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Regional Focus

  • Global

Human Impacts on Earth Systems

Authors: The Wonder of Science, Paul Andersen
Grades: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Justice, Health
Format: YouTube Video
Resource Type:
  • Video, 6 minutes, 26 seconds, CC
  • This video describes the many ways humans influence the four major Earth systems: the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.
  • The first 4 minutes and 41 seconds are appropriate for students to watch, while the last segment discusses the grade-level appropriateness of each topic and provides teaching suggestions for different grade levels.
Teaching Tips


  • This video provides a good overview to start a lesson on ecosystems, global cycles, or the Anthropocene.

Additional Prerequisites

  • At 3 minutes, Paul says, "We're increasing the amount of fossil fuels we put into the atmosphere." That is incorrect. He meant to indicate the greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
  • Stopping the video at 4 minutes and 41 seconds is suggested when showing this to your class.


  • The beginning of the video is only appropriate for some grades, as it is likely too advanced for young learners.
  • Cross-curricular connections could be made with history and social studies classes when discussing the advancements made in our standards of living and how our population and development have rapidly increased over time.
  • Students could work in groups to come up with sustainable solutions for each Earth system discussed.
  • Other resources related to this topic include this interactive data resource about the Drivers of CO2 Emissions, this video lecture about biodiversity loss, and this video about the importance of natural ecosystems.
Scientist Notes
Students can learn the basics in sustainability and ways to protect the earth's natural resources from overexploitation. There is no misconception in the resource, and it is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • 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.
      • K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.


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  • This really provides a complete overview, connecting the dots!
    8 months ago


  • How do I get a copy of the full lesson? Human Impact
    8 months ago
    • Hi there. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying lesson plan with this resource. The resource is only the video. You can check out the teaching tips above for resources closely related to this lesson.
      7 months ago