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General Education Path

The Earth and Space

In The Earth and Space, students acquire scientific and technological knowledge pertaining to space and interactions in the biosphere.

In secondary school, students explore different phenomena that occur on Earth and in space and related technical objects. They seek answers and solutions to a variety of problems. They acquire knowledge about The Earth and Space that helps them explain the factors at play in different scientific issues. This knowledge, along with the knowledge they acquire in other areas of the program, enables them to understand scientific models, theories and laws. Students refine their understanding of the concepts related to The Earth and Space by using the experimental method, technological analysis and modelling.

In Secondary III, analyzing geological and geophysical phenomena and studying related technical objects enable students to locate living organisms on the geological time scale. In Secondary IV, students continue constructing their knowledge by exploring environmental issues. They do a more in-depth study of the impact of certain natural phenomena and human activities on the biosphere.

Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.

Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.


Student reinvests knowledge.

Statements preceded by the symbol indicate knowledge specific to the compulsory Science and Technology program. Most of these statements are, however, found in the progression of learning for the optional Science and the Environment program.
Cycle One
Cycle Two
Cycle Two
  1. Characteristics of the Earth
1 2 3 4 4
Elementary school
Students recognize visible structures on the surface of the Earth (e.g. continents, oceans, ice caps, mountains, volcanoes). They describe the effects of the quality of air, water and soil on living beings (e.g. illnesses, increase or decrease in population). They compare the properties of different types of soil (e.g. composition, capacity to retain water and heat).
Secondary school
  1. General characteristics of the Earth
    1. Internal structure of the Earth
      1. Describes the main characteristics of the three parts of the internal structure of the Earth (crust, mantle, core)
  1. Lithosphere
    1. General characteristics of the lithosphere
      1. Defines the lithosphere as the outer shell of the Earth comprising the crust and the upper mantle
      1. Describes the main relationships between the lithosphere and human activity (e.g.  survival, agriculture, mining, land-use planning)
    1. Relief
      1. Describes relationships between relief (topology) and geological and geophysical phenomena1 (e.g.  the retreat of a glacier causes the formation of a plain)
      1. Describes the effect of relief on human activities (e.g. transportation, construction, sports, agriculture)
    1. Stratigraphic layers
      1. Explains the formation of strata in terms of the layering of sediment (e.g. recent layers are deposited on older layers)
    1. Geological time scale2
      1. Places in order the main divisions of the geological time scale (Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic)
      1. Describes events associated with the main divisions of the geological time scale (e.g. formation of oceans in the Precambrian Era, reign of the reptiles and dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era)
    1. Major stages in the history of life on Earth
      1. Locates the appearance or evolution of living organisms (e.g. bacteria, plants, fish, hominids) on the geological time scale
    1. Extinctions
      1. Locates periods of mass extinction of certain species on the geological time scale (e.g. disappearance of a large portion of marine life in the Paleozoic Era)
    1. Fossils
      1. Defines fossils as traces of organisms preserved for the most part in sedimentary rock
      1. Explains the usefulness of fossils in dating stratigraphic layers
    1. Types of rocks
      1. Describes the formation of three types of rock: igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary
      1. Classifies rocks by method of formation (e.g. granite is an igneous rock, lime is a sedimentary rock, slate is a metamorphic rock)
      1. Distinguishes between rocks and minerals
    1. Minerals
      1. Names basic minerals based on their properties (e.g. colour, hardness, magnetism)
      1. Distinguishes between minerals and ore
      1. Describes some of the environmental impacts of mining or of the transformation of minerals
    1. Types of soil
      1. Classifies soils based on their composition (e.g. sand, clay, organic material)
    1. Soil profile (horizons)
      1. Describes the structure of a soil (superimposition of layers of different compositions and thicknesses)
      1. Explains the chemical and biological reactivity of a soil based on its composition (e.g. oxidation, acid-base neutralization, decomposition)
    1. Permafrost
