Course title

Earth/Environmental Science 1 VIRTUAL



Course description

This challenging course provides students with an honors-level earth science curriculum, focusing on geology, oceanography, astronomy, weather, and climate. The program consists of online lessons, an associated reference book, collaborative activities, and hands-on laboratories students can conduct at home. The course prepares students for advanced studies in geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy courses, and gives them more sophisticated experience in implementing scientific methods. Additional honors assignments include debates, research papers, extended collaborative laboratories, and virtual laboratories.

SEMESTER ONEUnit 1: Earth Science and Systems

Earth science is one of the most fascinating topics in all the sciences, and students will learn about its place among the sciences in this unit. Students will explore what earth science is, learn about its breadth and history, and study the contributions of earth scientists to the betterment of life for all of us. Students will also study aspects of scientific methods and use those methods in a laboratory setting.

  • Lesson 1: Earth Science Semester 1 Introduction
  • Lesson 2: Why Study Earth Science?
  • Lesson 3: Historical Contributions in Earth Science 1
  • Lesson 4: Historical Contributions in Earth Science 2
  • Lesson 5 : Spheres as Earth Systems
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Topographical Maps
  • Lesson 7: Earth Systems and Interactions
  • Lesson 8: Laboratory: Modeling Earth Science Processes 1
  • Lesson 9: Laboratory: Modeling Earth Science Processes 2
  • Lesson 10: Your Choice
  • Lesson 11: Unit Test

Unit 2: Dynamic Earth

Students will confront Earth as a dynamic planet which is, in many ways, more active than any other planet in our solar system. The core idea of plate tectonics and its effect on Earth's history and its current geological activity helps students make sense of our world. Knowledge of the origin and distribution of volcanoes and earthquakes helps students make even greater sense of Earth's dynamic nature.

  • Lesson 1: Introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Lesson 2: Pangaea and Continental Drift
  • Lesson 3: Moving Plates
  • Lesson 4: Plate Boundaries 1
  • Lesson 5: Plate Boundaries 2
  • Lesson 6: Plate Tectonics: Historical Perspective
  • Lesson 7: Where Earthquakes and Volcanoes Occur
  • Lesson 8: Structure of Earth's Interior
  • Lesson 9: Laboratory: Island Chain Formation
  • Lesson 10: How Earthquakes Happen
  • Lesson 11: Your Choice
  • Lesson 12: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 13: Locating Earthquakes
  • Lesson 14: Earthquakes and Waves
  • Lesson 15: Laboratory: Earthquake Epicenter
  • Lesson 16: How Volcanoes Form
  • Lesson 17: Volcanic Zones
  • Lesson 18: Mountain Building
  • Lesson 19: Impact of Geologic Events
  • Lesson 20: Unit Test

Unit 3: Composition of the Earth

Study of the minerals and rocks that comprise Earth is students' most tangible way to engage in the nature of the Earth's structure. In this unit, students tackle the nature of rocks, their origin, distribution, and transformation. After establishing a firm basis of Earth materials, students confront weathering and erosion and the development and change in Earth's landforms.

  • Lesson 1 : Minerals on Earth
  • Lesson 2: Mineral Properties
  • Lesson 3: Valuable Minerals
  • Lesson 4: Crystal Structures
  • Lesson 5: Rocks and Their Mineral Composition
  • Lesson 6: Three Kinds of Rocks
  • Lesson 7: Laboratory: Rocks and Minerals 1
  • Lesson 8: Laboratory: Rocks and Minerals 2
  • Lesson 9: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 10: Rock Origins 1
  • Lesson 11: Rock Origins 2
  • Lesson 12: The Rock Cycle
  • Lesson 13 : Earth Materials Change
  • Lesson 14 : Weathering and Erosion
  • Lesson 15: Land Use and Its Effects
  • Lesson 16: Your Choice
  • Lesson 17: Unit Test

Unit 4: Geologic History

The history of Earth is told in its rocks: how the planet was formed and what changes it has gone through. Students study changes that have taken place in Earth's long history, examining geological time and the changes in living things over time. Students will also begin an investigation of rocks and minerals.

