High School: OpenSciEd Unit C.1: Thermodynamics in Earth’s Systems

Listings > High School: OpenSciEd Unit C.1: Thermodynamics in Earth’s Systems

OpenSciEd is a nonprofit organization that brings together educators, philanthropic organizations, curriculum developers, and professional development providers to improve science education through the development and implementation of high-quality, freely available science instructional materials. The goal of OpenSciEd is to ensure that all educators, from elementary to high school, have access to a free, coherent, rigorous, research-based set of instructional materials that will support all students in meeting the vision for science literacy described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Score: 8

Science Discipline: Physical Science, Earth and Space Science

Length: Unit

Year Reviewed: 2023

Why is the sea level rising, causing some people to have to move? Initial student models in this unit propose a variety of ideas, but it seems like melting polar ice is a likely cause for this global phenomenon. Uncertainty and student concern for the people impacted motivate unit investigations that help students better understand the matter and energy flows that underlie a global phenomenon like polar ice melt and sea level rise.

Historical data, hands-on investigations, and typical early-year math like unit conversions help students establish the mechanisms that cause sea level rise and estimate its potential impact. Through investigations, simulations, and system models, students figure out how decreasing carbon dioxide emissions and two geoengineering solutions (applying glass microbeads to polar ice and protecting glaciers from warm water with berms) could help slow polar ice melt, protecting coastal communities. As they do so, they 

  1. begin developing the science practices needed in a chemistry classroom,

  2. build a particle-level, quantifiable understanding of thermodynamics, and

  3. consider how human activity results in particle-level changes with global implications.

Link to Materials

The following link will direct you to the OpenSciEd C.1: Thermodynamics in Earth’s Systems unit: C.1: Thermodynamics in Earth’s Systems

NGSS Design Badge

Awarded: Oct 18, 2023

Awarded To: OpenSciEd Unit C.1: Thermodynamics in Earth’s Systems


The NGSS Design Badge is awarded only to the version of this unit that was reviewed. If any modifications are made to this unit, the revised version cannot be promoted as having earned the badge.

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