Secondary Science Essential Standards

School Year 2020-21

For the FCPS Return to School in 2020-21, the standards listed below emphasize the central priorities for learning in each course. These standards are intended to guide instruction and assessment during this extraordinary school year.

Honors

Unit guides provided to teachers contain recommended extensions for students enrolled in the honors course option. 

Year Long Standards

These standards are the central priorities for learning in the course. They are prioritized in planning, teaching, assessing, and intervening to ensure student success over the course of the year.

Life Science

  • Demonstrate an understanding of science and engineering practices.
    • planning and carrying out investigations
    • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data
    • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations
    • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  • Investigate and understand that ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms are dynamic and change over time.
  • Investigate and understand that relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Physical Science

  • Demonstrate an understanding of science and engineering practices:
    • planning and carrying out investigations.
    • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data.
    • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations.
    • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
  • Matter is composed of atoms, has properties, and is conserved in chemical and physical processes.
  • Waves are important in the movement of energy.

Biology

Demonstrate an understanding of scientific and engineering practices by:

  • planning and carrying out investigations.
  • by interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data.
  • by constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations.
  • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Chemistry

Demonstrate an understanding of scientific and engineering practices by:

  • planning and carrying out investigations
  • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data
  • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations
  • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Environmental Science

Demonstrate an understanding of scientific and engineering practices by:

  • planning and carrying out investigations
  • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data
  • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations
  • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Geosystems

Demonstrate an understanding of scientific and engineering practices by:

  • planning and carrying out investigations
  • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data
  • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations
  • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Physics

Demonstrate an understanding of scientific and engineering practices by:

  • planning and carrying out investigations
  • interpreting, analyzing, and evaluating data
  • constructing and critiquing conclusions and explanations
  • obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

Quarter 1 (September 8 – October 30)

Life Science

Investigate and understand:

  • science and engineering practices.
  • there are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life.
  • Investigate and understand that biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
  • Investigate and understand that populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.

Physical Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Energy is conserved.
  • Motion is described by Newton’s Laws.

Biology

Investigate and understand:

  • All living things share the same basic life processes.
  • The structures of living things determine the processes that they perform.
  • Organisms are complex, organized systems that interact to maintain homeostasis.
  • The living world is understandable, and observations can be used to develop explanations about the natural world.
  • Structures in unicellular and multicellular organisms work interdependently to carry out life processes and maintain homeostasis.
  • The structure of a cell determines its function within a living system.
  • Water is essential to life on Earth because of its unique chemical and physical properties.
  • Science is based on evidence - both observational and experimental, and scientific ideas are durable yet subject to change as new technologies are available to collect data.

Chemistry

Investigate and understand:

  • Atoms are the smallest building blocks of matter, and advancements in technology have changed our knowledge of the atom over time.
  • An atom’s subatomic structure can be altered through interactions with different forms of energy.
  • Chemical changes are caused by the movement of electrons.
  • The periodic table is an organizational tool that allows for the prediction of chemical and physical properties of elements.
  • Elements rearrange into unlimited combinations of matter that can be described and classified by its observable properties
  • Students can identify elements in items found in nature and their surroundings.

Environmental Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Earth behaves as a set of many interacting systems.
  • We learn about the Earth through scientific inquiry.
  • Humans have the ability to impact the Earth’s systems.
  • Matter cannot be created nor destroyed in a closed system, but it can be transformed through a series of natural processes occurring on and in the Earth.
  • Plate tectonics drives the rock cycle, resulting in changes to the Earth’s landforms over time.
  • Plate movements, weathering, and erosion are responsible for the creation of soil, one of Earth’s most important natural resources.
  • Matter cannot be created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed through a series of natural processes occurring on and in the Earth.
  • Water is a unique substance whose chemical bonds allow it to behave in ways different from many liquids.
  • The abundance and properties of liquid water on Earth are central to the planet’s dynamics and ability to support life.
  • The limited availability and quality of freshwater can affect the populations that access it.

