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Lifelines and "Earth lines"

LeeAnn Srogi
,
West Chester University of PA
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Summary

This activity can be used as a first lab for an introductory-level geoscience course. It is a cooperative ice-breaker gets students to know one another and opens discussion for geologic time and earth history.

Affective Domain Components

What type of affective domain challenges does this activity seek to address?

Creates positive learning environment. Engages (briefly) with geologic time and earth history (potentially controversial).

Please describe the strategies used in your activity that address the challenges listed above.

Positive learning environment: students work in teams of 2 to construct lines representing the length of their lives. They share with each other important events in their lives, then introduce each other to the entire class. Takes about 15 minutes for a class of 30.
Students then cooperatively construct lines representing length of earth history, and mark important geologic events, then answer questions about earth history and geologic time. These questions bring out discussion of conflicting beliefs that can be explored in a relaxed and open classroom climate.

Do you have results or evidence that the strategies used in this activity have been successful in addressing the affective challenges listed above? If so, please describe them here.

Only anecdotal - I used this lab activity for several years, then stopped teaching intro geology a few years ago. This lab seemed to get students comfortable with lab the first week, and seemed to keep attendance up. When I DIDN'T use this as the first lab, it took weeks for students to get comfortable with each other and with me in lab. Students seemed to talk more easily about potential conflicts between geologic facts and religious beliefs during this lab, and they seemed to be open to listening and sharing with less defensiveness.

Context

Audience:

Undergraduate, introductory-level geoscience course for non-majors and majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

None, or calculating proportions (depending on strategy used, see Instructor's Notes).

How the activity is situated in the course:

First lab of the semester.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity:

To gain a better understanding of geological time scales and the current scientific models that attempt to explain the evolution and future of our planet

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Comparing human and geological time scales, and the order of human time and geologic time. Hypothesizing evidence of past life and mass extinctions that might be preserved in the geologic record.

Other skills goals for this activity:

To retrieve information about the ages of geologic events using a geologic time scale

Description of the activity/assignment

"Lifelines and Earth lines" is the first lab activity of the semester in an undergraduate, introductory-level geoscience course for non-majors and majors. It requires no homework or preparation by students. The first goal is for students to get to know one another and the instructor. Students work in teams of 2, construct lines representing the length of their lives on large easel paper, mark important life events on their lines, and introduce their partners to the class (about 25 minutes total). Students then construct lines representing the length of earth history and mark important geologic events, and answer questions about geologic time and events (about 25 minutes). This part of the lab has the goal of helping students gain a better understanding of geological time scales and the current scientific models that attempt to explain the evolution and future of our planet. The questions ask them to think about why we "count" time differently for people (moving forward from birth) and geology (going back from the present). The events chosen relate to appearances of major life forms and mass extinctions; questions ask them to think about these events and what evidence for them might be preserved in the geologic record. These questions serve as a springboard for discussion of geologic time and evolution as controversial topics.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Construction of timelines - are they complete and accurate?
Introduction of partner to class and listening to other students' information - observational.
Answers to questions - are they complete, correct, and thoughtful? Some questions have more than one acceptable answer.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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