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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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Learning Assessment #8 - Concept Map (2011) part of Cutting Edge: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:Introductory Courses:Activities
An in-class activity that tests students' understanding of the principles of relative age, absolute age and numerical age dating.

JiTT - Neanderthals and Modern Humans part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) What are Neanderthals? How do they differ from modern humans? 2) Discuss some of the new ideas as to why early human ancestors dispersed from Africa. 3) What are DNA studies telling us about human migrations and ...

JiTT - Exploring Geoarchaeology part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How is climate connected to geoarchaeology? Explain. 2) List as many "tools" you can think of that would be useful to a geoarchaeologist and describe why it would be of use. 3) Is geoarchaeological ...

JiTT - Cambrian Explosion part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How do scientists come up with the number 2 billion years ago for the first branch of life? Explain the dating technique and information that is used. 2) Describe the evidence AGAINST the Cambrian Explosion. ...

Earth's history in 4.56 meters: constructing a timeline with calculator tape part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
An activity where students make a geologic timeline from calculator tape.

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. -

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: 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: 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.

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. -

Starting Out With Earth History part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Interactive Lectures:Examples
Distribute a blank geologic-history timeline to pairs or small groups of students at the start of an Earth History unit or course and ask them work together to fill it out as best they can. -

Jurassic Park Debate part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Role Playing:Examples
This role-playing exercise casts students as scientific specialists, assigned to a group either supporting or opposing the cloning of dinosaurs. Each group researches and presents its argument. -

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 ...

Gallery Walk Questions about Time and Earth History part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Gallery Walks:Examples
created by Mark Francek, Central Michigan University The following are potential questions that could be used in a gallery walk activity about time and earth history. The questions are organized according to the ...

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).