Earth System Science Education Alliance
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Orientation: 1st

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1st Orientation Activity

The first three parts of this course are designed for you to get your "virtual legs" on this site, with your classmates, with the content and with your facilitator.


  • Explore and practice navigating the course.
  • Read the Introduction and Where to Start.
  • Do a pre ESS analysis
  • Learn about the Earth system science approach through assigned readings and a tutorial.
  • Introduce yourself to your classmates.
  • Get together with your team and select a team name.
  • To understand course grading, go to Jigsaw Course Assessment Contact your facilitator if you have questions about how you will be graded.


1. Do a Pre-ESS Analysis on an event of interest to you personally or because it is a topic you teach. Choose something you are really interested in and then describe what you think the effects of that event are on the air, water, land and living things. You don't need to do any research to complete this assignment. Use what you already know or think you know to prepare your analysis. Upload your analysis to ESSEA. Your instructor will give you feedback on this, but not a grade for quality, only for completion since it is a preassessment. For the final assignment, you will revisit this same topic and do your best ESS analysis. Here's an example of the format to use - when a volcano erupts: <

E > A Ash spews into the air.
E > L The eruption causes land slides, mud flows and changes the shape of the land.
E > H Streams are clogged or re-routed at the site, and the ash can travel miles before it falls into streams or lakes, changing the oxygen content of the water.
E > H > B The lack of oxygen in the water affects the fish (living things) that live in that stream, perhaps even killing them.
E > H > B > B This drop in the fish population can affect the people who depend on the fish for food.

List all the relationships you can think of right now. During your study, be thinking about how you will refine this ESS analysis. Your final assignment will be to upload your best ESS analysis.

2. Explore the course by visiting the Guide to Online Learning. Become familiar with how the course is laid out and how it functions from cycle to cycle. Develop an understanding of the different requirements and rubrics used for each of the three cycle components: Sphere Study, Event Study, and Classroom Applications. A quick overview of ESSEA course structure:
  • ESSEA courses have two types of components:
    • Course Components - where you are now that provide instruction and tools to complete the course.
    • Module Components - the ESSEA Earth System Science online modules that you will access to study the topics selected by your instructor.
  • Both the course components and the module components are divided into three cycles: A, B and C. The assignments, readings and rubrics in the course components are correlated with the resources and information in the module components.
Don't hesitate to ask the course facilitator questions about the course or how to use your computer. If you are new to computers or web usage, it will pay to let others know you need help.

3. In the course discussion area, introduce yourself to your fellow course members. You can include information about where you grew up, where you went to college, and what your personal interests and hobbies are. Be sure to describe your connection to education (e.g., Grade 7 Earth Science teacher, 125 students; or taught fifth grade for several years).

4. Go to the course discussion space to find which teams you belong to. Your facilitator might use lists or folders to designate team assignment. Each Sphere Group and Event Team will consist of four to six participants. Read Group & Team Formation to learn how and why you jigsaw between a Sphere Group and Event Team. As soon as you know which Event Team you are on, meet with your team members in the course discussion area to name your team.


What is Earth System Science? Explanation of the interactions between and among the Earth's spheres and events

Earth System Science in a Nutshell. created by Martin Ruzek, Universities Space Research Association, ESSE 21 Program.

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