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STEM Education Resource Center (SERC)

Earth and Space Sciences

FOSS Air and Weather
Grades 1 - 2

The Air and Weather module consists of four sequential investigations, each designed to introduce concepts in earth science. The investigations provide opportunities for young students to explore the natural world by using simple tools to observe and monitor change.

FOSS expects students to:
  • Develop an interest in air and weather.
  • Experience air as a material that takes up space and can be compressed into a smaller space.
  • Observe the force of air pressure pushing on objects and materials.
  • Observe and compare how moving air interacts with objects.
  • Observe and describe changes that occur in weather over time.
  • Become familiar with instruments used by meteorologists to monitor air and weather conditions.
  • Compare monthly and seasonal weather conditions using bar graphs.
  • Observe the location of the Sun and the Moon in the sky over a day and the change in the appearance of the Moon over a month.
  • Organize and communicate observations through drawing and writing.
  • Acquire vocabulary associated with properties of air and weather conditions.

Parts List

FOSS Earth History

Grades 6 - 8

Human beings have used Earth's resources since prehistoric times. We made tools from stones. We figured out how to extract precious metals from ores. We captured the energy of flowing streams. And, because it is human nature to explain everyday phenomena, we made up stories to explain how Earth was created. Students investigate sedimentary rocks and fossils from the Grand to discover clues that reveal Earth's history. They consider the processes that created them, and compare evidence discovered in the rocks to present-day geologic processes and contemporary life forms. Then students use these data to make inferences about past organisms, environments, and events that occurred on Earth over its history.


  1. In Pushing the Envelope students consider how the process of observation and inference contribute to answering questions, both their own and those asked by geologists.
  2. Into the Grand Canyon introduces students to the sights and sounds of the Grand Canyon through videos, photographs, rock samples, and multimedia. They will begin to pose questions inspired by this introduction.
  3. In Grand Canyon Rocks students begin to build the concept of a rock layer as a three-dimensional structure and learn that the Colorado Plateau comprises many layers.
  4. My Sediments Exactly investigates the properties of sand, sandstone, and shale and the processes that create them.
  5. Limestone investigates the conditions that lead to the formation of a sedimentary rock, limestone, and how rock layers provide the evidence for ancient environments.
  6. In It's About Time students become familiar with the geological time scale, begin to comprehend the enormous spans of time that are described by geological time, and put the history of the Grand Canyon into scale.
  7. Fossils and Time introduces index fossils as evidence for determining the relative age of sedimentary rocks and explores fossils succession over geological time.
  8. One Rock to Another introduces students to the other two types of rocks found on Earth, igneous and metamorphic, and the processes that form these rocks.


Module Summary
Parts List

FOSS Earth Materials

Grades 3 - 4

The Earth Materials module consists of four sequential investigations dealing with observable characteristics of solid materials from the earth—rocks and minerals. The focus is on taking materials apart to find what they are made of and putting materials together to better understand their properties. The module introduces fundamental concepts in earth science and takes advantage of the students’ intrinsic interest in the subject matter and in the physical world around them.

FOSS expects students to:

  • Develop an interest in earth materials.
  • Gain experiences with rocks and minerals.
  • Understand the processes of taking apart and putting together to find out about materials.
  • Use measuring tools to gather data about rocks.
  • Collect and organize data about rocks.
  • Observe, describe, and record properties of minerals.
  • Organize minerals on the basis of the property of hardness.
  • Investigate the effect of vinegar (acid) on a specific mineral, calcite.
  • Use evaporation to investigate rock composition.
  • Learn that rocks are composed of minerals and that minerals cannot be physically separated into other materials.
  • Compare their activities to the work of a geologist.
  • Acquire vocabulary used in earth science.
  • Exercise language and math skills in the context of science.
  • Use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and build explanations: observing, communicating, comparing, and organizing.
Downloads: Parts List

FOSS Landforms

Grades 5 - 6

The Landforms module consists of five investigations that introduce students to these fundamental concepts in earth science: change takes place when things interact; all things change over time; patterns of interaction and change are useful in explaining landforms. Students also learn about some of the tools and techniques used by cartographers and use them to depict landforms.

FOSS expects students to:
  • Gain experience with models and maps.
  • Gain experience with the concepts of erosion and deposition.
  • Observe the effect of water on surface features of the land, using stream tables.
  • Plan and conduct stream-table investigations.
  • Relate processes that they observe in the stream-table models to processes that created famous landforms.
  • Become familiar with topographic maps and some of the techniques used to create them.
  • Gain experience with the concepts of contour and elevation.
  • Use measurement in the context of scientific investigations.
  • Apply mathematics in the context of science.
  • Acquire vocabulary associated with landforms and the processes that create landforms.
  • Use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and build explanations: observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, and relating.
Downloads: Parts List

FOSS Pebbles, Sand, and Silt

Grades 1 - 2

The Pebbles, Sand, and Silt module consists of four sequential investigations, each designed to introduce concepts in earth science. The investigations provide experiences that heighten students’ awareness of rocks as earth materials and natural resources. They will come to know rocks by many names and in a variety of sizes. Pebbles and sand are the same material—just different in size.

FOSS expects students to:
  • Develop a curiosity and interest in the physical world around them.
  • Observe, describe, and sort earth materials based on properties.
  • Separate earth materials by size, using different techniques.
  • Observe the similarities and differences in the materials in a river rock mixture: silt, sand, gravel, and small and large pebbles.
  • Explore places where earth materials are found and ways earth materials are used.
  • Compare the ingredients in different soils.
  • Organize and communicate observations through drawing and writing.
  • Acquire the vocabulary associated with earth materials.
Downloads: Parts List

FOSS Water

Grades 3 - 4

Water is the most important substance on Earth. Water dominates the surface of our planet, changes the face of the land, and defines life. These powerful, pervasive ideas are introduced here. The Water module consists of four investigations in which students explore properties of water, changes in water, interactions between water and other earth materials, and how humans use water.

