A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

P1 Earth in Universe: module summary

Long- and short-term changes in the Earth's crust, the Sun, and the Universe, and how these affect students' everyday lives.

This is about the 2006 course. The 2011 modules are mostly similar. See the OCR 2011 specification.

This module summary and the downloadable module map, are taken from the GCSE Science Teacher and Technician Guide published by OUP. We are grateful to OUP for permission to publish these resources on this website.
>> Download Module Map P1 Earth in the Universe (73 KB).

Why the Earth in the Universe?

One theme running through the ‘Earth in the Universe’ module is natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes and asteroid impact - explaining them, predicting them, attempting to mitigate their effects. Developing explanations can have enormous practical consequences.

Scientific ideas about the Universe continue to inspire people - including composers, poets, film-makers and novelists - both to flights of pure fancy and to reflections on human life. At a suitable point during these lessons, we hope that you will make a place for your own and/or students' examples of these - perhaps collaborating with your colleagues in the English department. You may even want to discuss the popular belief that star signs can be used to foretell the future.

In this module students look at long- and short-term changes in the Earth's crust, the Sun, and the Universe. They consider how these changes impact on their everyday lives.

Explaining origins (Science explanation)

Beliefs about God - or the absence of God - underlie any discussion of origins. They might arise at two points in this module: the discussion of fossils and the big bang theory of the origin of the Universe.

We suggest that you let students air their views, but at the same time you should prevent this distracting them from the module's main themes. Background information for the teacher, 'Ideas about creation', available in the ‘Further guidance' on the OUP website provides guidance on managing such a discussion.

Developing explanations (ldea about Science)

Case studies illustrate different ways that data and explanations can be related. Sometimes the explanation comes first and data is sought to provide supporting evidence, e.g. James Hutton's idea about the rock cycle. Sometimes data comes first and strongly suggests a particular explanation, e.g. the emergence of the idea of seafloor spreading.

The scientific community (ldea about Science)

Typically both data and explanations are contested before a community of scientists reaches a consensus. Openness to debate and the insistence on evidence together make science a body of reliable knowledge.

Some students will notice that, over the time period of these case studies, the number of scientists has grown substantially and their curiosity and expertise has become more specialised.

Skills assessment

Possible topics for a Case Study include mitigating geohazards, and the possibility of another asteroid colliding with the Earth. An investigation of crater formation could make a suitable context for a Data Analysis task.


See our guide to OCR website for the GCSE Science specification to which this module relates.
Module P1 is on pages 17–21 of the OCR specification. This gives you the Science Explanations and the relevant Ideas about Science.

Read more about Ideas about Science in Appendix F pages 85-91.
For this module you want Idea about Science 3 Developing explanations (p88) and 4 The scientific community (p89). You will find it especially useful to read the overview on page 85.