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1.3: Lesson 1.2: Earth Science and Its Branches

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Key Concepts

  • Overview of Earth science
  • Major branches of Earth science

Lesson Objectives

  • Define and describe Earth science.
  • Identify the field of geology.
  • Describe oceanography.
  • Define meteorology.
  • Understand what astronomy studies.
  • List other branches of Earth science, and explain how they relate to the study of Earth.

Lesson Vocabulary

No new vocabulary terms are introduced in this lesson.

Teaching Strategies

Introducing the Lesson

Most students will have studied Earth science in middle school. Ask students to recall what they remember about the focus of this science. Call on one student after another to state a topic that they think they will learn about in high school Earth science based on their prior experience. List all the relevant topics they identify on the board and add any major topics they fail to mention. Tell the class they will learn more about the scope of Earth science when they read this lesson.


Assign the article on Earth’s four spheres (lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere) at the URL below. You may want to have students read the article as a homework assignment. After students have read the article, discuss how the branches of Earth science relate to the four spheres.



Students can learn more about Earth’s spheres with the interactive animations, text, and thought questions at the following URL. They will gain a deeper understanding of how the spheres interact and why studying Earth as a system must involve scientists who specialize in different branches of Earth science.


Cooperative Learning

Divide the class into groups and have each group choose one of the branches of Earth science described in the lesson. Make sure all of the major branches of Earth science are covered. Then tell students to learn more about their assigned branch, including some possible careers in that branch. Ask a volunteer in each group to share with the class what they learned about their branch of Earth science.

Differentiated Instruction

Post several pieces of poster board on the walls around the classroom. On each poster, write the name of one of the major branches of Earth science (e.g., geology, oceanography, climatology, meteorology, environmental science). Divide the class into groups, incorporating any special needs students with other students who can assist them, and give each group a different colored marker. Then have groups circulate from one poster to another, working as a group to write everything they know about each branch of Earth science and commenting on what other groups have written. When all the groups have finished, use their most relevant writings and comments to summarize their knowledge of the branches of Earth science.


Ask one or more interested students to interview a local Earth scientist (e.g., meteorologist, geologist, oceanographer). They should prepare for the interview by making a list of questions they have about the scientist’s specialty and how it relates to other specialties in Earth science. Invite the students to share what they learn from the interview with the rest of the class.

Science Inquiry

Work with students to brainstorm a research question pertaining to one of the branches of Earth science described in the lesson. Guide students in generating a testable hypothesis and identifying data they would need to test it. Discuss as a class how the research relates to other branches of Earth science.

Chemistry Connection

Show students how Earth science relates to chemistry by describing specific examples, such as the formation of chemical rocks. Point out how chemistry is necessary to explain this and many other Earth processes.

Reinforce and Review

Lesson Worksheets

Copy and distribute the lesson worksheets in the CK-12 Earth Science for High School Workbook. Ask students to complete the worksheets alone or in pairs to reinforce lesson content.

Lesson Review Questions

Have students answer the Review Questions listed at the end of the lesson in the FlexBook® student edition.

Lesson Quiz

Check students’ mastery of the lesson with Lesson 1.2 Quiz in CK-12 Earth Science For High School Quizzes and Tests.

Points to Consider

Why is Earth science important?

Which branch of Earth science would you most like to explore?

What is the biggest problem that humans face today? Which Earth scientists may help us to solve the problem?

How do the other branches of science impact Earth science?

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