FOSS expects students to:
  • Observe and explore properties of water in liquid, solid, and gaseous states.
  • Observe the expansion and contraction of water as it warms and cools.
  • Investigate factors that influence evaporation and condensation of water.
  • Consider components of the water cycle.
  • Observe and compare how water moves through different types of earth materials, including soil and gravel.
  • Consider the water quality of local water sources.Investigate how water can be used to do work.
  • Acquire vocabulary associated with water.
  • Record observations in writing and pictures.
  • Exercise language, social studies, and math skills in the context of science.
  • Become aware of the importance of water in their lives.
  • Use scientific thinking processesto conduct investigations and build explanations: observing,communicating, comparing, and organizing.
Downloads: Parts List

FOSS Planetary Science

Grades 6 - 8

Space, the seemingly boundless vessel holding billions upon billions of swirling galaxies is today's final frontier. Astronomers continue to be the pioneers who first ventured into this vast environment, creating the charts that will guide those of us ready to join the adventure. Students study the Earth as a celestial object before progressing to lunar science and lunar exploration, and then on to the solar system. Activities explore the origin of the Moon, celestial motions, Moon phases, lunar geology, cratering processes, imaging technologies, scaling and space exploration.


  1. Where Am I? familiarizes students with maps and images presented in a variety of different scales, while developing a sense of planet Earth as a tiny base from which to launch an inquiry into the vast reaches of the Solar System.
  2. Round Earth/Flat Earth provides access to several kinds of evidence that were used historically to induce that Earth is round. In the process students will be asked to think not only about what they know (Earth is round), but how they know it.
  3. Day and Night familiarizes students with the celestial geometry of day and night.They explore the celestial motion that result in the day/night cycle on Earth.
  4. Discover the Moon introduces students to the Moon as a dynamic celestial neighbor that has inspired awe and curiosity over the ages, and is worthy of inquiry and study.
  5. Moon Craters teaches that impact is one of the major processes that shapes and changes the surface of planets and satellites.
  6. In Mapping the Moon students become familiar with the location of some major features on the Moon and determine and appreciate the size of these features and the distances between them.
  7. Landing on the Moon integrates students' understanding of the celestial motions of Earth and the Moon with their knowledge of lunar geology, enabling them to plan a mission to the Moon.
  8. Moon Rocks gives students experience with rocks and minerals found on the Moon, compares Moon rocks to Earth rocks, and explores the question of Moon origin.
  9. Phases of the Moon helps students gain a better understanding of the motions of Earth and the Moon in relation to the Sun, which result in the phases of the Moon we observe on Earth.
  10. In Explore the Planets students "discover" other planets in our Solar System and use the Moon-inquiry skills to plan exploratory missions to the planets.
Downloads: Module Summary
Parts List

SCIS 3+ Life Cycles
Grade 2 Life Cycles unit covers Living Things, Seeds and Plants, Eggs to Animals, and Metamorphosis. Research-based, classroom tested unit is supported by the National Science Foundation

Sedimentary Rock Collection

Represents a Wide Range of Depositional Environments and Rock Textures
Use this set as a basic introduction to rocks formed from organic material or fragments of other rocks. The set is housed in a compartmented collection box and comes with an identification list.
12 numbered samples, 1" x 2"
chert, conglomerate, coquina, gypsum, limestone (2), sandstone (2), shale (2), siltstone, travertine

Metamorphic Rock Collection

Perfect for Introductory Lessons on Metamorphic Rocks
Study textures, grain sizes, and other features altered by pressure, temperature, and other natural forces, characteristic of metamorphic rocks. The set is housed in a compartmented collection box and comes with an identification list.
12 numbered samples, 1" x 2"
gneiss (2), marble (2), quartzite, schist (3), serpentinite, slate (2), soapstone

Igneous Rock Collection

Samples of Intrusive and Extrusive Igneous Rocks
Provide your students with an excellent introduction to the forces at work beneath the Earth’s crust. The set is housed in a compartmented collection box and includes an identification list.
12 numbered samples, 1? x 2?
basalt, diorite, gabbro, granite, obsidian, pegmatite, peridotite, pumice, rhyolite (2), scoria, syenite

Pangaea Puzzle Kit
This exciting inquiry-based kit explores how Alfred Wegener used evidence including fossilized flora and fauna, glacial scarring, mountain range locations, continent shape, and climatic changes to formulate the theory of continental drift. Using this kit, students or teachers position a set of continent-shaped magnets in their present-day locations on a magnet-receptive map board. Then, using the same evidence that was available during Wegener's time, students think critically to rearrange the continents. The 8-Station Kit is for a class of 32. Kit materials are reusable.

Planet Earth DVD
With an unprecedented production budget of $25 million, and from the makers of Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, shot entirely in high definition, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this blockbuster series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats. Planet Earth takes you to places you have never seen before, to experience sights and sounds you may never experience anywhere else.

Desktop Globe
With its classic style, antique charm, and comprehensive geographical details, the Forester 9-inch Diam. Tabletop Globe makes a fitting home or office accent for the history buff. This handsome globe features a gold plastic meridian and riser with a satin finish. A raised-relief surface offers clear notation of mountain ranges, while simple, easy-to-read text accurately notates thousands of place names. Land formations are set against antique parchment oceans, and feature muted, yet rich colors that denote countries, regions, states, and other current political borders. Finally, the globe is set in a beveled hardwood base with a walnut finish for a truly classic effect.

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