Geosystems

Investigate and understand:

  • All existing matter and energy in the universe was formed in the Big Bang, and has undergone organization and change over time.
  • Our understanding of the universe continues to evolve through technology, observation, and exploration.
  • The composition of celestial objects determines their characteristics.
  • Solar systems are organized groups of related objects, each with sufficient mass to allow for gravitational interactions between them.
  • Earth’s place in our solar system creates an environment that allows for living organisms to form and evolve.
  • The location and characteristics of the Sun-Earth-Moon system are responsible for the observable and systematic interactions we experience on Earth.
  • Finite combinations of elements impact the availability and variety of substances on planets.
  • Minerals can be identified through multiple characteristics that determine their function.
  • The transfer of energy drives the transformation of matter in the rock cycle.

Physics

Investigate and understand:

  • Motion can be represented in a variety of ways and is relative to the observer.
  • The movement of objects can be described using position, velocity, acceleration, and are related with respect to time.
  • Patterns of motion can be used to make predictions about moving objects.
  • Forces are interactions that can cause changes in motion.
  • Newton’s Laws describe the relationships between a body and the forces acting upon it and form the basis of our understanding of the mechanical universe.
  • Defining a system will impact the model used to represent the system.

Quarter 2 (November 2 – January 22)

Life Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem.
  • Ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms are dynamic and change over time.
  • Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Physical Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Matter is composed of atoms.
  • Matter has properties and is conserved in chemical and physical processes.
  • The periodic table is a model used to organize elements based on their atomic structure.

Biology

Investigate and understand:

  • Energy and Matter: Tracking fluxes of energy and matter into, out of, and within systems helps one understand the systems’ possibilities and limitations.
  • Organisms and cells require energy for growth and maintenance, and adhere to the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
  • All living things are composed of one or more of the same four organic macromolecule types that uniquely support life processes.
  • Metabolic processes are affected by changing environmental conditions.
  • Photosynthesis and cellular respiration create a continuous cycle allowing energy to be converted into usable forms.
  • Structure and Function: The way in which an object or living thing is shaped and its substructure determine many of its properties and functions.
  • DNA encodes messages to build proteins that are necessary for life functions.
  • Models of DNA are used to represent the complexity of the molecule and its functions in the cell.
  • Mutations can alter genes and impact the proteins that can be produced leading to an abnormality or an increase in genetic diversity for unicellular organisms.
  • The cell cycle is a regulated process of cell division to grow, repair, and maintain an organism. A lack of regulation in the cell cycle can lead to cancer.
  • Specialized cell types have different structures in order to perform specific functions.
  • Technologies are used to manipulate DNA for a variety of purposes.

Chemistry

Investigate and understand:

  • Chemical bonds are formed through the movement of electrons to maximize the stability of both atoms.
  • Chemical names and formulas are models that indicate the unique chemical composition of a substance.
  • Molecular geometry is predictive of intermolecular chemical behavior.
  • The versatility of a carbon atom allows it to form compounds of many shapes and sizes that are essential for living systems and industrial processes.
  • Atoms re-arrange through chemical reactions in specific ratios that follow the Laws of Conservation of Matter and Energy.
  • Chemical reactions can be investigated and understood quantitatively and qualitatively from both macroscopic and molecular levels.

Environmental Science

Investigate and understand:

  • The composition of the atmosphere has changed over time and influences the conditions on Earth and its biosphere.
  • Energy transfer between the Sun and Earth’s atmosphere drives weather and climate.
  • Interactions between and among the geosphere, anthrosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere influence both weather and climate
  • Earth behaves as a set of many interdependent systems, which determine the features of an ecosystem.
  • Ecosystems and their components are limited by the availability of finite resources and the interaction between biotic and abiotic factors.
  • Organisms are linked to their environment through the cycling of matter and the transfer and transformation of energy (energy flow).
  • Biodiversity is essential to the viability of ecosystems and is determined by Earth’s many interconnected systems.
  • The survival of a population is impacted by genetic variation, reproductive strategies, and environmental pressures.
  • Populations change over time and can be studied through scientific models.
  • Humans impact biodiversity directly and indirectly.

