Jennifer Nester Griffin

Spring 2015

Earth Science
Course Description

A Modeling Approach

Earth science or geoscience is an all-embracing term referring to the fields of science dealing with planet
Earth. The formal discipline of Earth sciences may include the study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere,
lithosphere, and biosphere. Typically, Earth scientists will use tools from physics, chemistry, biology,
chronology, and mathematics to build a quantitative understanding of how the Earth system works, and how
it evolved to its current state.

What is modeling?

Modeling instruction is a method of teaching in which students construct their own model of the physical
world. Once an initial model has been developed students will continue exploring the model further refining
it as we go. Students will deploy their model to many different contexts and are able to solve and analyze
problems related to their current model. When the current model fails to explain a phenomenon we will
continue exploring to expand on the initial model. By the end of the semester we will have a comprehensive
model of earth science.
Modeling is a student-centered process that allows students to create and manipulate concepts or ideas
based on their own exploration. The goals of modeling include but are not limited to: improving the critical
thinking skills of students, requiring students to reflect on their work and revise as needed, using multiple
representations to describe a situation, working collaboratively with their peers and communicating their
ideas supported by evidence.


Each student will need to bring the following items to class each day:
1 A composition lab notebook
Dry Erase Markers
2 Pen or Pencil

Ear buds or headphone


Classroom Organization & Participation
Collaborative group work is a key component of the modeling approach therefore ALL in class work will be
completed in small lab groups. Each individual student will be required to record their class activities (labs,
worksheets, etc) in their lab notebook. Keeping a neat and orderly lab notebook will be critical to student
success! Lab notebooks will be collected at the end of each unit and graded. More on these notebook checks
can be found below.
Students will participate in ‘board meetings’ daily. All solutions to labs and worksheets will be displayed by
lab groups on whiteboards. We will gather as a class to share and discuss the solutions to these labs and
problems. All students will be required to actively participate in these regular board meetings. Student
participation will also be critical to their success!

Lab Notebook Checks/ Other


What is Standards Based Grading (SBG)?
SBG is a grading system that measures students “mastery” of clearly defined course objectives. The goal
of SBG is to give students accurate feedback about which skills or concepts they have mastered, and
which still need work. Too often grades can be interpreted as a “final judgment‟ but SBG allows students
the opportunity to continue working, without penalty, until they are able to demonstrate mastery of the

Why is Standards Based Grading (SBG) good for students?

1. SBG gives students a much clearer picture of the standards they have mastered or need to keep working
on than a traditional numeric grade.
2. SBG does not penalize students who do not demonstrate mastery on the first assessment.
3. SBG requires students to reflect on their work in order to improve their mastery of the standards.
4. SBG teaches students to produce quality work.

How exactly will Standards Based Grading work in this science class?
Overview: Each unit of study will focus on a single model of the physical world. To help us develop these
models, I have identified key learning goals (standards) for each model. Standards will most often be in
the form of “I can do…” or “I know…”. The standards are designed to give students chunks of knowledge
and skills that they can focus on clearly. Students will be given the model standards at the beginning of a
unit. This practice will allow students to focus on the standards or goals for each model.


Student understanding of earth science will be shown through demonstration of mastery of the standards.
There will be a test at the end of each model covering all that models “standards”. On any quiz or test, I
will rate a student’s mastery on each of the standards being assessed. Note that students will not receive a
traditional grade on their assessments (such as a 75 or an 89), rather they will receive a score (no mastery,
developing mastery, or mastery) for each standard being assessed. The current level of mastery of these
standards, together with the level of mastery on any past standards will determine the course grade at
that moment.

NM = No Mastery = grade 0
The student is still working on the basic concept, or perhaps they have not even attempted an assessment
on this standard yet.
DM = Developing Mastery = grade 0
The student has the basic concept, but still make makes errors in applying it. Most of the time, these are
habitual errors that they make again and again. They most likely need more practice, with attention to
reflection after each exercise.
M = Mastery = grade 100
Mastery has been clearly demonstrated.

Students will have the opportunity to complete an additional assessment, or re-assessments, on any
standards they have not yet demonstrated mastery. Re-assessments will only cover standards not yet
mastered and must be initiated by the student. Upon completion of the re-assessment, if a student
demonstrates mastery of standards not previously mastered their grade will improve without penalty for
the delay in mastery. To qualify for a re-assessment, a student will need to:
Have all required items in their lab notebook for that model (via notebook check) = grade 100
Complete the additional practice or tutoring for the model that the teacher will assign.

Tests- Tests will be given as we conclude each unit. Tests will be mostly free-response and multiple choice.
Lab Notebook Checks – At the beginning of each unit students will receive a list of the items we will
complete throughout the unit. These will be the items that I will be looking for when I collect lab
notebooks for grading. Grading will take place at the conclusion of each unit (on test day).
Labs- We will do plenty of labs this semester. Lab safety rules must be followed in order to be able to
participate in the lab activities. NO FOOD will be allowed in the classroom at any time because of lab
activities and chemicals present.
Other Assignments- From time to time we will have short quizzes on ideas that are very important to make
sure you are following along with me. Also, I may collect and grade class work as needed to make sure you
are on task.
Final Exam- Each student will take a state mandated exam during the designated exam period for our class
which will count as 25% of your final grade for the course.


Folders- You will each have a folder in my classroom. We will use the folders to keep up with your tests.
Test will be returned to you so that you can see them and then they will be placed in your folder.
Late Work & Absences- I do not except late work because I only check your notebook on the day of the
exam. If you are absent, you are responsible for getting any missed labs or worksheet solutions from your
lab group. If you are absent for a school related function then you are responsible for making arrangements
to receive and complete your work ahead of time! You are REQUIRED to have all work in your notebook on
test day.
Cheating- Cheating will not be tolerated on any level in this course. If you are caught cheating you will
receive a zero and your parents will be notified. Cheating via storing information in your calculator will
result in a loss of calculator privileges for the rest of the semester.
Website- We will actively be using technology in this class including Google Voice (direct link to my cell
phone), Google Forms, and my website for our class. I will be posting all of the course information on this
class webpage. This will be your home base to find out what is going on in class each day, find assignments,
take quizzes, etc.

Classroom Rules

Respect yourself, your classmates, your teacher (yes ma’am/no ma’am) (don’t talk while teacher is
talking), and the furnishings of the room (don’t write on or touch anything that is not yours)
Come to class on time and prepared
Ask permission by raising your hand before speaking and getting out of your seat
Distracting yourself and others is not acceptable

Contact Information

Name: Jennifer Nester Griffin
Cell Phone: (252) 493-6478 (Google Voice – text messaging preferred)