  • Lesson 1: Earth's History
  • Lesson 2: Earth's History and Change
  • Lesson 3: The Fossil Record
  • Lesson 4: Age of Geologic Features
  • Lesson 5: Earth's History Written in Rocks
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Interpreting Geologic History, Day 1
  • Lesson 7: Laboratory: Interpreting Geologic History, Day 2
  • Lesson 8: Your Choice
  • Lesson 9 : Unit Test

Unit 5: Earth's Atmosphere

The structure of our atmosphere has a profound effect on Earth and its living things. In this unit students first develop a firm platform for understanding how the sun's energy is the basis for many of the characteristics of our atmosphere. Knowledge of how the sun's energy leads to the development of student understanding of wind and global circulation of air. As in other units, students' understanding of facts stems from their mastery of the "big ideas" of earth science.

  • Lesson 1: Layers in the Atmosphere
  • Lesson 2: Composition of the Atmosphere
  • Lesson 3: History of Earth's Atmosphere
  • Lesson 4: Atmosphere and Life on Earth
  • Lesson 5: Laboratory: Barometer 1
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Barometer 2
  • Lesson 7: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 8: The Sun and Energy
  • Lesson 9: Solar Radiation
  • Lesson 10: Temperature and Air Pressure
  • Lesson 11: Air Circulation Patterns 1
  • Lesson 12: Air Circulation Patterns 2
  • Lesson 13: Air Movement and Weather
  • Lesson 14: Wind and Human Activity
  • Lesson 15: Laboratory: Energy Absorption/Reflection 1
  • Lesson 16: Laboratory: Energy Absorption/Reflection 2
  • Lesson 17 : Your Choice
  • Lesson 18: Unit Test

Unit 6: Weather 1

The origin of weather and its effects on Earth systems and on human life are the focus of student learning in this unit. Students will explore what it means to gather weather data and will work with weather maps. They will understand the factors that influence weather, cloud formation, and storms development. They will also determine the level of risk of severe weather and learn to prepare for dangerous weather.

  • Lesson 1: What Makes the Weather?
  • Lesson 2: Gathering Weather Data
  • Lesson 3: Weather Maps
  • Lesson 4 : Laboratory: Weather Map Interpretation 1
  • Lesson 5 : Laboratory: Weather Map Interpretation 2
  • Lesson 6: Cloud Formation
  • Lesson 7: How Storms Develop
  • Lesson 8: Determining Level of Risk
  • Lesson 9: Preparing for Severe Weather
  • Lesson 10: Your Choice
  • Lesson 11: Unit Test

Unit 7: Semester 1 Review and Test

  • Lesson 1: Semester Review
  • Lesson 2: Your Choice
  • Lesson 3: Your Choice
  • Lesson 4: Semester Test

Unit 8: Honors Project 1: Research Paper

An independent research paper will give honors students the opportunity to explore earth science topics in depth. Students will select one of five topics to research and then will develop a paper reporting on their topic.

  • Lesson 1: Planning Your Research Paper
  • Lesson 2: Finding and Using Information for Your Paper
  • Lesson 3: Organizing Notes and Developing an Outline
  • Lesson 4: Writing Your Paper
  • Lesson 5: Creating a Works Cited Page
  • Lesson 6: Revising and Proofreading the Research Paper

Unit 9: Honors Project 2: Virtual Lab: Spectroscopy

Spectroscopy is the analysis of the component parts of light. It is an important tool for an earth scientist. Most scientists use spectroscopy in one way or another to study light from different objects such as rocks, stars, and even the human body. Using a spectrometer, an instrument that spreads light out into its different colors, scientists can identify the elements and molecules that make up objects. In this lab, students identify four samples by conducting flame tests and using a spectroscope in the K12 Virtual Science Lab.

