.4 We Are Stardust     *    
7.1 Concept Map   *     Could be graded
7.2 Module Test     **   Unit test


Student activity sheets are completed during class and/or as homework assignments.
Some student activity sheets are more than one page.
Concept maps in 3.2 and 5.2 are intended as preparation for quizzes.
Students take notes during many activities, which also may be assessed.

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