A full-year Earth and space-science curriculum developed by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI).

Three-Dimensional, Project-Based Learning

  • Embraces the three-dimensional learning of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), seamlessly integrating:
    • science and engineering practices
    • crosscutting concepts
    • core ideas
  • Each chapter anchored in an interesting and meaningful challenge
  • Promotes systems thinking about matter and energy flow over time and space

Learning and Practicing Like Engineers, Students:

  • Access real-time data using reputable, current sources.
  • Use the same iterative Engineering Design Cycle employed by geoscientists and engineers.
  • Work collaboratively in groups, engaging in science discourse.

Total Support for Teachers

  • Comprehensive Teacher’s Edition
  • Student Hands-On Video Series
  • Robust website filled with student and teacher resources regularly updated by AGI


EarthComm is a comprehensive, project-based, secondary level Earth and space sciences program. It includes student learning materials, teacher resources, teacher-support networks, and assessment tools. EarthComm also features a robust Web site filled with student and teacher resources regularly updated by AGI.

EarthComm promotes systems thinking.
In EarthComm, students learn about the interactions among the various parts of the Earth system by reflecting on the ways in which matter and energy flow through the Earth system, and the different ways in which Earth’s processes occur over time and space.

EarthComm fosters Earth stewardship.
With EarthComm, students discover the wonder and importance of Earth and space science by studying it where it counts—in their community. EarthComm utilizes local and regional issues and concerns to stimulate problem-solving activities, and to foster a sense of Earth stewardship by students in their communities.

EarthComm fits your standards.
EarthComm reflects the full scope of Earth and space science content standards for high school—those identified as the Disciplinary Core Ideas in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and those of individual states and districts.


Chapter 1: Plate Tectonics

Chapter Challenge: Students develop a script for a public service documentary film about volcanoes and earthquakes.

Students examine evidence that Earth’s lithospheric plates are moving, how they move, why they move, and how they interact. They determine the relationship between plate boundaries and volcanoes and earthquakes. They explore the evidence that supports the movement of continents over geologic time. Students investigate volcanic landforms and the hazards of volcanic eruptions. They use models to describe how energy is transmitted in earthquakes and learn about seismic waves, their paths, and the way they are detected and recorded.

Chapter 2: Minerals, Rocks, and Structures

Chapter Challenge: Students design a new exhibit on the geology of their community for the local museum.

Students use a set of observations and tests to identify minerals. They examine igneous rock, model how sedimentary rock and metamorphic rock form, and then locate each type of rock in their local area and wider region. They use maps to explore the geologic history of the United States.

Chapter 3: Surface Processes

Chapter Challenge: Students report to the U.S. Olympic Committee on the suitability of a city in Florida and a city in Alaska to host the Summer Olympic Games.

Through a series of activities, students discover the water distribution in various reservoirs and how water moves within the hydrologic cycle. They use stream tables to model high-and-low gradient streams and consider the suitability of each for Olympic events. Students examine the size and shape of particles in streams and apply this to an understanding of how rivers have helped shape the landscape. They learn about soil and think how their development plans might affect soil. They model how glaciers and wind affect Earth’s surface. Then they look at properties of ocean waves and coastal processes.

Chapter 4: Winds, Oceans, Weather, and Climate

Chapter Challenge: Students create a website for a non-profit educational group on winds, oceans, weather, and climate.

Students use a model to study factors that affect global patterns of wind. They review weather basics and compare their weather observations to local forecasts. They examine the formation and distribution of severe weather events—thunderstorms, flash floods, severe winds and tornadoes, and tropic storms and hurricanes. Students map the surface circulation of the ocean and use a model to examine what influences deep-ocean circulation. They also use data to make inferences about El Nino events.

Chapter 5: Global Climate Change

Chapter Challenge: Students write a series of articles about global climate change.

Students examine fossil pollen, ice cores, deep-sea sediments, glacial sediments, and tree rings as evidence of climate change. They also examine how Earth’s orbital variations, plate tectonics, ocean current, and carbon-dioxide concentrations affect global climate. Students use projections of areas around the North and South Poles to determine how the melting or growth of ice sheets would affect sea level and use their calculations to determine its effect on the U.S. Then they consider how global warming might affect their community.

Chapter 6: Earth’s Natural Resources

Chapter Challenge: Students produce a report about the impact of an increase in the population of the community on the consumption and supply of natural resources.

