Cutting Edge > Topics > Early Earth > Classroom Activities

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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Be the Block: Working the Geologic Block Diagram as an Inquiry Tool part of Teacher Preparation:Resource Collections:Activities
Working with data, students develop 3-D understandings of Earth structures using inference to construct a block diagram from a collection of 2-D information.

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. -

Radiometric Dating part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
This activity leads students through derivations of the equations associated with radiometric dating.

Quantitative Classroom Exercises part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
The four exercises give students an opportunity to use their knowledge of graphs, algebra, and maps to solve simple geological problems.

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.

What can zircons tell us about the Early Earth? part of Activities
This image shows an array of Jack Hill zircons arranged on a piece of tape prior to casting in epoxy. Details Students create U-Pb concordia plots in Excel to experience the methods used to date the worlds oldest ...

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.

Multiple temporal scales of landscapes and landforms part of Cutting Edge:Topics:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
This exercise provides students with a timescale and list of geomorphic landforms and processes. The activity requires that students utilize their knowledge of process-driving mechanisms to place landforms and ...

Relative Age Correlation part of Cutting Edge:Topics:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students learn to apply basic correlation principles to geologic cross-sections.

Teaching radioactive decay & radiometric dating: an analog activity based on fluid dynamics part of Cutting Edge:Topics:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Radiometric dating/geochronology is a difficult concept for students. Using the (rather messy) medium of shampoo, students watch it flow through holes of different sizes, determine the exponential decay equation, ...

South Carolina Studies: Bringing the Geologic Time Scale Down to Earth in the Students' Backyard part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
Students visit Drayton Hall historic plantation near Charleston, South Carolina and are led on a field trip that starts with a discussion of documented historic changes that have affected the mansion and the surrounding property. The field trip continues with a study of Native American artifacts and ends with analysis of coastal plain deposits exposed along the Ashley River. Students use paleogeographic maps to discuss both historic and prehistoric changes to the landscape. Back in the classroom, students gather data to draw paleogeographic maps of their own school site through geologic time.

Describe and Interpret Images: Folded Strata part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Interactive Lectures:Examples
In class, have students make a simple sketch of an outcrop shown in a slide (or computer projection) then discuss possible interpretations. -

GEOLogic: The Big Five Mass Extinctions part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Students are asked to match up the five largest mass extinction events with their relative dates, approximate duration, and severity (percentage of species that became extinct) based on clues given from various perspectives.

GEOLogic: Lagerstatten and Unique Fossils part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Students are asked to match up several unique fossils with the site and location where it was found and it's geologic age.

GEOLogic: Dinosaur Trackways part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Students must associate different dinosaur trackways with their locations and the rock formations containing the trackways based on clues given from various points of view.

Learning Assessment #8 - Concept Map (2011) part of Cutting Edge:Courses:Introductory Courses:Activities
An end of the term, in-class activity that challenges students to synthesize their understanding of the fundamental concepts taught over the course of the semester - plate tectonics, the rock cycle, geologic time ...

Learning Assessment #6 - Geologic Time (2010) part of Cutting Edge:Courses:Introductory Courses:Activities
An in-class activity that tests students' understanding of the principles of relative age, absolute age and numerical age dating.

Living with Volcanoes: An Introduction to Geoarchaeology part of Cutting Edge:Courses:Environmental Geology:Activities
This activity introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of geoarchaeology through a case study of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. It combines short lectures with questions requiring analyses of a ...

Sedimentation of Mud - Observation and Analysis part of Cutting Edge:Enhance Your Teaching:Videos:Activities
The process of mud settling in a graduated cylinder was filmed as a time lapse series over about 2 hours. Students observe and analyze the sedimentation process.

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.