<Earth science misconceptions and concepts
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Earth Science Misconceptions & Concepts

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Science Standards archives

Organization of information

Topic

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive ideas for all ages
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

Beginning concepts (preschool - 7 years)

Intermediate concepts (7 years - 11 years)

Literate concepts (11+)

Educator notes

 

  • The Earth - Its materials and their uses, forces that change the Earth, systems, water and the Earth's materials' and their uses, fossils and biogeology; human activity, resources, hazards, impacts, climate change
  • Earth's Atmosphere - Atmosphere, Water Cycle, Weather, season, & climates Earth's History - properties of Earth, its evolution, plate tectonics, its place in the universe
  • Space and astronomy - the Earth beyond its atmosphere, stars
  • Solar -

 

The Earth

Earth Materials, Forces that Change the Earth, Earth Materials' Uses, and Fossils, Realtionships to Earth Materials

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive (any age)
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

The Earth

  1. There is a layer of water under the soil.
  2. River valleys were created by earthquakes or movements of the earth.
  3. Mountains an valleys have always been on Earth.
  4. Water comes on shore as waves and evaporates.
  5. Streams flow because of the wind, fish, boats.
  6. Water moves because fish
  7. Water can move dirt and rocks if they are really small. Or a really old tree. It could make rocks slippery and easier to fall.
  8. River channels were there before the water and the water just follows them not creates them.
  9. Underground streams are like above ground only no fish.
  10. Earthquakes made cracks for rivers.
  11. Dinosaurs made holes for oceans, Paul Bunyan, really big snake, supernatural,
  12. Mountains by avalanches, tornado piled up dirt.
  13. Glaciers retreat. Turn and go in the opposite direction. Instead of melt.
  14. Rocks are stronger than the forces of nature (water, wind, ice).
  15. Rocks can only be changed by a blow of a hammer or other powerful object.
  16. Rock is a hard solid material.
  17. Rocks are uniform inside.
  18. Soil - dirt has always been here.
  19. Soil or dirt can be used up and never replaced.
  20. Soil is very deep - miles.
  21. Soil is made of plants and animals.
  22. Lava comes from the center of the Earth.
  23. Earthquakes are caused only by explosions from volcanoes.

Volcanoes

  1. It starts on fire and burns by people, sun, matches, lightening, hot core of the Earth, lava is a burning liquid…
  2. It is angry, mean, old,
  3. Core of the Earth is hot and flows to the surface, gets too full, decides to, gets too hot, boils over, explodes
  4. It get hot because of the plates of the Earth

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

The Earth

  1. The Earth is a solid sphere.

Earth Materials

  1. Earth materials include solid rocks and soils, water, minerals, and gases in the atmosphere.
  2. Rocks come in many sizes and shapes. Rocks change in size, shape, and other properties.
  3. Soils have properties of color, particle size, and texture.

Forces that Change the Earth

  1. Geological events (volcanoes, earthquakes, erosion) shape the earth.
  2. Animals and plants can change rocks and soil.

Earth Materials' Uses

  1. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use.

Fossils Relationships to Earth Materials

  1. Fossils were created long ago. 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

The Earth

  1. The Earth is layered from the outside in with solid crustal plates (lithosphere), hot liquid rock (mantle), and dense metallic center (core).
  2. Peach as model for Earth ... Pit is the core Fruit is the mantel Skin is the crust Peach fuzz is the atmosphere.

Earth Materials

  1. Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and gases of the atmosphere.
  2. Rocks come in many sizes and shapes.
  3. Rocks change in size, shape, and other properties.
  4. Animals and plants can change rocks and soil.
  5. Soils have properties of color, particle size, and texture.
  6. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use.
  7. Fossils were created long ago. 
  8. Soil consists of weathered rocks, water, and decomposed organic materials from dead plants, animals, and bacteria.
  9. Soils are often found in layers with each layer having different properties.
  10. Soils have properties of color, particle size, texture, capacity to retain water, and y.
  11. Wind, water, and ice shape the Earth.
  12. Erosion is the wearing away and moving of earth.
  13. Rock is made of different combinations of minerals.
  14. Soil is made from different forms of rock, plant and animal remains, and living organisms.

Earth Materials' Uses

  1. Earth materials supply nutrients, minerals, and store water to support the growth of many kinds of plants, in our food supply.
  2. Earth materials provide shelter, water, and nutrients for animals survival.

