Online Learning Center

Our Online Learning Center is undergoing a redesign

Thank you for your patience as we work to improve our educational resources. If you’re an educator, please choose from one of our many lesson plans below. We’ll update this page as soon as our new Online Learning Center content is live.

Lesson Plans

Grade 3: Earth System Science

Students will work in teams to build an aquarium, which serves as an Earth system model. Using a matching game, they will identify each part of the aquarium and the important job each part plays. As  students observe the interactions within the aquarium, they learn how each part contributes towards a  healthy and balanced system.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Through guided inquiry, students will identify interactions of the four major scientific spheres on Earth:  biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and geosphere.  They will then identify how these systems are  represented and interact in their classroom aquarium.  They will apply their experience and knowledge gathered from their aquarium system models with imagery from NASA’s Aqua satellite to investigate  spheres found on Earth. 

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students explore the ways in which the Sun’s energy causes changes.  Students will begin by observing  and measuring changes in the aquariums. They measure the water level, examine plant growth, snail  populations, and algae growth. They also observe how the Sun can change solid ice into liquid water, as  1 well as how it changes liquid water in a puddle, or wet spot into a gas called water vapor.  Through observation, students recognize the Sun as a form of energy that drives systems and change. 

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will first explore where water is found on Earth and then make predictions about how water travels  within Earth’s spheres. Students will discover that when phenomena repeat in predictable patterns, cycles are created. The water cycle follows a sequence, but can begin or end with any part of the cycle. They will  discover how the water cycle is driven by the Sun. Students will observe three parts of the water cycle by traveling through centers that highlight these three processes.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students observe decaying plant matter in a closed system. Students classify and sequence specimens of  seeds, sprouts, young plants, flowering and/or fruiting plants, and decomposing plants to understand how  organic matter contributes to the formation of soil. Students make connections between the way organic  matter becomes humus with the way a drop of water moves through the water cycle on our planet. Students learn the important components of Earth’s spheres that interact to make this natural process function: plant life and decomposers from the biosphere, water from the hydrosphere, air in the atmosphere, rock particles from the geosphere, and, of course, the driving energy source, our Sun.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students begin to understand the differences between weather and climate. They learn about the  conditions and locations of three major climate zones, polar, temperate and tropical. They consider how the proximity to the equator affects a region’s climate. They make predictions about what the weather will be like in a given location based on what they have learned about the climate zone of that area.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In System Sleuths, students will reflect on and apply all content learned in this unit of study. They will be engaging in a group observation walk in a natural environment near the school to detect Earth’s systems, work to classify these systems, and determine their many interactions.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Grade 3: Hawai‘i as an ESS Lab

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated island group on the planet, yet they are home to unique plant  and animal species. Students will learn about biological dispersal as they explore three different ways life  colonized the remote Hawaiian Islands before human contact:  wings, waves, and wind. Furthermore,  students will recognize the relationship between methods of dispersal and Earth system spheres: the hydrosphere (waves), the atmosphere (wind), and the biosphere (winged animals).

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students work with models to explore ocean waves. They identify several different environmental actions  that cause ocean waves including wind, underwater earthquakes and glacier melt. Students recognize the importance of waves in colonizing the Hawaiian Islands and the role waves play in shaping coastlines of the  islands.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students investigate samples to learn what sand can tell us about ocean life and the geology of our island  home. Students compare the content, color, size, and weight of sand samples to draw conclusions about  the parent rocks and the type of erosion that produced the sand. Through these investigations, students  see how our sandy beaches are the result of interactions between rocks in the geosphere, life in the ocean from the biosphere, and waves from the hydrosphere.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In a Cloudy Day, students will discover what role clouds play in the water cycle by reviewing how clouds  form. They will learn about and observe different types of clouds to discover how clouds are named. Through ongoing observations of cloud formations and current weather patterns, students will draw  conclusions about how clouds affect our weather. Through participation in NASA’s ​ S’COOL ​  Rover program,  students begin to understand why scientists study clouds and be able to participate in one of NASA’s Earth Observing System missions.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In ​World of Wet, World of Dry, students revisit the difference between weather and climate and add to their  understanding. They learn about interactions between the geosphere and atmosphere by exploring how the  presence of  mountains change our island weather and climate in terms of windward and leeward sides. Students will make a model of an island to explore and develop their understanding of the characteristics of  leeward and windward sides of a mountain. Students will also discover how Hawaiʻi’s northeast tradewinds  affect the climate of our island chain by comparing and contrasting the weather and climate in different locations of their home island.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Through observations and investigations of local areas, students will be introduced to the concept of an ecosystem, using a systems approach.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In this lesson, students will learn about food chains and food webs by studying examples found right here in Hawai‘i.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students investigate a native Hawaiian endangered species. They learn about the problems affecting the survival of the species as well as how people are working to protect it and improve its survival in today’s world. Students build a three-dimensional model to demonstrate what they have learned. They write about  the features of the ecosystem and point out how Earth spheres interact to support or harm the life of the species they have chosen.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Grade 4: Earth System Science

