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Activities for teaching about the Early Earth

This collection of activities contains materials used to teach about earth's history, evolution and extinction, geologic timelines, and methods used to date geologic events. We are seeking teaching materials that address early earth topics. Do you have a favorite teaching activity you'd like to share? Please help us expand this collection by sharing your own teaching materials.

You may also find useful information about references and resources for teaching about the early earth and ideas for creating early earth teaching activities.


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How Many Is A Million? part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Visualizations with Teaching Notes
Roger Steinberg, Department of Natural Sciences, Del Mar College Description To help students visualize the immensity of geologic time, or even the immensity of just one million years, I have created a very large ...

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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An Interactive Game Approach to Learning in Historical Geology and Paleontology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Games:Examples
The instructor uses a series of games to help students identify and answer questions about fossils. The game grows more complex over time as the instructors add rules and phyla to identify. -

Using Melting Ice to Teach Radiometric Dating part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Students are challenged to a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery in which they construct their own decay curves of melting ice to determine time-zero.

Discovering the Principles of Relative Age Determination a Think-Pair-Share In-Class Activity part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
In this in-class activity, students are challenged to identify rock units and geologic features and determine the relative ages of these features without prior instruction in the classical methods of relative age determination.

Toilet Paper Analogy for Geologic Time part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
An in class demonstration of the vastness of geologic time using a 1000-roll sheet of toilet paper and unrolling it around the room.

Presenting the Geologic Timescale part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Interactive Lecture Demonstrations:Examples
This project has students model the geologic timescale using distance as a metaphor for time. Students give presentions spaced at distances which represent how far apart in time the events occurred. -

Time and Earth History Socratic Questions part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Socratic Questioning:Examples
Time and Earth History sample Socratic questions and answers. -

Demonstration of radioactive decay using pennies part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
A demonstration (with full class participation) to illustrate radioactive decay by flipping coins. Shows students visually the concepts of exponential decay, half-life and randomness. Works best in large classes – the more people, the better.

Using Popcorn to Simulate Radioactive Decay part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Popping popcorn in your class is an excellent way to illustrate both the spontaneity and irreversible change associated with radioactive decay. It helps students to understand the unpredictability of decay.

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: Earth History Timeline part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Question The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. A roll of good quality toilet paper has 1000 squares. If the roll of toilet paper represents the ...

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: Age of the Earth part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Question The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. Suppose that you decided to count to 4.6 billion and that you counted 1 number every second. How ...

M&M Model for Radioactive Decay part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
A tasty in-class demonstration of radioactive decay using two colors of M&M's. Illustrates the quantitative concepts of probability and exponential decay. This activity is appropriate for small classes (<40 students).

ConcepTest: Cross Section Explaination part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
During fieldwork in the western U.S., an experienced geologist sketched the cross section below showing three different units of tilted rocks and their relative ages. What could you best infer from this diagram? a. ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #37 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the rock unit that was formed most recently? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C

ConcepTest: Unconformity Explaination part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Which of the following sequence of events would best explain what happened between deposition of layers C and E illustrated in the diagram below? a. Uplift only. b. Uplift, erosion, then sea level rise. c. Uplift ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #35 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which sequence of letters best represents the order in which the layers were formed (from oldest to youngest)? Image courtesy of USGS a. B, C, D, A b. C, B, D, A c. C, D, B, ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #36 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the rock unit that was formed earliest? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #39 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
What principle would be the best to apply to determine the relative order in which rock units A and B in the image below were formed? Image courtesy of USGS a. Original horizontality b. Cross-cutting relationships ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #38 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which sequence of letters best represents the order in which the rock units were formed (from oldest to youngest)? Image courtesy of USGS a. B, A, C b. C, B, A c. B, C, A d. ...

ConcepTest: Rock Ages part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Match the features in the relative time diagram below with the events described in the short sentences. Assume all rocks are sedimentary unless otherwise indicated. What is the best estimate of the age of F if A is ...

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