      1. Defines the permafrost as a layer of permanently frozen soil
      1. Explains some of the consequences of a rise in temperature in the permafrost (e.g. landslides, methane emissions)
    1. Soil depletion
      1. Explains how human activities contribute to soil depletion
    1. Buffering capacity of the soil
      1. Defines the buffering capacity of a soil as its ability to limit pH variations
      1. Explains the advantages of a good soil buffering capacity
    1. Contamination
      1. Names soil contaminants3
    1. Biogeochemical cycles
      1. Carbon cycle
        • Describes transformations related to the circulation of carbon (e.g. photosynthesis, plant decomposition, dissolution in water, combustion of fossil fuels)
      1. Nitrogen cycle
        • Describes transformations related to the circulation of nitrogen (e.g. nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification)
      1. Phosphorous cycle
        • Describes transformations related to the circulation of phosphorous (e.g. erosion of rocks, breakdown of fertilizers, metabolism of algae)
  1. Hydrosphere
    1. General characteristics of the hydrosphere
      1. Describes the distribution of fresh water and salt water on the Earth's surface (e.g.  glaciers contain inaccessible fresh water)
      1. Describes the main interactions between the hydrosphere and the atmosphere (e.g. heat exchanges, climate regulation, meteorological phenomena)
    1. Catchment area
      1. Defines a catchment area as a territory surrounding a waterway
      1. Describes some of the impacts of human activity on the waterways in a catchment area
    1. Salinity
      1. Defines salinity as a measure of the quantity of salt in a solution
      1. Describes the influence of salinity on the density of a solution
    1. Oceanic circulation
      1. Describes factors that affect the circulation of surface currents and deep currents (e.g. wind, the Earth's rotation, temperature, salinity, density)
      1. Describes the role of thermohaline circulation on global climate regulation (e.g. effect of the Gulf Stream on the climate of the east coast of North America)
    1. Glacier and ice floe
      1. Distinguishes between glaciers and ice floes
      1. Describes some of the impacts of the melting of glaciers and ice floes (e.g. increase in sea level, disturbance of thermohaline circulation)
    1. Contamination
      1. Names water contaminants4
    1. Eutrophication
      1. Explains the natural process of eutrophication of a body of natural water
      1. Explains how human activities accelerate the eutrophication of a body of natural water
  1. Atmosphere
    1. General characteristics of the atmosphere
      1. Locates the main layers of the atmosphere (troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere)
      1. Describes the composition of pure air at sea level (nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, water vapour)
      1. Describes the relationships between the atmosphere and certain human activities (e.g.  recreation, transportation, energy consumption)
    1. Greenhouse effect
      1. Describes the greenhouse effect
      1. Explains some of the consequences of a higher concentration of greenhouse gases (e.g.  global warming that could result in higher sea levels, disturbances in ecosystems or the melting of glaciers)
    1. Air mass
      1. Describes the properties of an air mass (temperature, humidity, pressure)
      1. Explains the formation of clouds when two different air masses meet
    1. Atmospheric circulation
      1. Describes the main factors responsible for atmospheric circulation (e.g. pressure variations, uneven heating of the Earth's surface)
      1. Describes the effect of prevailing winds on the dispersal of air pollutants in a given region
    1. Cyclone and anticyclone
      1. Explains the formation of cyclones (low-pressure areas) and anticyclones (high-pressure areas)
    1. Contamination
      1. Names air contaminants5
  1. Climate zone
    1. Factors that influence the distribution of biomes
      1. Describes the geographical and climatic factors that affect the distribution of biomes (e.g. latitude, humidity, temperature, salinity)
    1. Terrestrial biomes
      1. Describes different terrestrial biomes (e.g.  fauna, flora, climate, type of soil)
    1. Marine biomes
      1. Describes different marine biomes (e.g. fauna, flora, temperature, salinity)
  1. Geological and geophysical phenomena
1 2 3 4 4
Elementary school
Students explain the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, runoff, infiltration) and describe different types of precipitation (rain, snow, hail, freezing rain). Concepts related to energy play an important role in the elementary school program. Students explain that sunlight, moving water and wind are renewable energy resources. They differentiate them from nonrenewable energy resources such as fossil fuels (e.g. gasoline, propane, butane, oil, natural gas). They describe technologies used to convert renewable energy into electricity (hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, solar panels).