An Earth science system model demonstrates how the Earth is comprised of many elements that interact together. Students will create various terrarium models using plants, animals, and abiotic factors to observe how changing certain components affect the whole system. Through inquiry and experimentation, students will further explore system processes, such as the water cycle.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will use their terrariums as a model from the lesson, “Creating an ESS Model: Up Close and  Personal” to explore how water interacts with Earth’s spheres in a closed system. Students will analyze and  interpret data to examine Earth’s systems cycle, water. Using their terrarium models and information on the  water cycle, students will be able to identify ​ evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Students will also  compare and contrast open and closed systems. They will record their observations in a science notebook.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Earth is a dynamic planet. Complex and interconnected processes make up the Earth system. This Earth system is made up of smaller subsystems/components: the geosphere is the land, the air is the  atmosphere, life is the biosphere and the hydrosphere is all forms of water, including a smaller subsystem of  the cryosphere which is ice. These smaller systems ​ interact together and create change. Most events on Earth are going to involve more than one sphere. Let’s look at a fairly simple example to begin like  volcanoes. Volcano eruptions are events in the geosphere because this is both rock being pushed out from  under the surface as well as a change in the surface land itself. Volcanoes also spew a lot of gas and  particulate matter into the atmosphere, as well as send hot lava flowing down mountainsides, disrupting the  biosphere. Water will condense around that particulate matter in the atmosphere, so now we’ve involved the hydrosphere as well.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Water cycles continuously through the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere in all its  different forms. Water evaporates into the atmosphere from the land and the sea. Plants and animals use  and reuse water and release water vapor into the air. Once in the air, water vapor circulates and can condense to form clouds and precipitation, which falls back to Earth. At one time or another, all of the water molecules on Earth have been in an ocean, a river, a plant, an animal, a cloud, a raindrop, a snowflake, or a  glacier!

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will use their terrariums as they are introduced to the rock cycle in the geosphere. They will explore videos and pictorial representations, and examine its relationship to the water cycle in the  hydrosphere and possible impacts upon living things in the biosphere. They will focus on weathering and erosion through questions, observation, experimenting and recording data in their science notebooks.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Everything on Earth belongs to one of four spheres. All of the processes on Earth are driven by four  spheres; the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and biosphere. Together, they make up all of the living  and nonliving components of our planet. All the spheres interact with other spheres. For example, rain from  the hydrosphere falls from clouds in the air of the atmosphere to the land of the geosphere and forms streams and rivers that provide drinking water for wildlife and humans as well as water for plant growth in  the biosphere. River action erodes banks in the lithosphere and uproots plants in the biosphere on the  riverbanks. Flooding rivers wash away soil.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will identify the four spheres that make up Earth system science and discover interconnections between them. Students will create a visual project with a partner to show examples of how the spheres  connect and interact with each other based on evidence of changes within Earth systems. They will display  their project and sphere cards in a gallery walk and explain what they have learned about Earth sphere interactions through their observations and classroom discussions.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Grade 4: Hawai‘i as an ESS Lab

