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

What National Standards and Benchmarks are Addressed?

The content and instructional approach of the Voyages Through Time curriculum address national standards. The content is based on standards from the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) and on benchmarks from the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1993). The instructional approach addresses teaching standards as given in the National Science Education Standards. To see how the Voyages Through Time curriculum correlates with the California Science Standards, click here.

Curriculum-level content standards and benchmarks

The Voyages Through Time curriculum, all six modules together, contribute to students' understanding and abilities regarding the following:


"Evolution is a series of changes, some gradual and some sporadic, that accounts for the present form and function of objects, organisms, and natural and designed systems. The general idea of evolution is that the present arises from materials and forms of the past. Although evolution is most commonly associated with modification of organisms from common ancestors, evolution also describes changes in the universe." National Science Education Standards (NSES), p. 119

"In evolutionary change, the present arises from the materials and forms of the past, more or less gradually, and in ways that can be explained." Benchmarks for Science Literacy (BSL), p. 275


"Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models. Communicate and defend a scientific argument." NSES, pp. 175-6


"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, p. 201

"Scientific evidence must meet certain criteria. First and foremost, they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature, and must make accurate predictions, when appropriate, about systems being studied. They should also be logical, respect the rules of evidence, be open to criticism, report methods and procedures, and make knowledge public. Explanations on how the natural world changes based on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, mystical inspiration, superstition, or authority may be personally useful and socially relevant, but they are not scientific." NSES, p. 201

"Because all scientific ideas depend on experimental and observational confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as new evidence becomes available. The core ideas of science such as the conservation of energy or the laws of motion have been subjected to a wide variety of confirmations and are therefore unlikely to change in the areas to which they have been tested. In areas where data or understanding are incomplete, such as the details of human evolution or questions surrounding global warming, new data may well lead to changes in current ideas or resolve current conflicts. In situations where information is still fragmentary, it is normal for scientific ideas to be incomplete, but this is also where the opportunity for making advances may be greatest." NSES, p. 201

Timeline activities

"Make and interpret scale drawings." BSL, p. 297

Module-level standards and benchmarks

Each of the six modules in the VTT curriculum addresses specific content standards and benchmarks. The following indicates only the primary one for each module. For a complete list for each module, see The Modules.

Cosmic Evolution: "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, p. 65

Planetary Evolution: "Interactions among the solid earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and organisms have resulted in the ongoing evolution of the earth system. We can observe some changes such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on a human time scale, but many processes such as mountain building and plate movements take place over hundreds of millions of years." NSES, pp. 189-90

Origin of Life: "Life on earth is thought to have begun as simple, one-celled organisms about 4 billion years ago. During the first 2 billion years, only single-celled microorganisms existed, but once cells with nuclei developed about a billion years ago, increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms evolved." BSL, p. 125

Evolution of Life: "Natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the fossil record of ancient life forms, as well as for the striking molecular similarities observed among the diverse species of living organisms." NSES, p. 185

"The basic idea of biological evolution is that the earth's present-day species developed from earlier, distinctly different species." BSL, p.125

Hominid Evolution: "Natural selection provides the following mechanism for evolution: Some variation in heritable characteristics exists within every species, some of these characteristics give individuals an advantage over others in surviving and reproducing, and the advantaged offspring, in turn, are more likely than others to survive and reproduce. The proportion of individuals that have advantageous characteristics will increase." BSL, p. 125

Evolution of Technology: "Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Scientific inquiry is driven by the desire to understand the natural world, and technological design is driven by the need to meet human needs and solve human problems. Technology, by its nature, has a more direct effect on society than science because its purpose is to solve human problems, help humans adapt, and fulfill human aspirations. Technological solutions may create new problems...." NSES, p. 192-3

Teaching Standards

The Voyages Through Time curriculum assists teachers in addressing the following teaching standards from the National Science Education Standards (NSES):

Teaching Standard A:

"Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program for their students."

VTT is a yearlong curriculum in six sequential modules that are based on inquiry. The content has been selected to engage students in scientific explanations of "where do we come from" and "how did we get here?" It has been carefully designed to help early high school students come to understand the answers to these questions.

