Science Standards for the State of California
Focus on Earth Science
Plate Tectonics and Earth's Structure
1. Plate tectonics accounts for important features of Earth's surface and
major geologic events. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know evidence of plate tectonics is derived from the fit of the
continents; the location of earthquakes, volcanoes, and midocean ridges; and
the distribution of fossils, rock types, and ancient climatic zones.
b. Students know Earth is composed of several layers: a cold, brittle
lithosphere; a hot, convecting mantle; and a dense, metallic core.
c. Students know lithospheric plates the size of continents and oceans move
at rates of centimeters per year in response to movements in the mantle.
d. Students know that earthquakes are sudden motions along breaks in the
crust called faults and that volcanoes and fissures are locations where
magma reaches the surface.
e. Students know major geologic events, such as earthquakes, volcanic
eruptions, and mountain building, result from plate motions.
f. Students know how to explain major features of California geology
(including mountains, faults, volcanoes) in terms of plate tectonics.
g. Students know how to determine the epicenter of an earthquake and know
that the effects of an earthquake on any region vary, depending on the size
of the earthquake, the distance of the region from the epicenter, the local
geology, and the type of construction in the region.
Shaping Earth's Surface
2. Topography is reshaped by the weathering of rock and soil and by the
transportation and deposition of sediment. As a basis for understanding this
a. Students know water running downhill is the dominant process in shaping
the landscape, including California's landscape.
b. Students know rivers and streams are dynamic systems that erode,
transport sediment, change course, and flood their banks in natural and
c. Students know beaches are dynamic systems in which the sand is supplied
by rivers and moved along the coast by the action of waves.
d. Students know earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods
change human and wildlife habitats.
Energy in the Earth System
4. Many phenomena on Earth's surface are affected by the transfer of energy
through radiation and convection currents. As a basis for understanding this
c. Students know heat from Earth's interior reaches the surface primarily
Investigation and Experimentation
7. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting
careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and
addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop
their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Develop a hypothesis.
b. Select and use appropriate tools and technology (including calculators,
computers, balances, spring scales, microscopes, and binoculars) to perform
tests, collect data, and display data.
c. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements
about the relationships between variables.
d. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written
reports and oral presentations.
e. Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.
f. Read a topographic map and a geologic map for evidence provided on the
maps and construct and interpret a simple scale map.