Fossils Relationships to Earth Materials

  1. Fossils were created from living organisms.

Forces that Change the Earth

  1. Lithospheric plates (tectonic plates) the size of continents and oceans constantly move at the rate of centimeters per year as a result of movements in the mantle.
  2. Tectonic plates are made of rocks such as those we see exposed that the surface.
  3. The interior of the Earth is hot Heat flow and movement material within the Earth cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that create mountains and ocean basins.
  4. Gases and dust from volcanoes can change the atmosphere.
  5. These forces can act fast and slow.
  6. The can also be constructive and destructive geological events create landforms.
  7. Constructive forces include crustal changes, mountain building, volcanic eruptions, and deposition of sediment.
  8. Destructive forces include weathering and erosion.

Forces that change the Earth continued...
Water erosion, meandering, rivers and streams

  1. The volume of water effects the size and shape of a stream.
  2. The slope of a stream effects the size and shape of the stream.
  3. The kind, size, and shape of earth material effects erosion.
  4. Water flow causes sand to be picked up.
  5. Water flow causes sand to be picked up and moved.
  6. Water flow causes sand to be dropped.
  7. Fine sand is moved more easily than coarse sand by streams.
  8. Deposits are formed as a result of the streams flow.
  9. Erosion and deposition occur in different places in a curving stream.
  10. Some streams flow straight and others make loops and curves.
  11. The movement of sand is affected by the angle of the channel, the number of channels, and the location of the channels.
  12. Different kinds of objects speed up or slow down the movement of sand.

Educator notes

Scoring guide for water erosion, rivers, and streams

Low level: Describes rain as related to streams and rivers and streams and rivers as concluding where seas and oceans begin.

Middle level: Describes rain and run-off as causing erosion and water from it as collecting in streams and rivers and emptying into seas and oceans.

Upper level: Describes rain and run-off as a powerful force proportional to the slope or volume of the flow. That water flow erodes the Earth in specific ways to create channels. And even thought large volumes of water or steep slopes can increase erosion long periods of time can erode the most erosion tolerant earth materials.

Top level: Describes rain and run-off is a powerful force that erodes the Earth and how different flows of water interact with the Earth to create stream beds. How different interactions depending on flow volume (related to precipitation and run-off), speed of the flow (related to the slope, run-off and shape of the channel), and earth materials (related to the flow of the water, mass, hardness, shape, and location of materials) create different channels and deposits.

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

The Earth

  1. The Earth is layered from the outside in with solid crustal plates (lithosphere), hot liquid convecting rock (mantle), and dense metallic center (core).

Earth Materials

  1. Soil consists of weathered rocks, water, gases, and decomposed organic materials from dead plants, animals, and bacteria.
  2. Soils are often found in layers with each layer having different chemical compositions.
  3. Soils have properties of color, particle size, texture, capacity to retain water, and y.
  4. Wind, water, and ice shape the Earth.
  5. Erosion is the wearing away and moving of earth.
  6. Weathered rock is the basic component of soil, the amount of soil and its fertility and resistance to erosion are greatly influenced by plant roots and debris, bacteria, fungi, worms, insects, rodents, and other organisms.
  7. Rock is made of different combinations of minerals.
  8. Soil is made from different forms of rock, plant and animal remains, and living organisms.
  9. The rock cycle describes how solid earth changes when rocks at the earth's surface weather, form sediments that are buried, then compacted, heated, and often recrystallize into new rock.
  10. Eventually, those new rocks may be brought to the surface by movements in the mantle and cycle continues.

Earth Materials' Uses

  1. Earth materials supply nutrients, minerals, and store water to support the growth of many kinds of plants, in our food supply. Earth materials provide shelter, water, and nutrients for animals survival.
  2. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food.
  3. Earth resources are nonrenewable.

Fossils Relationship to Earth Materials

  1. Fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed.
  2. Fossils were created in amber, replacement by crystallization, and imprints. Fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago and the nature of the environment at that time.

Forces that Change the Earth

  1. The surface of the earth changes due to slow processes, such as erosion and weathering, and some changes are due to rapid processes, such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
  2. Thousands of layers of sedimentary rock confirm a long history of the changing surface of the Earth and the changing life forms whose remains can be found in successive layers.
  3. The youngest layers are not always found on top because of folding, breaking, and uplifting of layers.
  4. Human activity has changed the Earth (farming, reducing forests, release of chemicals, ) and decreased the capacity of the environment to support some forms of life.