Secondary school
    1. Tectonic plate
      1. Describes the main elements of the theory of tectonic plates (e.g. plate, subduction zone, mid-oceanic ridge)
    1. Orogenesis
      1. Describes the formation of mountains, folding and breaks (tectonic plate movements)
    1. Volcano
      1. Describes a volcanic eruption
      1. Describes the geographical distribution of volcanoes
    1. Earthquake
      1. Describes the processes that cause earthquakes (e.g. tectonic plate movements, slides)
    1. Erosion
      1. Describes different types of erosion (e.g. soils dried by the wind, fragmentation of rocks caused by water freezing and thawing)
    1. Winds
      1. Names the main factors responsible for wind (e.g. convection movements, movement of air masses)
    1. Water cycle
      1. Explains the water cycle (phase changes, energy exchanges)
    1. Natural energy sources
      1. Describes the role of solar energy as a natural energy source (e.g. wind, tornadoes, hurricanes, storms)
    1. Renewable and nonrenewable energy resources
      1. Distinguishes between renewable and nonrenewable energy resources (e.g. Sun, molten rock, moving water, oil)
      1. Describes technologies used to produce electricity using the energy resources in the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere
      1. Describes the main impact of the use of energy resources in the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere
  1. Astronomical phenomena
1 2 3 4 4
Elementary school
Students learn that the cycle of day and night is related to the Earth's rotation. They distinguish between stars, planets and moons in our solar system. They describe seasonal changes (e.g. temperature variations, luminosity, types of precipitation), in particular the apparent position of the Sun and its influence on the length of shadows.
Secondary school
  1. Concepts related to astronomy
    1. Universal Gravitation
      1. Defines gravitation as a force of mutual attraction between bodies
    1. Earth-Moon system
      1. Describes the tides in terms of the gravitational effect of the Earth-Moon system
    1. Light
      1. Defines light as a form of radiant energy6
      1. Describes properties of light (propagation in a straight line, diffuse reflection by surfaces)
      1. Explains different phenomena using the properties of light (cycles of day and night, seasons, phases of the Moon, eclipses)
    1. Solar energy flow
      1. Describes the main factors that affect the quantity of solar energy that reaches the Earth's surface (e.g. reflection and absorption of solar energy by the atmosphere or surfaces)
  1. Solar system
    1. Characteristics of the solar system
      1. Compares some of the characteristics of the planets in our solar system (e.g. distances, relative size, composition)
    1. Cycles of day and night
      1. Explains the alternation of day and night in terms of the Earth's rotation
    1. Phases of the Moon
      1. Explains the phases of the lunar cycle
    1. Eclipses
      1. Explains a lunar or solar eclipse
    1. Seasons
      1. Explains the phenomenon of seasons in terms of the position of the Earth with respect to the Sun (tilt, revolution)
    1. Comets
      1. Describes the main parts of a comet (core of ice and rock, tail of gas, and tail of dust)
    1. Aurora borealis (northern lights)
      1. Locates the geographic regions where the aurora borealis occurs (polar regions)
      1. Identifies the atmospheric layer in which the aurora borealis occurs
    1. Meteoroid impact
      1. Identifies traces left by meteoroid impacts in Québec (e.g. craters, astroblemes)
  1. Space
    1. Scale of the universe
      1. Astronomical unit
        • Defines an astronomical unit as the unit of length corresponding to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun
      1. Light year
        • Defines light year as a unit of length corresponding to the distance travelled by light in one Earth year
      1. Location of the Earth in the universe
        • Compares the relative distance between different celestial bodies (e.g. stars, nebulae, galaxies)
    1. Conditions conducive to the development of life
      1. Describes conditions conducive to the development or maintenance of life (e.g. presence of a gaseous atmosphere, water, energy source)
1.  See The Earth and Space, Geological and geophysical phenomena below (ES, B).
2.  According to the scale established by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (2009).
3. See Living World, Ecotoxicology, Contaminant (LW, A, 1, i, i).
4. See Living World, Ecotoxicology, Contaminant (LW, A, 1, i, i).
5. See Living World, Ecotoxicology, Contaminant (LW, A, 1, i, i).
6.  See The Material World, Changes, Transformation of energy, Forms of energy (MW, B, 5, a).

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