  • Lesson 1: Virtual Lab: Spectroscopy
  • Lesson 2: Discuss: Virtual Lab: Spectroscopy

SEMESTER TWOUnit 1: Weather 2

The difference between climate and weather is the focus of learning in this unit. Students will examine climatic zones, cloud formation, and relative humidity. Students will explore the different biomes on Earth and the results that the greenhouse effect will have on Earth's environment. Students will confront the issue of climate change.

  • Lesson 1: Earth Science Semester 2 Introduction
  • Lesson 2: Climate vs. Weather
  • Lesson 3 : What Influences the Weather?
  • Lesson 4: Comparing the Weather
  • Lesson 5: Climatic Zones
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Cloud Formation
  • Lesson 7: Laboratory: Relative Humidity
  • Lesson 8 : Biomes on Earth
  • Lesson 9: The Greenhouse Effect
  • Lesson 10: Greenhouse Effect Analyses
  • Lesson 11: Climate Change
  • Lesson 12: Patterns of Climate Change
  • Lesson 13 : Laboratory: Temperature of Water and Soil 1
  • Lesson 14: Laboratory: Temperature of Water and Soil 2
  • Lesson 15: Your Choice
  • Lesson 16: Unit Test

Unit 2: Oceans

The oceans of the world make our Earth unique among planets in our solar system. In this unit students have the opportunity to explore Earth's water, to learn about the properties of ocean water, and to show how the physical and biological characteristics of oceans make our planet unique.

  • Lesson 1: Oceans of the World
  • Lesson 2: Chemistry of the Oceans
  • Lesson 3: Physical Properties of Seawater
  • Lesson 4: Ocean Dynamics
  • Lesson 5: Laboratory: Ocean Water Density 1
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Ocean Water Density 2
  • Lesson 7: Ocean Currents
  • Lesson 8: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 9: Ocean Floor
  • Lesson 10: Ocean Conditions and Life
  • Lesson 11: Marine Life Zones
  • Lesson 12: Laboratory: Ocean Floor Sediments 1
  • Lesson 13: Laboratory: Ocean Floor Sediments 2
  • Lesson 14: Marine Organisms
  • Lesson 15: Marine Resources
  • Lesson 16 : Your Choice
  • Lesson 17: Unit Test

Unit 3: Cycles on Earth

The materials that make up Earth are continuously being recycled. Important nutrients for living things, as well as the components of rock and minerals, are circulated through Earth systems over time. Students examine these nutrient cycles, paying particular attention to nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and water. The concept of a dynamic and ever-changing Earth is reinforced in this unit.

  • Lesson 1 : Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Lesson 2: Nitrogen Cycle
  • Lesson 3: Carbon Cycle
  • Lesson 4: Life and the Carbon Cycle
  • Lesson 5: Laboratory: Dissolved Oxygen 1
  • Lesson 6: Laboratory: Dissolved Oxygen 2
  • Lesson 7: Water Cycle
  • Lesson 8: How Humans Alter Cycles
  • Lesson 9: Your Choice
  • Lesson 10: Unit Test

Unit 4: Astronomy

By this point in the Earth Science curriculum, students will have a firm basis for understanding Earth and its characteristics. Students now look at Earth in the broader context of its place in the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Universe. Building on the "big ideas" of astronomy, students develop a strong central basis for understanding Earth within the larger context of space.

