Earth Science & Astronomy - Middle School

his full year course explores the structure of the natural world through the lens of three different sciences:  Geology, Meteorology (Weather), and Astronomy.  The format includes lectures (with numerous color graphics), demonstrations, video clips, reading, laboratory experiments, and investigative homework assignments.  The course is focused on scientific concepts and uses a minimal amount of basic math (understanding powers of ten with exponents is a plus).  The homework load is approximately 2-2½ hours per week.

Earth Science and Astronomy satisfies most, one-year, middle school science requirements for grades 7-9.  High school students are welcome to take the course, but should consult their school district to ensure that it meets credit requirements. 

This course is also available with an ‘add-on’ component (1 hour/week) for high school students who wish to take the class for high school credit. Please see the CLRC course schedule.


The night sky has been a source of awe and wonder since ancient times.  Humans have been following and calculating the motion of celestial objects for 10,000 years.  Astronomy is thus the quintessential classical science. This course will cover both historical and modern astronomical discoveries.  In addition to illustrated notes, the class features simulations, planetarium software, and video clips.

Unit 1:  The Earth in Space
Motion of the earth, measurement of time, apparent motion of celestial bodies.
Unit 2:  History and Progress of Astronomy
Discovery of heliocentrism, invention of the telescope and spectroscope, birth of modern astrophysics.
Unit 3:  The Solar System
The earth-moon system, planets and asteroids, the sun.
Unit 4:  The Wider Universe
The life and death of stars, types of galaxies, nebulae, and black holes.
Unit 5:  History of the Universe
The expansion of space (Einstein’s theory of Relativity), cosmological theories, implications for philosophy and religion.


Geologists are like detectives or sleuths. They examine the circumstantial evidence after the fact—at the 'scene of the crime' so to speak—and try to reconstruct what happened. Geological formations contain clues to their historical origins.  Geologists, like detectives, must find and organize these clues in order to reconstruct a formation’s history.  This is how they study the changing structure of the earth, its composition, and the forces that have shaped it over time.

Unit 1:  The Structure of the Earth
Tectonic plates, mountains, and the earth’s interior.
Unit 2:  Rocks and Minerals
The rock cycle, igneous processes, weathering, erosion, soil, structures and environments of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
Unit 3: Geochronology
Geologic time, earth’s geologic and fossil history.
Unit 4:  Crustal Movements
Earthquakes, mass movements.
Unit 5:  Water, Wind, and Ice
Rivers, coastlines, groundwater, deserts, and glaciers.
Unit 6:  Economic Geology (as time permits)
Mineral resources, ores, fossil fuels, building materials. 


Few things impact our everyday lives as much as weather.  The atmosphere is a complex, ever changing, ocean of air, where a constant battle rages between chaos and order.  Instruments across the globe monitor this battle, collecting millions of pieces of data every hour.  It is the job of meteorologists to analyze the data in order to discern atmospheric patterns and processes.  The final product of these efforts is your local weather forecast!

Unit 1:  What Causes Weather?
Weather essentials, earth’s atmosphere, energy transfer, earth’s energy budget.
Unit 2:  Weather Elements, Units, and Observations
Temperature, heat, air pressure, phase changes, humidity, dew point, adiabatic processes, clouds, precipitation, satellite and radar.
Unit 3:  Weather Systems
Wind circulation, Coriolis effect, pressure systems, air masses, fronts.
Unit 4:  Upper Air Systems
Surface and upper air maps, long and short waves, jet stream dynamics, vorticity, vertical motion, jet streaks.
Unit 5:  Regional & Hemispheric Weather
Land and sea breezes, lake effect, mountain/gravity waves, monsoons, ocean heat transport, El Niño, etc.
Unit 6:  Storms
Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms.
Unit 7:  Weather Forecasting
Basic Forecasting, numerical forecasting, long term forecasting.
Unit 8:  Climate
Climates and microclimates, world climates, paleoclimates, climate forces, human impacts on climate, global warming.

NOTE:  Since this is a new course, some content may be adjusted as the year unfolds.

"My daughter loved Dr. DiPuccio's Geology class! The cumulative format of the class was very helpful, and Dr. DiPuccio's enthusiasm and presentation of the material inspired her with a love for the subject. This was one of her favorite classes ever!"
- Becca Z., Pennsylvania