Kauaʻi Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve is a montane wet system which receives all or most of it’s water from precipitation rather than from runoff, groundwater or streams. The unique and demanding physical and chemical characteristics of this area have resulted in the presence of plant and animal communities that  demonstrate many special adaptations to low nutrient levels, waterlogged conditions, and acidic waters.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Hawai‘i’s coral reef ecosystem provides an excellent opportunity for students to study Earth systems science in a marine environment. The reefs are delicate communities that harbor biologically diverse plants  and animals. These organisms depend upon the interactions of a healthy geosphere, atmosphere,  hydrosphere and biosphere.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In this lesson, students will explore theories of island formation based upon evidence in the geosphere. They will investigate Hawaiian igneous rock by participating in hands­on activities with rock samples and using models to demonstrate the rock cycle.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students conduct activities that explore geologic fast processes with the Nuʻuanu landslide and slow processes like weathering and erosion over time on the island of Oʻahu. They investigate ways the  atmospheric wind and water interact and how these interactions impact the biosphere. Students identify  patterns in evidence to show cause and effect. They discover ways the ahupuaʻa relates to natural boundaries in the geosphere.  They explore to  discover the ahupua‘a as a cultural strategy from past Hawai‘i natural scientists to maximize resources based upon the relationships between Earth’s spheres.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Precipitation is a vital component of how water moves through Earth’s water cycle, connecting the ocean, land, and atmosphere​. Knowing where it rains, how much it rains and the character of the falling rain, snow or ​hail​ allows scientists to better understand precipitation impact on streams, rivers, surface ​ runoff​  and  groundwater​. Frequent and detailed measurements help scientists make models to determine changes in Earth’s water cycle.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will investigate how the Hawaiian archipelago formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean more than 3,200 kilometers from the nearest tectonic plate boundary. They will explore evidence to support a theory to explain how Hawaiʻi was formed and how these islands have changed over time. They will see how this is a result of interaction within Earth’s spheres. Students will learn through discussions, view videos, and  examine maps and photographs of the Hawaiian archipelago from United States Geologic Survey and NASA images to investigate evidence of interactions in the Hawaiian geosphere.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Hawai​‘​i is truly a diverse geosphere with its active volcanoes, towering waterfalls, and sandy beaches. However, the islands are also vulnerable to certain kinds of hazards resulting from natural processes such  as hurricanes, flooding, lava flows, earthquakes and tsunamis. These processes are interconnected  through all of Earth’s spheres. Students will analyze these phenomena using case studies, NASA satellite images, and University of Hawaiʻi School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology data. They will  explore how these phenomena are related through Earth System Science spheres. Using this knowledge, they will determine ways that humans can take steps to understand and reduce the impact of such events.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Grade 5: Earth System Science

This lesson introduces the Earth system science spheres through model making and discussion. Students will work within an Earth system science notebook to chronicle their work and learning. In small groups  students will examine photographs and conduct a photo sort of examples from the geosphere, biosphere,  hydrosphere and atmosphere. Student groups will classify these examples into categories and provide category titles as they are introduced to the scientific vocabulary. Students will then construct two types of conceptual ESS models. Classroom discussions will deepen this conceptual understanding by comparing  and contrasting the models and discussing the advantages of each as tools for understanding the complexities of our Earth system.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will investigate the different places water is stored on Earth and the quantities of water in its  various forms. On the first day students will review their background knowledge on the Earth’s water  resources and the water cycle through a PowerPoint slide show. On the second day, students will work in collaborative groups to create a model of water on Earth called the ​Blue Planet Model. The model­making  will involve critical thinking and group planning. Mathematical connections will include using decimals,  percents, and volume measurement. After modeling water storage locations and quantities on Earth, students are asked to draw conclusions about water on our planet based upon the evidence from their  activities. This lesson uses science notebooks for data collection, recording and reflection.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will investigate the different places water is stored on Earth and the quantities of water in its  various forms. On the first day students will review their background knowledge on the Earth’s water  resources and the water cycle through a PowerPoint slide show. On the second day, students will work in collaborative groups to create a model of water on Earth called the ​Blue Planet Model. The model­making  will involve critical thinking and group planning. Mathematical connections will include using decimals,  percents, and volume measurement. After modeling water storage locations and quantities on Earth, students are asked to draw conclusions about water on our planet based upon the evidence from their  activities. This lesson uses science notebooks for data collection, recording and reflection.

