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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 content benchmark for the Planetary Evolution module, to which all of the lessons in the module contribute, is:

"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: (9-12), p. 189-190

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: The Planets Take Shape

"The slow movement of material within the earth results from heat flowing out from the deep interior and the action of gravitational forces on regions of different density." BSL: (9-12), p. 74

"Radioactive isotopes are unstable and undergo spontaneous nuclear reactions, emitting particles and/or wavelike radiation. The decay of any one nucleus cannot be predicted, but a large group of identical nuclei decay at a predictable rate. This predictability can be used to estimate the age of materials that contain radioactive isotopes." NSES: (9-12), p. 178

"Earth systems have internal and external sources of energy, both of which create heat. The sun is the major external source of energy. Two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from the Earth's original formation." (The external source/Sun is covered in Lesson 4 of this module.) NSES: (9-12), p. 189

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

Lesson 3: Surface Changes

"The solid crust of the earth--including both the continents and the ocean basins-- consists of separate plates that ride on a denser, hot, gradually deformable layer of the earth. The crust sections move very slowly, pressing against one another in some places, pulling apart in other places. Ocean-floor plates may slide under continental plates, sinking deep into the earth. The surface layers of these plates may fold, forming mountain ranges." BSL: (9-12), p. 74

"Earthquakes often occur along the boundaries between colliding plates, and molten rock from below creates pressure that is released by volcanic eruptions, helping to build up mountains. Under the ocean basins, molten rock may well up between separating plates to create new ocean floor. Volcanic activity along the ocean floor may form undersea mountains, which can thrust above the ocean's surface to become islands." BSL: (9-12), p. 74

"The outward transfer of Earth's internal heat drives convection circulation in the mantle that propels the plates comprising Earth's surface across the face of the globe." NSES: (9-12), p. 189

Lesson 4: Atmosphere and Oceans

"Heating of the Earth's surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents." NSES: (9-12), p. 189

"Evidence for one-celled forms of life--the bacteria--extends back more than 3.5 billion years. The evolution of life caused dramatic changes in the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, which did not originally contain oxygen. NSES: (9-12), p. 190

"Global climate is determined by energy transfer from the sun at and near the Earth's surface. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover and the Earth's rotation, and static conditions such as the position of mountain ranges and oceans." NSES: (9-12), p. 189

Lesson 5: The Living Earth

"The earth is a system containing essentially a fixed amount of each stable chemical atom or element. Each element can exist in several different chemical reservoirs. Each element on earth moves among reservoirs in the solid earth, oceans, atmosphere, and organisms as part of geochemical cycles." NSES: (9-12), p. 189

"Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by the Earth's internal and external sources of energy. These movements are often accompanied by a change in the physical and chemical properties of matter. Carbon, for example, occurs in carbonate rocks such as limestone, in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas, and in all organisms as complex molecules that control the chemistry of life." NSES: (9-12), p. 189

Lesson 6: 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.

I found the Planetary Evolution module to be rigorous and, at the same time, student friendly. It offers an effective approach to addressing model content standards for science.

- D. Keith Patton, West HS, Denver, CO

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.

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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.