Geosystems

Investigate and understand:

  • Plate tectonics drives the rock cycle, resulting in changes to the Earth’s landforms over time.
  • The cycling of energy and matter in Earth’s interior has important consequences for Earth’s surface.
  • Plate movements, weathering, and erosion transform Earth’s surface materials.
  • Freshwater is a component of the Earth system and is critical to geologic and life processes.
  • Earth’s rocks and fossils document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms and their environment throughout Earth’s history.

Physics

Investigate and understand:

  • Motion can be represented in a variety of ways and is relative to the observer.
  • Patterns of motion can be used to make predictions about the cause and effect of moving objects.
  • Acceleration due to gravity is constant and independent of the motion of an object.
  • Energy is stored in many different forms for different purposes.
  • Total energy is a conserved quantity in a closed system allowing us to predict the behavior of the system.

Quarter 3 (January 25 – March 26)

Life Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • All living things are composed of one or more cells that support life processes.
  • There are levels of structural organization in living things.
  • There are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life.

Physical Science

Investigate and understand

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Matter has properties and is conserved in chemical and physical processes.
  • The periodic table is a model used to organize elements based on their atomic structure.
  • Energy is conserved.

Biology

Investigate and understand:

  • Patterns: For both designed and natural systems, conditions that affect stability and factors that control rates of change are critical elements to consider and understand.
  • The process of meiosis in sexual reproduction is responsible for genetic variation within a population of organisms.
  • Traits of living things are determined by genetic makeup.
  • Patterns of inheritance allow us to predict genetic make-up and traits of future generations.
  • Genetic information can be altered through synthetic means.

Chemistry

Investigate and Understand:

  • Chemical reactions can be investigated and understood quantitatively and qualitatively from both macroscopic and molecular levels.
  • The mole is the fundamental unit for counting particles.
  • Experimental data provides evidence for constructing and evaluating models of molecular interactions.
  • Properties of solutions are dependent upon different factors, including concentrations of the solute, temperature, and the forces of attraction between particles.
  • Acids and bases have characteristic properties and react in predictable ways.

Environmental Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Earth’s resources are limited.
  • Changes in the availability of energy and other natural resources affect society and human activities.
  • The use of different energy resources has political, economic, social, and environmental ramifications.
  • Waste is a byproduct of an organism’s use of resources and, once generated, waste can only be managed not completely removed.
  • As human populations increase and land usage changes, waste must be managed in new ways to reduce impacts on the environment.
  • Water, soil, and air pollution can come in natural and anthropogenic forms, and water, soil, and air quality must be consistently monitored in order to protect vulnerable populations.
  • Reducing energy and resource usage is the best way to reduce pollution.
  • Scientific evidence indicates that the composition of the atmosphere has changed over time.
  • Human, biologic, and geologic activity impact Earth’s atmospheric composition and climate.
  • Scientific evidence indicates relationships among the atmosphere, extreme weather events, and changes in global climate.

Geosystems

Investigate and understand:

  • Virginia’s rocks and fossils document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms and their environment throughout Earth’s history.
  • Freshwater resources are influenced by geologic processes and human activities.
  • The composition of Earth’s atmosphere is unique in the solar system and has changed over geologic time.
  • Climate is driven by the transfer of energy between the sun and Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and the land.
  • Models constructed based on patterns in atmospheric conditions allow us to be able to predict future climate events due to human-induced actions.

Physics

Investigate and understand:

  • The interactions between two objects are governed by set universal principles.
  • Momentum and impulse are another way to understand motion and changes in motion.
  • Defining a system will impact the model used to represent the system.
  • Total momentum is a conserved quantity in a closed system allowing us to predict the behavior of a system.
  • Forces are interactions that can cause changes in motion.
  • Motion can be described and predicted from the sum of the forces acting on the object. 
  • Forces at a distance can be explained by fields permeating space that can transfer energy.

Quarter 4 (April 5 – June 11)

Life Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Organisms reproduce and transmit genetic information to new generations.
  • Populations of organisms can change over time.