Download Lesson Plan >>

This lesson gives students a chance to be creative and expressive while conveying scientific information  about the Earth system to their classmates. Using the information gained from the lesson “The Earth Recycles Too!”​ about Earth’s ‘recycling program’, students will act out one of the cycles. Students will work  collaboratively to apply their knowledge, create a skit and perform it for the class. Groups will use their science notebooks with their own information to create skits, In addition, they will ​ receive “Matter and Energy Role Cards” to supplement their own information. Students will demonstrate their understanding  about how their specific process circulates, recycles and redistributes matter and energy within the Earth’s  system. Students will incorporate place­based education by highlighting local examples in their skits. Through ​ drama, students will internalize, personalize and demonstrate patterns of matter and energy  interactions in Earth system science​.

Download Lesson Plan >>

What skills do scientists use? Keen observation skills, accurate measurement, detailed record keeping, critical analysis, predictions based upon evidence and a conclusion that can be supported are all scientific skills.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Why is our climate changing? Climate change is an effect of increased CO​2​  in the atmosphere. In this hands­on lesson, students share their conclusions and experiment by testing their own CO​2​  production with  a universal pH indicator. They are introduced to the pH scale as a method of organizing their data. Student groups will extend the experiment from lesson 5.1.5 “The Keeling Curve:  Making Keen Observations Over  Time” to observe interactions of CO​ 2​ and red cabbage juice (universal indicator) and compare all results using the pH scale to organize the data. This offers an authentic exploration of the NGSS crosscutting concept of scale, proportion, and quantity.

Download Lesson Plan >>

In this culminating lesson, students will create an Earth System Journal to record their own Earth system science observations to incorporate their learning from all lessons in this unit. Students will make their  detailed observations for three days. They will synthesize their understanding of relationships within the  four Earth spheres while using scientific vocabulary that was introduced throughout the unit. The journal will  include their own questions generated by their keen observations that can lead to further investigations. The lesson will end with students planning an experiment based on one of their own questions and presenting their experiment plan to the class.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Grade 5: Hawai‘i as an ESS Lab

Earth system scientists in Grade 5 will investigate various images of the Hawaiian islands using their questioning and critical thinking skills.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students have begun to investigate Hawai‘i as a laboratory to learn more about Earth system science.

Download Lesson Plan >>

This lesson introduces students to satellites and satellite applications for studying Earth system science. In  the first part of the lesson the students will learn about the parts of a satellite, complete a worksheet and actively build a satellite as a collaborative jigsaw activity. In the second session of the lesson, students will  learn about how scientists are currently using satellites to gather data on a range of Earth system science topics. Students will work with one data set collected from a satellite to analyze and consider using satellite  data collection as part of Earth system science. Students will develop ideas and questions about how the  satellite data can be used to study the four spheres in Hawai‘i and record these in their science notebook.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students will be given the chance to learn about three species in Hawai‘i who share the biosphere with  humans.  The purpose of this lesson is to familiarize students with these species (both threatened and  endangered) and have them conduct research to identify key issues surrounding the species’ survival.

Download Lesson Plan >>

This unit looks at the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and atmosphere of Hawai‘i as a laboratory to study Earth system science. As we look at Hawai‘i as an Earth system science laboratory, we must consider the marine species that share the hydrosphere with us. This lesson is an introduction to three  species that inhabit the Hawaiian hydrosphere; the Hawaiian monk seal, the hawksbill sea turtle, and the tiger shark.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Mission Hawai‘i ​is a satellite research mission designed by student teams to study one of the species featured in lessons “​Sharing the Biosphere in Hawai‘i”​ and “​Sharing the Hydrosphere in Hawai‘i.”​ Students engage in the engineering design process to build a model of a satellite that would gather Earth system science data about Hawaiʻi related to the study and protection of a Hawaiian species. Students use their  science notebooks and “Engineering Design Journal” and participate in the engineering design process with their team. After discussion and planning of their ​Mission: Hawai‘i, students design, draw and construct a scale model of their satellite using household and recycled materials. Two short videos produced by NASA Goddard inspire students to design towards specific criteria and to produce the best product with the resources available. At the end of the lesson, students plan for an oral presentation to share their ​Mission Hawai‘i.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students practice and share an oral presentation on their Earth system science research mission, ​Mission:  Hawai‘i, with an audience. Students include information on the species to be studied, the type of data to be collected, connections to Earth system science, the designs and prototype of their model satellite and highlights from their team engineering design process.