Educator notes

 

Earth's Atmosphere

  • Atmosphere, Water Cycle, Precipitation, Weather, season, & climates

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

Atmosphere

  1. Sun changes color
  2. Sun changes color because of dirt, dust, clouds, smog,
  3. Color depends on how close the sun is at the time.
  4. When the sun sets it is farther away and therefore its color changes
  5. Because the Sun is just coming up or going down
  6. Sun gives off all colors and we see what is reflected
  7. Sun’s position determines the color of the sky. When the sun is behind the clouds that is why there isn’t any color except the color of the clouds.
  8. Humidity or moisture in the air can change the color

Water cycle

  1. Water in a saucer doesn't evaporate the water has soaked into the saucer.
  2. When water evaporates it disappears or ceases to exist.
  3. When water boils or evaporates it goes straight to clouds (there is no water vapor in air).
  4. The (visible) steam from kettles rises, as steam, to form (visible) clouds.
  5. When water boils and the gaseous form condenses some of the original water is lost.
  6. Rain falls when the clouds are too full of water and it drips out (or the cloud bursts open).
  7. Coldness turns into water (something taken from the refrigerator).
  8. We sweat more on a humid day.
  9. The bubbles in boiling water are bubbles of air, or oxygen, or oxygen and hydrogen, or heat.
  10. All liquids boil at 100 degrees Celsius; boiling water must always be hotter than other non-boiling liquids, heated oil.
  11. If you melt cooking fat it will stay as a liquid (cooking oil).
  12. A liquid will become lighter if it turns into a gas.
  13. Water vapor is less dense than water.
  14. Water evaporates only from objects that contain visible water as a source (oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, puddles, wet soil, anima wastes…).
  15. Water transpires from plantsin liquid form
  16. Clouds, dew, fog, and frost is water in a gaseous form.

Precipitation

Rain
  1. It falls from the clouds like from a sprinkling can
  2. Clouds make rain. Rain people cry in the clouds.. God makes it. God, angels, sweat, crying,
  3. Rain comes from holes in the clouds, clouds sweating, clouds shaken, melt
  4. Rain occurs because we need it
  5. Sun and clouds combine to make rain
  6. Moisture in the air causes rain (no relationship about energy)
  7. Rain is cause by moisture reacting with carbon dioxide
  8. It rains when there are enough clouds
  9. It will rain when the water in the sky or clouds becomes less and less gaseous and eventually it becomes water and rains down
  10. Rain has something to do with hot and cold
  11. It rains when water evaporates, gets cold, freezes, and falls out of the cloud.
  12. Rain happens when a cool front hits a warm front or a moist front… (contact)
  13. When clouds become too heavy to hold water it rains
  14. Raindrops are tear shaped.
  15. When water evaporates it disappears or ceases to exist.
  16. Rain, water cycle, just comes from sky, comes from clouds, comes from water on earth to clouds to rain, process but not energy transfer or change of states.
Snow
  1. Snow is made of water and air, chemicals, cold air,
  2. Snow flake has points on the outside and holes in the middle
  3. Rain starts up high and as it gets closer to Earth it gets colder and turns to snow
  4. What falls is rain or snow depending on the temperature
Evaporation
  1. Water is absorbed into a surface, rather than evaporate into the air. Or an animal drinks it.
  2. Air takes water up into the sky.
  3. Water and air connect and go into the sky
  4. Water turn to steam
  5. Sun absorbed it
  6. Water evaporates as water particle
  7. Water disappears when spilled on surfaces.
  8. Water evaporates to form water vapor.
  9. Evaporation is effected by different variables.
  10. Surface area, air flow, temperature, humidity, air pressure above the water, effect the rate of evaporation.
  11. Evaporation only takes place at the surface.
  12. Other liquids can not evaporate.
  13. When water evaporates it disappears or ceases to exist.
  14. Water comes on shore as waves and evaporates.
  15. Bubbles in boiling water are air.
Clouds
  1. Clouds just go around the Earth.
  2. Are made of pillows, cotton, wool, smoke, vapor from cooking
  3. Clouds move because we move,
  4. Jet contrails are smoke
  5. Clouds are made from air and water
  6. Air pressure keeps clouds in the air
Thunder and lightning
  1. Thunder happens when clouds hit, bump, rub, friction… each other. When a negative cloud hits a positive cloud it makes lightening, When rain rubs against the air
    Lightning is a big spark
  2. Supernatural event (God makes, angels when get a strike bowling)
  3. Found by a famous inventor flying a kite.
  4. Thunder occurs without lightening. Lightening occurs without thunder (heat lightening).
  5. Lightening never strikes twice in the same place.