Teaching Standard B:

"Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning."

VTT uses the BSCS "5 E's" instructional model of guided inquiry. The teacher is the instructional director, facilitating students' explorations of scientific phenomena and guiding their explanations of their experiences.

Teaching Standard C:

"Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning."

A variety of formative and summative assessments are provided in VTT to guide instruction and to determine student achievement: concept maps, quizzes, written summaries, projects, and tests. Each activity concludes with an evaluation - the fifth "E" of the "5 E's.

Teaching Standard D:

"Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science."

Each VTT module is divided into lessons made up of activities. As a set, the activities develop the concepts and skills identified for a lesson. All of the media materials and resources needed are provided on the teacher and student CD-ROMs.

Teaching Standard E:

"Teachers of science develop communities of science learners that reflect the intellectual rigor of scientific inquiry and the attitudes and social values conducive to science learning."

Many of the activities require students to share their observations and the ideas based on these observations with others in both small and whole group discussions. Information and resources to assist teachers with collaborative learning are provided in the section on the Instructional Model.


A variety of assessments are provided throughout the VTT modules for students and teachers to determine student progress: worksheets, quizzes, concept maps, projects, and a module test. Multiple assessments are provided to give students several ways to show that they have learned, and to give the teacher options in evaluating students' performances for the purpose of assigning grades. An assessment grid is available for each module, and can be accessed from the Standards page at the module level.

Some of the VTT assessments are embedded and formative in nature. That is, they are part of the instructional tasks and are used to monitor and guide learning while instruction is in progress. Others are summative assessments, which are intended for use in final evaluations of students' achievement of learning objectives. Yet other assessments in VTT can serve both instructional (formative) and evaluative (summative) purposes.

Student activity sheets (worksheets) and end-of-activity summary paragraphs are embedded, formative assessments. Students complete these as part of activities, recording information and ideas. If desired, these can be used in determining a "daily work" or participation grade. They can be considered similar to notebooks or journals which many science teachers have their students keep.

Quizzes are used as short, summative assessments during the course of the module. They are usually placed after every one or two lessons. The quizzes are composed of a few multiple choice and/or short answer questions.

The module test is a sampling of the key concepts and skills from the entire module. Each lesson, with the exception of the first and last lessons, is represented by two or more questions on the test. The test is composed of multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and one extended essay question. Note: the Evolution of Technology module does not have a test.

Concept maps in VTT serve both instructional and assessment purposes. All of the modules begin with a pre-assessment concept map task that is used to identify students' prior knowledge about the main topic; for example, in the Cosmic Evolution module this is "the universe." These initial maps should not be used for evaluation of students or grading. Rather, they are intended to provide both students and the teacher with a representation of current understanding. The pre-assessment maps can also be compared to subsequent maps to reflect on learning.

Concept maps are also used during the module as review tasks in preparation for quizzes. If desired, these maps can be evaluated and graded; students could also just be given credit, or a daily grade, for doing these maps. And, each module concludes with a post-assessment concept map. As with the interim maps, these can be evaluated and graded or just credited.

Projects in VTT also serve both instructional and assessment purposes. Each module has a project, which is completed over an extended period of time. Doing the projects contributes to student understanding of concepts and/or development of skills; the finished projects serve as assessments and can be evaluated for grading purposes. In the Evolution of Technology module, the project is the major part of the work done by students and it replaces quizzes and the module test.

Evaluation plans are, of course, left to the individual teacher's discretion. Before beginning a module, determine what your grading scheme is going to be and inform your students. One way of combining evaluations of the various assessments to obtain letter or numerical grades is to assign percentages.

For example:

  • Student Activity Sheets, Summary Paragraphs, and Project (if applicable) (e.g. 40%)
  • Quizzes (e.g. 20%)
  • Concept Maps (interim maps and post-assessment map) (e.g. 20%)
  • Module Test (e.g. 20%)

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Voyages Through Time is an integrated high school science curriculum for ninth or tenth grade based on the theme of evolution and delivered on CD-ROM.