Download Lesson Plan >>

NASA Planets

Students find out how human curiosity in planetary exploration results in science questions, engineering solutions, and teamwork. This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered by the use of remote-sensing techniques.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Students learn about the characteristics of planets, comets, asteroids, and trans-Neptunian objects through a classification activity. Students can then apply what they have learned by participating in a formal debate about a solar system object discovered by the New Horizons spacecraft and by defining the term ‘planet.’

Download Lesson Plan >>

Cultural Connections

In the absence of written materials (such as recorded histories or nautical charts), archaeologists and navigators alike must make important decisions based on conclusions drawn from observations.

Download Lesson Plan >>

The effect of even wind blowing against a person’s body is enough to move a vessel through the water in the same direction. Rafts are well suited to drifting and steering with the current but generally can only sail in the same direction as the wind. Single-hulled canoes offer considerable advantages over rafts, including more buoyancy and greater ease of paddling, but dug-out tree trunks tend to have round cross-sections and very low resistance to capsizing.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Meteorology is the scientific study of Earth’s atmosphere (the layer of gases that surrounds Earth and is held in place by its gravity), which protects Earth’s life forms by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming Earth’s surface through heat retention, and distributing temperature extremes between day and night (technically the ocean is responsible for heat regulation, the winds ‘assist’ in the movement of ‘heat’ around the globe).

Download Lesson Plan >>

The moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth and is in synchronous rotation with it, always showing the same face. It is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, and its current orbital distance causes it to coincidentally appear (from Earth) to be almost the same size as the Sun, allowing it to cover the Sun precisely in total solar eclipses.

Download Lesson Plan >>

About 5 million years ago in Africa, ancestral humans diverged from their chimpanzeelike relatives. There were numerous species of these very early humans, many of which became extinct, but by about 2 million years ago, a new genus called Homo had appeared.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Whereas a modern navigator uses a variety of instruments, charts, mathematical calculations, and a spherical coordinate system of latitude and longitude, a traditional navigator lacks these tools and instead employs a number of non-instrument methods in order to be able to 1) orient him- or herself and set an accurate course toward his or her destination, 2) keep track of his or her position en route and make any necessary course corrections, and 3) make landfall on the island or place along a coastline to which he or she is heading.

Download Lesson Plan >>

To study human migration within the Pacific, DNA is extracted from blood, hair, or mouth swabs of people from each region (Penny & Meyer, 2006, p. 98).

Download Lesson Plan >>

Au (surface currents) are mainly produced by wind blowing on the ocean surface and to a lesser extent by temperature and pressure variations in the ocean. Around Hawaiʻi, surface currents generally flow westward at 0.3-0.5 knots.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Plankton (plural of a singular plankter) are any aquatic organisms incapable of swimming against a current, can be microscopic in size or as big as jellyfish, and serve as a crucial source of food for many other aquatic animals—including fish and whales.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Meteorology is the scientific study of Earth’s atmosphere (the layer of gases that surrounds Earth and is held in place by its gravity), which protects Earth’s life forms by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming Earth’s surface through heat retention, and regulating temperature extremes between day and night.

Download Lesson Plan >>

Biomechanics Exhibit Lessons

How does size affect temperature regulation?

Download Lesson Plan >>

How much force can a seemingly brittle object withstand when it is dome-shaped?

Download Lesson Plan >>

How are biological levers advantageous in different ways?

Download Lesson Plan >>

What factors affect the strength of muscle?

Download Lesson Plan >>

Have questions about our Educational Tours and Activities? Call (808) 848-4168

Be a Part of Our Story

Celebrate the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific with a gift to Bishop Museum. As a partner in the Museum’s work, you can help to sustain vital collections, research, and knowledge, and inspire exploration and discovery with a tax-deductible donation.