Physical Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Science and engineering practices.
  • Waves are important in the movement of energy.
  • Electromagnetic radiation has characteristics.

Biology

Investigate and understand:

  • Genetic variation, reproductive strategies, and environmental pressures affect the survival of species.
  • Natural selection is a mechanism that leads to adaptations and may lead to the divergence of a new species.
  • The Theory of Evolution is supported by a variety of scientific evidence.
  • Relationships between organisms can be predicted and explained using taxonomic classification patterns.
  • The Germ Theory led to the understanding that many diseases are caused by microorganisms, and can be prevented, treated, or cured.
  • Interactions between organisms cycle matter and transfer energy throughout the biosphere.
  • Populations are affected by complex biotic and abiotic interactions involving exchange in matter and energy.
  • Human activities and natural activities impact ecosystems on local, regional and global scales.
  • Ecological succession is a predictable sequence of transition of a community.

Chemistry

Investigate and understand:

  • In a closed system, total energy is a conserved quantity that allows us to predict the chemical and physical behavior of the system.
  • Energy changes in reactions occur as bonds are broken and formed.
  • Collision theory relates matter and energy to predict the occurrence and progress of reactions.
  • Experimental data provides evidence for constructing and evaluation models of molecular interactions.
  • The kinetic molecular theory relates matter and energy to predict the behavior of gases.
  • Gases and their properties can be modeled through mathematical relationships.

Environmental Science

Investigate and understand:

  • Humans have the ability to impact the Earth’s systems.
  • Conflict arises from competition over ideas, resources, power, and status.
  • Like all populations, humans interact with ecosystems to meet their basic needs on a local, regional, and global level.
  • Land usage decisions are critical in supporting growing populations and have direct and indirect impacts on the environment.
  • Ecological sustainability balances short-term interests with the long-term welfare of society.
  • Individual activities and decisions can have an impact on the environment; humans have the ability to impact the Earth’s systems.
  • Participation in civic and government processes gives people voice and avenues to make change.
  • Decisions about the use of natural resources can be made at many levels and they always involve trade-offs of some kind.
  • Ecosystems play a role in the political, social, economic, and overall environmental health of a country.
  • Environmental policies seek to regulate the usage of certain resources for the common good.

Geosystems

Investigate and understand:

  • Weather is driven by the interaction of energy between the atmosphere, oceans, and land.
  • Models constructed based on patterns in atmospheric conditions allow us to be able to predict future weather events.
  • Extreme imbalances in energy distribution in the oceans, atmosphere, and land may lead to severe weather conditions.
  • Oceans are dynamic systems that support life, impact weather, and help moderate temperatures on the planet.
  • Environmental and geologic occurrences may lead to changes in ocean dynamics.
  • Earth has one big ocean with many features that support a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
  • Earth’s resources are limited, and the use and allocation of energy resources has political, economic, social, and environmental ramifications.
  • Many factors impact the use and the conservation of natural resources to include availability, renewal rates, and economics.

Physics

Investigate and understand:

  • Electrical circuits are systems used to store and transfer energy and are governed by the Law of Conservation of Energy.
  • Electrical circuits are systems. The behavior of the system and the circuit components can be predicted using models.
  • The arrangement of elements within a circuit affect the behavior of the circuit.
  • There is a relationship between current and magnetism that has a wide-ranging effect on modern technology
  • Waves transport energy by moving in predictable patterns.
  • Wave patterns are responsible for natural phenomena and are used to make modern communication technology possible.
  • Light can be described as both a wave and a particle.
  • Light always takes the path of least time from one point in space to another, resulting in the varied optical phenomena of our universe.
  • Performing rigorous and precise experiments leads to a more valid and well-tested scientific theory.
  • As it became clear that Newtonian physics does not adequately describe phenomena at the extremes of small size or high speed, a shift was prompted from classical physics to quantum physics.
  • As new ideas, thinking, and technologies are developed, traditional or fundamental ideas are re-evaluated.