Weather season, & climate

  1. Weather is caused by wind.
  2. Rain and snow is caused by clouds.

Seasons

  1. Seasons are caused by the distance of the Earth from the sun. In the summer the Earth is closer to the sun.
  2. The distance of different parts of the Earth, caused by the tilt of the Earth on its axis, causes the seasons

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Atmosphere

  1. There are gases surrounding the Earth Living organisms interact with the Earth.

Water cycle

  1. Clouds are necessary for rain.
  2. Most of the Earth's surface is covered with water.

Weather season, & climate

  1. Weather changes from day to day and over the seasons.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Atmosphere

  1. The Earth's atmosphere is made of gases, one of which is oxygen, that animals breathe.
  2. Living organisms change the Earth's atmosphere.
  3. Sunrise, sunset, and blue sky
  4. White light is scattered by the gases in the atmosphere and since blue has the shortƒpressureest wavelength it is scattered less than others and that is why the sky is blue.

Water cycle

  1. Clouds form from water vapor.
  2. Water, which covers the majority of the earth's surface, circulates through the crust, oceans, and atmosphere and is known as the water cycle.

Weather season, & climate

  1. Weather can be described by measurable quantities, such as temperature, wind direction, speed, and precipitation.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Atmosphere

  1. The atmosphere is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace gases that include water vapor.
  2. The atmosphere has different properties at different elevations.
  3. Living organisms have played many roles in the earth system, including affecting the composition of the atmosphere, producing some types of rocks, and contributing to the weathering of rocks.

Water cycle

  1. Water cycle includes the evaporation of water from the earth's surface, rises and cools as it moves to higher elevations, condenses as rain or snow, and falls to the surface where it collects in lakes, oceans, soil, and in rocks underground.
  2. Water is a solvent. As it passes through the water cycle it dissolves minerals and gases and carries them to the oceans.

Weather season, & climate

  1. Weather is driven by solar energy.
  2. Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat.
  3. Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather.
  4. Surface seawater freezes and rises above the salt, which sinks making the water below more dense, which causes bottom currents that distribute heat around the oceans of the planet.

Educator notes

 

Earth's History

Properties of Earth, its evolution, plate tectonics, its place in the universe

 

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Earth History

  1. The Earth changes.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Earth History

  1. The Earth has changed considerably over long periods of time.
  2. Plate tectonics is the movement of large slabs of Earth that floats on molten rock below it.
  3. Land formations - mountains, plateaus, river basins, deltas,
  4. Time is measured in 100,000's of years.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Earth History

  1. The Earth's processes we see today, include erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition, are similar to those that occurred in the past.
  2. Earth history is also influenced by occasional catastrophes, such as the impact of an asteroid or comet.
  3. Earth's atmosphere when just formed was mostly hydrogen (H2) and helium (He) which were very warm, moved so fast they escaped Earth's gravity, and eventually drifted off into space. Later Young Earth had volcanoes which released gases H2O (water) as steam, carbon dixoide (CO2), and ammonia (NH3). Carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in seawater. Simple bacteria thrived on sunlight and CO2 and some organisims produce oxygen (O2). Now, plants and animals thrive with an atmosphere balance. Plants use carbon dioxide (CO2) and make oxygen (O2). Animals use oxygen (O2) and release CO2. Burning creates CO2.

Educator notes

 

Space & astronomy

The Earth beyond its atmosphere.

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

Space

  1. There is sound in space.
  2. There is air in space.
  3. Jets can fly in space
  4. Space craft are hot when they come back to Earth because they were going fast (speed only not interactions with air).

Moon

  1. Phases of the moon are caused by the moon being in the Earth's shadow, Sun’s shadow
    Clouds, weather...
  2. Half of the moon is always in the dark.
  3. The moon does not rotate
  4. The moon's rotation causes the phases
  5. The moon is a planet
  6. The moon follows you
  7. You can't see the moon in the daytime.
  8. The moon is blue during the daytime, that is why you don't see it.
  9. The moon has no gravity.
  10. Different places on Earth see different phases of the moon on the same day.
  11. The moon chases the sun across the sky.
  12. The moon is larger on the horizon because it is closer to Earth, We compare it to foreground objects and
  13. it looks bigger. The gases, dust, in the atmosphere make it look that way.
  14. The moon only shows one face to Earth because it is not rotating.