  • Lesson 1: The Sun
  • Lesson 2: Solar Phenomena
  • Lesson 3: The Earth-Moon-Sun System
  • Lesson 4: Laboratory: Solar Energy
  • Lesson 5: Solar and Lunar Eclipses
  • Lesson 6: The Moon's Influence
  • Lesson 7: Earth Movement and Seasons
  • Lesson 8: Laboratory: Earth, Moon, Sun Motion
  • Lesson 9: Laboratory: Sunrise and Sunset
  • Lesson 10: Your Choice
  • Lesson 11: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 12: Origin of the Solar System
  • Lesson 13 : Gravitational Forces in the Solar System
  • Lesson 14: Features of the Solar System
  • Lesson 15: The Planets
  • Lesson 16: Planetary Impact
  • Lesson 17: Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • Lesson 18: Light: A Tool for Astronomy
  • Lesson 19: Distances in Space
  • Lesson 20: Life Cycle of a Star
  • Lesson 21: Color and Brightness of Stars
  • Lesson 22: Data about Stars
  • Lesson 23: What's a Galaxy?
  • Lesson 24: Searching for Objects in Space
  • Lesson 25: The Big Bang Theory
  • Lesson 26: Your Choice
  • Lesson 27: Unit Test

Unit 5: Earth's Resources

With all that students have learned about Earth, they are able now to confront some practical aspects of Earth and how humans use its resources. Where are we headed with regard to those resources needed to sustain modern society? What is and what should be our relationship to fossil fuels, water resources, and issues regarding changes in human populations?

  • Lesson 1: Earth's Natural Resources
  • Lesson 2: Renewable vs. Nonrenewable Resources
  • Lesson 3: Mineral Resources
  • Lesson 4: Locating Resources
  • Lesson 5: Managing Resources
  • Lesson 6: Using Resources Wisely
  • Lesson 7: Mid-Unit Test
  • Lesson 8: Environmental Issues
  • Lesson 9: Laboratory: Air Pollution Watch
  • Lesson 10: Water Resources
  • Lesson 11: Humans and the Environment
  • Lesson 12: Conservation
  • Lesson 13: Population Growth
  • Lesson 14: Population Changes
  • Lesson 15: Your Choice
  • Lesson 16: Unit Test

Unit 6: Semester 2 Assessment

  • Lesson 1: Semester Review
  • Lesson 2: Your Choice
  • Lesson 3: Your Choice
  • Lesson 4: Semester Test

Unit 7: Honors Project 1: Weather Website

This weather website project is a culmination of the concepts students have learned about temperature, air pressure, humidity and their relationship to prevailing weather. Students will select a city and analyze four days of weather data and maps for that location. Then they will predict the weather, create a forecast, and using web resources, create an online weather website to communicate the forecast to their chosen city.

  • Lesson 1: Weather Website

Unit 8: Honors Project 2: Issues in Science: Online Debate

Research and technology produce new information and capabilities, as well as great responsibility. The scientific community wrestles with the question, "Just because we can, does that mean we should?" Examining all sides of an issue can sometimes bring together everyone's opinions. Other times, people just have to agree to disagree. Different sides of an issue can be examined with a debate. The Issues in Science Online Debate is an opportunity for students to examine current scientific issues and express opposing viewpoints through structured debate. Students will work in collaborative teams to develop and present a case online. Teamwork and sharing ideas will be emphasized, and students are encouraged to meet online or in person.

  • Lesson 1: Semester Review
  • Lesson 2: Your Choice
  • Lesson 3: Your Choice
  • Lesson 4: Semester Test
  • Lesson 1: Debates: A Different Way to Argue
  • Lesson 2: Gathering Evidence
  • Lesson 3: Building a Case
  • Lesson 4: Reasoning and Refutation
  • Lesson 5: Effective Debating Strategies
  • Lesson 6: Debate: Constructive Argument
  • Lesson 7: Debate: First Rebuttal
  • Lesson 8: Debate: Second Rebuttal
  • Lesson 9: Debate: Summary Argument
  • Lesson 10: Discuss: Issues in Science Online Debate

1 hour a day in coursework, 5 days a week for 4 months.

School country

United States

School state

North Carolina

High school

North Carolina Virtual Academy

School / district Address

4220 NC Highway 55 Suite 130 Durham, NC 27713

School zip code


Requested competency code

Lab Science

Date submitted



Approved competency code

  • LGEO
  • Geology
  • LINT
  • Integrated science

Approved date

Online / Virtual