So the first Draft of the Earth Science Literacy Document is up and available for comments (right...HERE). This is an NSF-supported effort meant to explicitly spell-out the state of our knowledge of the Earth in a way that everyday, non-specialist citizens can understand. Effectively, it's a list of the Things Folks Should Know About the Earth, and is meant to go along with all the Ocean, Climate, and Atmosphere Literacy work that was recently undertaken.
Anyway, the document identifies 8 Big Ideas in the Earth Sciences, which I've summarized below. These ideas are supplemented by a series of Supporting Concepts that flesh out the overarching concept. The 8 Big Ideas (paraphrased) are:
1) Earth is 4.6 Ga, and the rock record contains its history.
2) Earth is a complexly interacting system
3) Earth is a continuously changing planet
4) Earth is the Water Planet
5) Life evolves in concert with the evolving Earth, and similarly modifies and effects the Earth in turn.
6) Humans depend on Earth for Resources
7) Earth Science helps us understand and mitigate natural disasters
8) Humans are a significant agent of change on the Earth
It's a pretty nice list, in my opinion, and would make a great hand-out in an undergrad intro class. I also like how the foundational concepts of Plate Tectonics and Evolution are distributed throughout the supporting points, driving home the unifying power of both of these fundamental concepts.
The only (vague) comment that I have would be that I'd like to see maybe a little more about radioactive decay and radiometric dating. Maybe not as a BIG IDEA, but as another supporting point (somewhere, maybe under #1?).
Importantly, this is only a draft, and if you've got any concerns or issues or burning bits of illumination to add, we have until Oct 31 to make comments, so get to it!
I'd also be more than happy to hear what you guys think about it too, of course.
EDIT: Here are some links to chew on! The Ocean Literacy Network, and their Ocean Literacy Statement; The Atmospheric Science Literacy Framework and their Statement; and the Climate Program Network, and their statement! Whew! That's a lot of statements!