Earth Systems Science (ESS) is emerging rapidly as a discipline and is being used to replace the older earth science education that has been taught as unrelated disciplines-geology, meteorology, astronomy, and oceanography. ESS is complex and is based on the idea that the earth can be understood as a set of interacting natural and social systems. An analytic, metalevel framework is needed to understand the complexity. The framework specifies a set of metalevel essential ideas and analytic concepts that can be applied to understand the substantive structures of ESS-the essential ideas describe the general nature of earth systems, and the analytic concepts describe types of discipline-specific concepts such as the materials, processes, and variables of earth systems. An analysis for the phenomenon of carbon cycling is provided as an example. The framework allows one to determine whether what is to be taught is complete and coherent and can be used to conduct research and evaluations of curriculum, teachers' knowledge, and students' knowledge in a systematic manner. Sets of studies completed using the ESS analytic framework will allow comparability across subjects that is currently lacking.