Next Generation Science Standards

The Contest’s focus is pollution in the ocean. This topic provides a timely example of how human activity impacts the earth, and student submissions can help teachers meet criteria for the MS-Human Impacts, HS-ESS3 Earth And Human Activity Standards, and HS-Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems.


Human Impacts
Earth and Human Activity


MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence include grade-appropriate databases on human populations and the rates of consumption of food and natural resources (such as freshwater, mineral, and energy). Examples of impacts can include changes to the appearance, composition, and structure of Earth’s systems as well as the rates at which they change. The consequences of increases in human populations and consumption of natural resources are described by science, but science does not make the decisions for the actions society takes.]

HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of data on the impacts of human activities could include the quantities and types of pollutants released, changes to biomass and species diversity, or areal changes in land surface use (such as for urban development, agriculture and livestock, or surface mining). Examples for limiting future impacts could range from local efforts (such as reducing, reusing, and recycling resources) to large-scale geoengineering design solutions (such as altering global temperatures by making large changes to the atmosphere or ocean).]


Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
HS-ESS3-4: Design or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

Engaging in Arguement from Evidence
MS-ESS3-4: Construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations). 


ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

  • Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things. (MS-ESS3-3)
  • Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise. (MS-ESS3-3), (MS-ESS3-4)
  • The sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources. (HS-ESS3-3)
  • Scientists and engineers can make major contributions by developing technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation. (HS-ESS3-4

ESS3.A: Natural Resources

  • Resource availability has guided the development of human society. (HS-ESS3-1)
  • All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. (HS-ESS3-2)


Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science

Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World:

  • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment. (MS-ESS3-4)
  • New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. (HS-ESS3-3)

Connections to Nature of Science

Science is a Human Endeavor:

  • Science is a result of human endeavors, imagination, and creativity. (HS-ESS3-3)

Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World:

  • Scientific knowledge can describe the consequences of actions but does not necessarily prescribe the decisions that society takes. (MS-ESS3-4)
  • Science and technology may raise ethical issues for which science, by itself, does not provide answers and solutions. (HS-ESS3-2)
  • Science knowledge indicates what can happen in natural systems—not what should happen. The latter involves ethics, values, and human decisions about the use of knowledge. (HS-ESS3-2)
  • Many decisions are not made using science alone, but rely on social and cultural contexts to resolve issues. (HS-ESS3-2)

Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems


HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of human activities can include urbanization, building dams, and dissemination of invasive species.]


Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.


LS2.C: Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

  • Moreover, anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species. (HS-LS2-7)

LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

  • Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value. (secondary to HS-LS2-7), (HS-LS4-6)

Common Core Standards

Whether students choose to write creative fiction or analytical essays about ocean pollution, the Contest can help teachers meet criteria for Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy.

English Language Arts


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-12.1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-12.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-12.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-12.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6-12.5: With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W. 6-12.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W. 6-12.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.