Unit Overview

In Mosa Mack’s Earth’s Spheres unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on the interaction of Earth’s spheres.

  • Lesson 1
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    Lesson 1: The Solve

    Students work together to complete a Earth’s Spheres Vocabulary Mind Map before helping JoJo and Felix solve the mystery of how Earth’s spheres are connected. By the end of The Solve, students discover that an event that occurs in one sphere does not exist in isolation since Earth’s spheres interact in a variety of ways. (75 mins)

  • Lesson 2
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    Lesson 2: The Lab

    Students travel to four stations to explore pesticides, coal mining, coral reefs, and landfills in order to determine how the event/activity impacts one or more of Earth’s spheres. Following the station exploration, students will design an infographic to show the interaction of Earth’s spheres at their favorite station. (130–155 mins)

  • Lesson 3
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    Lesson 3: The Engineer

    Students take a deep dive into the hydrosphere by observing a demonstration and graphing the amount of freshwater and saltwater. They then develop and design two models device capable of containing and cleaning an oil spill and complete a challenge. (220 mins)

  • Next Generation Science Standards
    Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact. [Clarification Statement: Examples could include the influence of the ocean on ecosystems, landform shape, and climate; the influence of the atmosphere on landforms and ecosystems through weather and climate; and the influence of mountain ranges on winds and clouds in the atmosphere. The geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere are each a system.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to the interactions of two systems at a time.]
    Describe and graph the amounts of salt water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to oceans, lakes, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and polar ice caps, and does not include the atmosphere.]
    Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
  • Inquiry Scale
    • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
    • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
    • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.
  • Common Misconceptions
    • Students associate freshwater with water on land found in streams, lakes, aquifers, ponds, rivers, snow and ice. Remind students that glaciers and icebergs also contain large volumes of freshwater on the planet.
    • Learners initially think that events on Earth are not interconnected. Emphasize to students that Earth’s spheres are interconnected and events that occur in one sphere will ultimately impact other spheres on the planet.
    • Student tend to believe that the hydrosphere consists of only the liquid water on the planet. Remind students that the hydrosphere also includes the frozen water (ice and snow) as well as the water vapor in the atmosphere.
    • Students tend to limit their identification of the biosphere to humans, plants, and animals. Emphasize to students that anything living is part of the biosphere, including microbes (bacteria and some fungi species) that are microscopic.
  • Vocabulary
      • Atmosphere
      • Hydrosphere
      • Geosphere
      • Biosphere
      • Interact
  • Content Expert
    • Joanna Pelc
      NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office Expertise: Earth Science, Applied Mathematics
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