GEMS Curriculum Sequences

What are the benefits of GEMS Sequences?

GEMS Curriculum Sequences offer extensive benefits, including greater coherence as units build on one another; increased scientific depth, with science concepts presented in a manner that supports the teacher; increased educational depth with extensive pedagogical support; formative and summative assessment tools; and, readings and technology components for use with students. A detailed overview of the GEMS Curriculum Sequences approach is provided in this brief 2-page document.

George Nelson, former shuttle astronaut and now education researcher, said in his keynote address to the attendees of a NASA EPO (Education and Public Outreach) conference in Chicago that, "We would do well to become familiar with these materials and promote them to teachers and schools rather than trying to create something else." He further commented that, "These instructional materials responded to the challenge I made a few years ago to produce something that incorporates the best of NASA's cutting edge research to help children learn grade-level appropriate ideas in astronomy in the time available." Read the full text of the address here.

More details on the specific units currently available and in development can be found below.

Where can I purchase the units?

The sequences listed above are all available (subject to the availability dates indicated) from our publisher, Carolina Curriculum. For details on product pricing and availability of each of the sequences please call Carolina Curriculum at 800 334-5551 or view the information on their web site.

Please view the video below for an overview of the Curriculum Sequences concept in action:


Correlations between the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 3–5 and the National Science Education Standards are here for your review.



The Space Science Units:

The space science curriculum programs were developed with NASA and with leading astronomy educators and researchers, assessment experts, and GEMS curriculum development staff. These sequences are a response to the need for excellent, coherent, standards-based, supplementary curriculum that can be taught in the amount of time teachers can reasonably allot for space sciences. The content of each of the two sequences is summarized below.

A brief presentation outlining some of the key features of the Space Science Sequences was shown at the National Science Teacher's Association convention in New Orleans in March 2009, and is available for download here. (This is a PowerPoint file and you must have the program to view the file.)

Sequences provide a uniquely flexible curriculum. For example, the GEMS Space Science Sequence for 6—8 is comprised of 4 units, each about two weeks long or less. It is possible to teach all the units during a single years' course of study; or, individual units can be taught each year over two to three years. Not all of the units in a sequence must be taught—each can stand alone if necessary. This flexibility allows schools to determine when to teach specific content based on their standards and curriculum requirements.

  Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4

Space Science Grades 3–5

How Big and How Far?
(9 class sessions)

Earth's Shape
and Gravity
(6 class sessions)

How Does the Earth Move?
(4 class sessions)

Moon Phases
and Eclipses

(5 class sessions)

Space Science Grades

How Does the
Sun Affect
the Earth?

(8 class sessions)

Why Are
There Seasons?
(6 class sessions)

The Solar

(11 class sessions)

Beyond the
Solar System

(7 class sessions)
+ 1 optional session

In addition to great flexibility, GEMS Curriculum Sequences are being developed with close attention to the requirements of standards-based education, and the realities of the priorities placed on science in today's schools. These research-based materials are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and to other key concepts and abilities in state/district frameworks, with careful attention to key concepts that are commonly misunderstood. We have based the time allotted for each topic on feedback received from a wide range of schools as to how much time they can realistically spend teaching that material.

GEMS Space Science Sequences each include a CD-ROM with multimedia content and additional resources. In addition, both units are provided with teacher's guide (including extensive science background and an assessment system), a materials kit supporting the activities, and copymasters for student sheets.

The attention to flexibility, standards requirements, inquiry skills, and real-world time constraints make for a curriculum that meets the needs of a wide range of schools and their unique situations.

The Ocean Sciences Units:

The Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 3–5 was developed with support from NOAA and in partnership with the NOAA Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve and Education Center, and Rutgers University Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, and other partners. The sequences are designed based on the results of an extensive study which has helped us identify which key standards occur in selected states at each grade, and which content areas are most closely aligned to the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles. These sequences will provide educators the tools to teach essential science concepts in the unique and important context of ocean science.