Students compare U.S. use of energy resources for production of electricity to other countries and identify the sources most commonly used for the production of electricity. They examine samples of different types of coal and look at possible ways to conserve coal. They consider how oil and gas deposits are discovered and investigate oil production, imports, and consumption. They extrapolate oil consumption into the future. Then they examine the environmental impacts of the use of coal and explore renewable resources focusing on solar and wind energy. Students also explore Earth’s mineral and water resources.

Chapter 7: Earth System Evolution

Chapter Challenge: Students apply systems thinking to other planets and moons by creating an illustrated script for a documentary.

Students begin by looking for clues about the history of Earth’s crust. They develop an experiment to model the process of outgassing and read about Earth’s early atmosphere and hydrosphere. They are then introduced to the scientific hypotheses for the origin of the biosphere. They explore banded iron formations and make inferences about the volume of oxygen and iron on Earth. Students create a model of the geologic time scale and also model fossil formation as well as adaptations in response to environmental change. Finally, they explore the major biomes of North America and collect data about mass extinctions.

Chapter 8: Astronomy

Chapter Challenge: Students write a script for a radio series on the possible effects that objects in space can have on Earth.

By developing a scale model of the solar system, students learn about relative sizes and distances in the universe. They investigate the celestial coordinate system and use a model to learn the origin of the universe and the solar system. They explore Earth’s orbit and its effects. A model is also used to study the Sun-Earth-Moon system. Students discover the energy released by asteroids hitting Earth and learn about the characteristic of asteroids and comets, the chances of a collision with Earth, and the consequences. They explore the electromagnetic spectrum, the structure of the Sun and its effects on Earth, and the lives of other stars and their chances of affecting Earth.


Mark Carpenter

American Geological Institute

Mark Carpenter is an Education Specialist at the American Geological Institute. After receiving a B.S. in Geology from Exeter University, England, he undertook a graduate degree at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada, where he began designing geology investigations for undergraduate students and worked as an instructor. He has worked in basin hydrology in Ontario, Canada and studied mountain geology in the Pakistan and Nepal Himalayas. As a designer of learning materials for AGI, he has made educational films to support teachers and is actively engaged in designing inquiry-based activites in Earth system science for students of various ages.

Matthew Hoover

American Geological Institute

Matthew Hoover serves as Education Specialist for the American Geological Institute, developing Earth science educational resources and curriculum programs at the elementary , middle, and high school levels. He received a B.S. in Geology from Boston College, an M.A. in Environmental Policy from George Washington University, and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. As a certifi ed teacher, he has taught elementary and middle school Earth, life, and physical sciences. Prior to joining AGI, he worked for NASA ’ s GLOBE Program, coordinating teacher trainings and designing environmental science investigations and learning activities for K–12 students.

Edward C. Robeck


The diverse positions in education that Ed Robeck has held all contribute to his work at AGI. These have included being a Head Start family educator in his home state of Nebraska, designing science activities to accompany episodes of Reading Rainbow, teaching middle school science, designing the instructional architecture of science programs for major publishers, and being a research assistant during his Ph.D. studies at University of British Columbia working on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Prior to joining AGI in 2014, Ed was a professor of science education at Salisbury University for 14 years, during which time he initiated several programs in K–12 STEM education and was granted a Fulbright award to work with teachers in Malaysia on their use of computer technology in science instruction.

Michael Smith

American Geological Institute

Michael Smith was Director of Education at the American Geological Institute in Alexandria, Virginia. Dr. Smith worked as an exploration geologist and hydrogeologist. He began his Earth Science teaching career with Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh, PA in 1988 and most recently taught Earth Science at the Charter School of Wilmington, DE. He earned a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh’s Cognitive Studies in Education Program and joined the faculty of the University of Delaware School of Education in 1995. Dr. Smith received the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award for Pennsylvania from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers in 1991, served as Secretary of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and is a reviewer for Science Education and The Journal of Research in Science Teaching. He worked on the Delaware Teacher Standards, Delaware Science Assessment, National Board of Teacher Certification, and AAAS Project 2061 Curriculum Evaluation programs.

John Southard

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John Southard received his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1960 and his doctorate in geology from Harvard University in 1966. After a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, he joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Professor of Geology Emeritus. He was awarded the MIT School of Science teaching prize in 1989 and was one of the first cohorts of first MacVicar Fellows at MIT, in recognition of excellence in undergraduate teaching. He has taught numerous undergraduate courses in introductory geology, sedimentary geology, field geology, and environmental Earth Science both at MIT and in Harvard’s adult education program. He was editor of the Journal of Sedimentary Petrology from 1992 to 1996, and he continues to do technical editing of scientific books and papers for SEPM, a professional society for sedimentary geology. Dr. Southard received the 2001 Neil Miner Award from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.