Spatial concepts in U.S. science teaching standards

These listings of U.S. science content standards include 150 from three topic areas in the National Science Education Standards of 1996: B - Physical Science, C - Life Science, and D - Earth and Space Science. The 1994 U.S. National Geography Standards for grades 9-12 are included as well - browse the complete document here. New standards for 2011 are nearly complete, check out the Beta web site.

Conservation of energy and increase in disorder
teaching standard spatial concepts

The total energy of the universe is constant. Energy can be transferred by collisions in chemical and nuclear reactions, by light waves and other radiations, and in many other ways. However, it can never be destroyed. As these transfers occur, the matter involved becomes steadily less ordered. 180 B (9-12)

collision, order, radiation, spatial interaction, universe, wave

All energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion; potential energy, which depends on relative position; or energy contained by a field, such as electromagnetic waves.

field, kinetic, motion, position, wave

Heat consists of random motion and the vibrations of atoms, molecules, and ions. The higher the temperature, the greater the atomic or molecular motion. 180 B (9-12)

atom, molecule, motion, vibration

Everything tends to become less organized and less orderly over time. Thus, in all energy transfers, the overall effect is that energy is spread out uniformly. Examples are the transfer of energy from hotter to cooler objects by conduction, radiation, or convection and the warming of our surroundings when we burn fuels. 180 B (9-12)

convection, distribution, order, organization, radiation, spread, transfer, uniform
Interactions of energy and matter
teaching standard spatial concepts

Waves, including sound and seismic waves, waves on water, and light waves, have energy and can transfer energy when they interact with matter. 180 B (9-12)

interaction, matter, seismicity, spatial interaction, wave

Electromagnetic waves result when a charged object is accelerated or decelerated. Electromagnetic waves include radio waves (the longest wavelength), microwaves, infrared radiation (radiant heat), visible light, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, and gamma rays. The energy of electromagnetic waves is carried in packets whose magnitude is inversely proportional to the wavelength. 180 B (9-12)

acceleration, deceleration, packet, proportion, radiation, wave, wavelength

Each kind of atom or molecule can gain or lose energy only in particular discrete amounts and thus can absorb and emit light only at wavelengths corresponding to these amounts. These wavelengths can be used to identify the substance. 180 B (9-12)

discrete, wave, wavelength

In some materials, such as metals, electrons flow easily, whereas in insulating materials such as glass they can hardly flow at all. Semiconducting materials have intermediate behavior. At low temperatures some materials become superconductors and offer no resistance to the flow of electrons. 181 B (9-12)

flow, insulation, resistance

Matter, energy, and organization in living systems
teaching standard spatial concepts

The energy for life primarily derives from the sun. Plants capture energy by absorbing light and using it to form strong (covalent) chemical bonds between the atoms of carbon-containing (organic) molecules. These molecules can be used to assemble larger molecules with biological activity (including proteins, DNA, sugars and fats). In addition, the energy stored in bonds between the atoms (chemical energy) can be used as sources of energy for life processes. 186 C (9-12)

absorption, assemble, assembly, bond, containment, molecule, size

The chemical bonds of food molecules contain energy. Energy is released when the bonds of food molecules are broken and new compounds with lower energy bonds are formed. Cells usually store this energy temporarily in phosphate bonds of a small high- energy compound called ATP. 186 C (9-12)

bond, compound, molecule, release

The complexity and organization of organisms accommodates the need for obtaining, transforming, transporting, releasing, and eliminating the matter and energy used to sustain the organism. 186 C (9-12)

eliminate, obtain, release, transform, transport

The distribution and abundance of organisms and populations in ecosystems are limited by the availability of matter and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials. 186 C (9-12)

abundance, availability, distribution, ecosystem, recycle

As matter and energy flows through different levels of organization of living systems--cells, organs, organisms, communities--and between living systems and the physical environment, chemical elements are recombined in different ways. Each recombination results in storage and dissipation of energy into the environment as heat. Matter and energy are conserved in each change. 186 C (9-12)

dissipation, flow, level, matter, recombination, storage
Behavior of organisms
teaching standard spatial concepts

Multicellular animals have nervous systems to generate behavior. Nervous systems are formed from specialized cells that conduct signals rapidly through the long cell extensions that make up nerves. The nerve cells communicate with each other by secreting specific excitatory and inhibitory molecules. In sense organs, specialized cells detect light, sound, and specific chemicals and enable animals to monitor what is going on in the world around them. 187 C (9-12)

behavior, cell, conduction, extension, length, rapid, secretion, surrounding

Organisms have behavioral responses to internal changes and to external stimuli. Responses to external stimuli can result from interactions with the organism's own species and others, as well as environmental changes; these responses can either be innate or learned. The broad patterns of behavior exhibited by animals have evolved to ensure reproductive success. Animals often live in unpredictable environments, and so their behavior must be flexible enough to deal with uncertainty and change. Plants also respond to stimuli. 187 C (9-12)

behavior, environment, external, interaction, internal, pattern

Like other aspects of an organism's biology, behaviors have evolved through natural selection. Behaviors often have an adaptive logic when viewed in terms of evolutionary principles. 187 C (9-12)


Behavioral biology has implications for humans, as it provides links to psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

Diversity and adaptations of organisms
teaching standard spatial concepts

Biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species developed through gradual processes over many generations. Species acquire many of their unique characteristics through biological adaptation, which involves the selection of naturally occurring variations in populations. Biological adaptations include changes in structures, behaviors, or physiology that enhance survival and reproductive success in a particular environment. 158 C (5-8)

environment, structure

Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist. 158 C (5-8)

environment, fossil

Theme IV-Human Systems
The student is able to: spatial terms in standard

Explain the changes that occur in the extent and organization of social, political, and economic entities on Earth's surface

structure, spatial organization

Explain how external forces can conflict economically and poilitcally with internal interests in a region

area, formation, expand, split, force