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Estimated Completion Time

2 segments / 36 weeks


This offering may be completed as a Course, Project, or Experience.  Select the buttons above for more information on each pathway.

Earth-Space Science is a laboratory course focusing on the study of space, geologic structures and forces, the waters on our planet, and the atmospheric forces that shape our world. Through experimentation and investigation, students will explore the earth’s cycles including the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and carbon cycle. Students will learn about scientific inquiry, geologic time, space exploration, the solar system, and the universe. Students will use web 2.0 tools, interactive experiences, higher-order thinking, collaborative projects, and real-world application through labs and a variety of assessments. Upon completion of the course, students will have a clear understanding of the dynamic forces at work in the world around them, becoming better caretakers of our planet, Earth.

Note: content varies depending on the course version. For currently enrolled students, please refer to the syllabus located in the course information area for curriculum specifics.

Major Topics and Concepts


Beginning with Science

  • Science processes
  • Observations and inferences
  • Historical frame of reference- scientists and explorers
  • Theory vs. law, science vs. pseudoscience
  • Cryosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere, Atmosphere, Geosphere


Segment 1

  • Climate and Meteorology
    • Structure of the atmosphere
    • Trends in temperature and atmospheric pressure
    • Factors influencing weather and climate
    • Humidity, air pressure, air masses, temperature, long term conditions
    • Global air circulation and winds, Coriolis effect
    • Severe weather formation, influence on human behavior
    • Severe Storms; Lightning (Honors)
  • Freshwater
    • Water cycle
    • Conservation (Honors)
    • Water Quality
    • Groundwater
    • Surface water
  • Rocks and Minerals
    • Properties of minerals
    • Rock cycle
    • Soil and soil formation
    • Rocks and minerals as resources
  • The Universe
    • Light waves
    • Space exploration
    • Gravitational forces
    • Stars and Constellations (Honors)


Segment 2

  • Geologic Time
    • Gregorian calendar
    • Relative and absolute time (Honors)
    • Origin and evolution of life
    • Geologic time scale, geologic periods and history
    • Fossils, fossil formation
    • Reading series of events in sedimentary rocks based on principles of geology
  • Oceans
    • Composition of ocean water
    • Ocean currents
    • Sea floor features
    • Using latitude and longitude to navigate and locate points on the globe/map reading
    • Climate and current connection
  • Our Solar System
    • Organization of the Milky Way and types of galaxies in general
    • Characteristics of stars – focus on ours – the sun
    • The planets in our solar system
    • Moon/Earth Relationships
    • Moon phases
    • Effects of the moon on tides
    • Kepler’s Law, Newton’s Law
    • Sun/Earth Relationships
    • Rotation and revolution characteristics
    • Causes of seasons
  • The Geosphere
    • Layers of the Earth
    • Carbon cycle
    • Plate tectonics
    • Continental drift
    • Surface features
    • Geologic events (Honors)




Each competency will be addressed through a project that is based on a real-life career task. Here are the careers you will explore: Environmental Engineer, Park Ranger, Social Media Manager, Producer, Attorney, Curator, Marine Navigator, Scriptwriter and Civil Engineer.



Estimated Completion Time

Approximately 4 weeks per project


Please review the competency statements on the right to learn the major topics and concepts covered in this offering.


Overview: Projects allow students to demonstrate their understanding of concepts and skills by completing a job-related task. The assignment might be to create a mural, a package design, a speech, a film review, or a movie set – you name it! These creative projects are about applying your learning acquired through in-depth research to real-world career tasks.



Experiences allow you to explore a career field you’re curious about while mastering competencies for school credit. Through experiential learning, you will learn skills and apply these skills to tasks you would complete as part of a career, rather than completing traditional assessments like essays or tests. During your experience, you’ll work with a professional in the field to support your learning. You’ll earn a badge for your accomplishments, which you can share on social media and higher education platforms, or with colleges, potential employers, peers, and/or colleagues to display your qualifications.

Here’s how experiences work:

  1. Each competency you work on is addressed through a separate deliverable predetermined by you and your instructor.
  2. Guided learning for each module consists of research and/or work with a professional in the field. Your instructor will coach you through this process.
  3. Each module culminates in a final demonstration of understanding, which includes a deliverable and a discussion-based assessment with your instructor.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re curious about a career in healthcare. You decide you’d like to learn about this career area, make a professional connection, earn a badge, and earn competencies for your 9th-grade English requirement. While enrolled in English 1 Experiences, you conduct research to better understand language and structure in writing. Then, you work with an Occupational Therapist who helps you apply this understanding to the creation of an informational video. The video aims to advise the family members of patients regarding adaptive equipment and accommodations to help them support their family members as they go about their daily tasks. You’ve earned the Language and Structure in Writing competency! (This is just one example of the many ways experiences can bridge competencies to careers.)

During this course, you will learn career-related skills and earn a badge for this accomplishment. A badge is a digital certification of your career-related learning that you can share on social media or with higher education platforms, colleges, potential employers, peers, and colleagues. Select this link to learn more about badges.

*A parent/guardian permission form and background check of the outside expert are required for students to work with outside experts without parental supervision.

*Please have an idea for an outside expert in mind prior to enrollment or consult with our counseling department by emailing [email protected] prior to enrollment for support identifying one.

Credits 1

Only Earth Space Science Experience earns a badge.


  • Matter and Energy
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of matter and energy by describing the atomic structure and forces, explaining the phases and transformations of matter, and relating the processes of energy transference to the phases of matter.
  • Climate and Weather
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of climate and weather by explaining the water cycle, describing Earth’s atmosphere, and comparing weather and climate.
  • Fresh Water
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of fresh water by describing freshwater systems, explaining water quality, and describing water conservation.
  • Our Universe
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of our universe by describing features of the universe, summarizing the exploration and origins of our universe, and explaining stars and elements.
  • Rocks and Minerals
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of rocks and minerals by explaining mineral identification, describing the rock formation and the implications of mining, and evaluating soil characteristics and classification.
  • Geologic Time
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of geologic time by explaining the geologic time scale, differentiating theories on the origin and evolution of life, and describing the coevolution of Earth’s systems.
  • The Oceans
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the oceans by describing the characteristics of the oceans, comparing ocean movements, and explaining ocean interactions.
  • Our Solar System
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of our solar system by describing solar system formation, explaining the forces in our solar system, describing celestial objects, and explaining the Earth-sun-moon system.
  • The Geosphere
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the geosphere by describing the composition and structure of the geosphere, explaining the carbon cycle, and differentiating plate movement and boundaries.




Course: To complete the honors version of this offering, you must discuss this with your instructor during your welcome call.

Project/Experience: Honors is awarded by earning "Exceeds" on all rubric assessments.

Attend a virtual open house

We offer regular online open house webinars where VLACS staff members provide parents and students with an overview of our programs and answer questions about online learning.