National/International Curricula

American Geosciences Institute

For nearly 10 years, Professor Gastaldo collaborated with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) in Alexandria, Virginia, as a project leader, curriculum developer, module author, and consultant in the development of their national Earth Science curricula.  AGI is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other Earth scientists.  Founded in 1948, it provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resilience to natural hazards, and the health of the environment.

AGI currently offers several curricula at the national level in the Elementary, Middle, and High schools.  Each is designed using current educational practices involving problem-solving, with community-based models that are hands-on and inquiry-driven.

Concepts for Understanding Earth Systems

Constructing Understandings of Earth Systems was developed by the American Geosciences Institute to serve as a student’s first introduction to planet Earth in Middle School.  CUES is a standards-based textbook that emphasizes a systems approach to Earth science teaching.

Professor Gastaldo served as a developer, writer, and consultant for the exercises that appear in the Biosphere chapter—Change Through Time.  Here, students study changes in the biosphere from the earliest traces of the life on Earth and explore the record of once living things now preserved in rock.  Fossil groups serve as clues about life and its development on a planet that has seen large-scale changes over both long and, sometimes, short time scales.  Both internal factors and external factors that have caused the biosphere to change are explored.

Investigating Earth Systems (IES) is a standards-based, Earth science curriculum for Middle School grades  developed by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) in association with It’s About Time Publishing.  IES is designed to engage students using the same set of inquiry processes scientists use to ensure them that the research they perform is valid and reliable.  The curriculum is focused on teaching students to think like scientists.

Five key scientific concepts underpin Earth Science and are stressed in all nine Investigating Earth Systems modules.  These are:

  1. Earth is a set of closely linked systems.
  2. Earth’s processes are powered by two sources: the Sun and Earth’s own inner heat.
  3. The geology of Earth is dynamic, and has evolved over 4.5 billion years.
  4. The geological evolution of Earth has left a record of its history that geoscientists interpret.
  5. We depend upon Earth’s resources.

Investigating Earth Systems Fossil ModuleProfessor Gastaldo developed the Fossils module for IES.  Here, students undertake inquiry-based exercises, using problem solving pedagogies, to learn about why there is a fossil record, how living organisms become part of the fossil record, how these records are used to understand past conditions on Earth, and what application such insight may have for our current and future planet.

The Introducing Fossils module is available as a .pdf download from the publisher.


EarthComm CurriculumEarthComm is the first High School Earth Science program developed by AGI that addresses the National Science Education Standards.  The curriculum emphasizes important concepts, understandings, and abilities that all students can use to make wise decisions, think critically, and understand and appreciate the Earth systems: the atmosphere, the biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere.  The curriculum is adopted across the country and produced in association with It’s About Time Publishing.

EarthComm is a modules-based curriculum including Earth’s Dynamic Geosphere, Understanding Your Environment, Earth’s Fluid Spheres, Earth’s Natural Resources, and Earth System Evolution.  Each chapter begins with a community-based problem or issue that can only be solved by developing key ideas and understandings in the chapter activities.  Professor Gastaldo was the project manager, director, and contributor for the Earth System Evolution module.

The approach taken in EarthComm can be viewed in a sample chapter on Astronomy and Your Community available as a .pdf download from It’s About Time.

Nature Through Time Cover ArtAvailable in July 2020, Nature through Time is an international textbook and curricular lecture materials, available “free” online, designed to instruct upper division undergraduate and beginning graduate students in the evolution of Phanerozoic terrestrial ecosystem. The pedagogy differs from most textbooks because the journey begins with the Recent and winds its way back to the Ordovician, presenting students first with what they know and, then, from whence what we know, today, originated.

This book simulates a historical walk through nature, teaching readers about the biodiversity on Earth in various eras with a focus on past terrestrial environments. Geared towards a student audience, using simple terms and avoiding long complex explanations, the book discusses the plants and animals that lived on land, the evolution of natural systems, and how these biological systems changed over time in geological and paleontological contexts. With easy-to-understand and scientifically accurate and up-to-date information, readers will be guided through major biological events from the Earth’s past.

The topics in the book represent a broad paleoenvironmental spectrum of interests and educational modules, allowing for virtual visits to rich geological times. Eras and events that are discussed include, but are not limited to, the much varied Quaternary environments, the evolution of plants and animals during the Cenozoic, the rise of angiosperms, vertebrate evolution and ecosystems in the Mesozoic, the Permian mass extinction, the late Paleozoic glaciation, and the origin of the first trees and land plants in the Devonian-Ordovician. With state-of-the art expert scientific instruction on these topics and up-to-date and scientifically accurate illustrations, this book can serve as an international course for students, teachers, and other interested individuals. And, the pedagogy is perfectly suited for distance learning environments under these difficulty times.