The content for the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 3–5 is summarized in the table below:

Unit 1: What Kind of Place Is the Ocean? (8 class sessions)
Unit 2: What Is Life Like in the Ocean? (11 class sessions)
Unit 3: How Are Humans and the Ocean Interconnected?
(6 class sessions)
• There is only one ocean; most of Earth is covered by water.
• Different parts of the ocean are different in many ways including temperature, pressure, light and salinity.
• Differences in temperature and salinity create layers of moving ocean water called currents.
• Wind can also cause currents.
Ocean floor features include trenches, deep-sea vents, and underwater mountains.
• A huge amount of all the living space on Earth is in the ocean.
• There are millions of types of ocean organisms.
• All organisms have needs they must meet in order to survive.
• A variety of different habitats in the ocean supports a great diversity of life.
• Some habitats support more life than others.
• Organisms have adaptations that help them survive in specific ocean habitats.
• An organism’s adaptations are related to the habitat in which it lives.
Food webs are one way that organisms in a habitat may be connected.
• Many organisms in many different habitats rely on phytoplankton.
• Organisms may use different habitats at different times in their life cycle.
• People use, need, harm and protect the ocean.
Overfishing and pollution are some of the ways that people can affect the ocean.
• Pollution can get to the ocean from places far from the ocean.
• Different kinds of pollution can harm the ocean in different ways.
• People can help to solve problems and protect the ocean.
Inquiry-based learning goals for the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 3–5:
• Scientist use models to help understand and explain how nature works.
• Scientists use evidence to answer questions, make explanations and solve real problems in the world.
• New technology helps scientists explore and measure much more of the ocean than they could in the past and discover new things about life in the ocean.

Like the Grades 3–5 units, the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 6–8 are being developed with support from NOAA and in partnership with Rutgers University Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, and other partners. These units extend our work to create a curriculum that further supports the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles.

The content for the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 6–8, as currently planned but subject to change, is summarized in the table below:

How Do the Ocean and Atmosphere Interact?
(13 class sessions)

What's So Important About Carbon & How Does It Move Around Earth?
(9 class sessions)

What Are Some of the Causes of Climate Change?
(10 class sessions)

• The ocean and land are heated by the Sun unevenly.
• Global movement of air and ocean water (currents, density) distribute energy.
• Dynamic ocean–dynamic Earth: there are many cycles, including the water cycle.
• The ocean transfers heat to the atmosphere through evaporation and condensation.
• The ocean affects weather and climate; changes in global movements of air and water affect weather (e.g., El Niño).
• Changes to global movements of air and water can affect ocean organisms.
• Carbon reservoirs and how carbon moves between reservoirs.
• The ocean is the largest reservoir of rapidly cycling carbon.
• CO2 is removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, absorption into the ocean, and formation of fossil fuels.
• CO2 is released into atmosphere through animal and plant respiration, decomposition, combustion, from the ocean, and from human activities.
• Much of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, leading to ocean acidification.
• Ocean acidification affects organisms and ecosystems.
• The formation and evolution of the atmosphere and ocean.
• The Greenhouse Effect.
• CO2 in the atmosphere affects climate (temperature and CO2 changes over time).
• Much more CO2 is being added to the atmosphere in the past 60 years.
• Albedo, melting sea ice and sea level rise.
• Sea level changes over time.
• Climate vs. weather.
• Evidence for climate change: global temperature rise; sea ice melting; extreme events.
• Ocean, air currents, and climate change.
• Human's impact on climate change.
• How ocean organisms and humans are affected by climate change.
• Solutions–what we can do about climate change?
Inquiry-based learning goals for the Ocean Sciences Sequence for Grades 6–8:
• Read and interpret visual representations, diagrams and simulations.
• Participate in evidence-based discussions using reasoning and scientific vocabulary.
• Scientists use models to demonstrate and explain how nature works.
• Scientists use technology to study weather and climate.

The details listed above and throughout this site for the Grades 6–8 Ocean Sciences Sequence are subject to change as the program goes through the field trial and revision process.

Effectiveness Research Reports:

We have three research reports available which look at the effectiveness of the curriculum seqeunces, as described below:

A report conducted by the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) examines student learning, as shown by unit pre/post assessment change, in the GEMS Space Science Sequence for Grades 6–8.  REA, based at Lawrence Hall of Science, conducts both internal and external evaluation and research in mathematics and science education. Evaluation questions for this project took into consideration concerns and interests of curriculum funders, the curriculum development team, and potential users. Evidence of student learning is of primary interest to all stakeholders and is therefore the overarching question for this evaluation. Download the report here.

Two studies were conducted by a team at Florida State University. The first is titled, "Comparing the Efficacy of Reform-Based and Traditional/Verification Curricula to Support Student Learning about Space Science" and reports on the relationship between reform-based curriculum and the development of students’ knowledge of and attitudes toward space science. It can be downloaded here. The second, "Learning about Space Science:  Comparing the efficacy of reform based teaching with a traditional/verifications approach"  explores the relationship between curriculum and teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about teaching. The full report can be downloaded here.