Stars

  1. Stars predict the future.
  2. Stars are not out in the daytime
  3. Sun is a planet
  4. Are made of foil or something shiny
  5. Like an asteroid
  6. Stuff that reflects light
  7. Balls of fire
  8. Balls of fire and gases
  9. The Sun and the Earth are the same size.
  10. Stars have pointed tips.
  11. Stars are different colors because of distance, size of stars, different matter,
  12. The Sun is not a star.
  13. Stars are burning hydrogen

Planets

  1. Planets are in a straight line
  2. Planets are in a plane.
  3. All planets travel at the same speed.

Solar System

  1. Sun’s relationship to Earth: Where is the Sun at night? Sleeps, runs away from the moon, goes away at night, on the other side of the Earth, (Sun orbits the Earth) goes to the Chinese side, It sets on the other side of the Earth, but I don’t know how it gets back to the other side. It must cross the sky at night.
  2. The Earth goes around the Sun and is on the dark side at night.
  3. Milky Way is at the center of the solar system
  4. Earth is the center of the solar system
  5. Earth is the largest planet in the solar sytem
  6. Stars are in the solar system

Space & astronomy

  1. Constellations are two dimensional.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

  1. Clouds, birds, and airplanes all have properties, locations, and movements that can be observed and described. They do not travel beyond the atmosphere.
  2. There are more stars in the sky than can be easily counted.
  3. They are not scattered evenly and are not the same brightness or color.
  4. The sun can be seen only in the day time.
  5. The moon can be seen sometimes at day and sometimes at night.
  6. The sun, moon, and stars all appear to move in the sky.
  7. The moon looks a little different every day and the same again about every four weeks.
  8. Earth is a planet.
  9. Gravity pulls objects toward the Earth.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

  1. Objects in the sky have patterns of movement.
  2. The sun, for example, appears to move across the sky in the same way every day, but its path changes slowly over the seasons.
  3. The moon moves across the sky on a daily basis much like the sun.
  4. The observable shape of the moon changes from day to day in a cycle that lasts about a month.
  5. Seasons result from variations in the amount of the sun's energy hitting the surface, due to the tilt of the earth's rotation on its axis and the length of the day.
  6. The stars form patterns in the sky that stay the same, although they appear to move across the sky nightly, and different stars can be seen in different seasons.
  7. Telescopes are use to study the objects in the sky.
  8. Planets change their positions relative to the stars.
  9. The sun is a star.
  10. The Earth is a planet that orbits the sun, and the moon orbits the Earth.
  11. The earth is the third planet from the sun in a system that includes the moon, the sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects, such as asteroids and comets.
  12. The sun, an average star, is the central and largest body in the solar system.
  13. Gravity alone holds us to the earth's surface, and explains the phenomena of the tides.
  14. The sun provides light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the earth.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

  1. Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion.
  2. Those motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses.
  3. We live on a relatively small planet that is the third from the sun.
  4. The Earth is mostly rock with three-fourths of it covered by water and the entire planet surrounded by air.
  5. Seven other planets of different size, compositions and conditions from Earth orbit the sun and do not appear to be able to support life.
  6. The planets have general patterns that relate to their size, orbits, number of moons, and distance from the sun. Everything on or anywhere near the Earth is pulled toward the Earth's center by gravitational force.
  7. Large chunks of rocks orbit the sun in different orbits.
  8. Some will glow and disintegrate from friction as they move through the atmosphere or sometimes impact the surface.
  9. Others mixed with ice will be heated by the sun's energy and boil off frozen material from their surface and push it into a long illuminated tail.
  10. There are relationships between the objects in the solar system.
  11. Gravity is the force that keeps planets in orbit around the sun and governs the rest of the motion in the solar system.
  12. The sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on the earth's surface, such as growth of plants, winds, weather, ocean currents, and the water cycle.

Educator notes

 

Solar

The Sun and its neighborhood.

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

  1. Sun provides the Earth with light.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

  1. The sun provides light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the earth.
  2. The sun is a major source of energy (light and heat) for changes on the Earth's surface.
  3. A tiny fraction of the sun's light is transferred to the Earth.

 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

  1. The sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on the earth's surface, such as growth of plants, winds, weather, ocean currents, and the water cycle.
  2. The sun's energy arrives as light with a range of wavelengths, consisting of visible light, infrared, and ultraviolet radiation.

Educator notes

 

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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