Cutting Edge > 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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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.

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.

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.

Hotspot Lesson: Relative Dating part of ERESE:ERESE Activities
This lesson explains the application of relative dating for volcanic features in the ocean.

Tapestry of Time: the Evolution of the North American Continent part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
In this lecture activity, groups of students use the Tapestry of Time map printed by the USGS to create cross sections that illustrate the growth of the North American continent.

Help a geochronologist part of Geoscience in Two-year Colleges:Activities
This activity allows students to better understand radiometric dating and absolute dating techniques by calculating radiometric ages of zircon crystals. Their calculated ages then serve as tools to practice creating graphs, interpret analytic data, and reconstruct geologic events.

When and How Did Continental Crust Form? part of Cutting Edge:Petrology:Teaching Examples
Many models have been proposed regarding the timing and mechanisms that first formed the continental crust. The purpose of this exercise is to help students explore the question of crustal genesis and evolution ...

Implementing A Constructivist Teaching Model For Conceptualizing Geologic Time part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
The activity fosters middle learning students critical thinking and allows for student generated essential questions to further their understanding of Earth's history and geologic time.

Drawing unconformities part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Thess simple sketches are used in class to show the development of different unconformities.

Greenstone Belt Assessment part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students examine and describe rocks found as part of a geologic sequence formed during the Precambrian Era and determine the geologic significance of each of the rocks in order. The capstone (not included on the ...

Geologic Time Discussion Analogies part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
This is 4 ppt slides used to facilitate discussion w/students about the immensity of geologic time. I ask them a series of leading questions and try to get them to do "mental math" in order to grasp the ...

Cyclostratigraphy and astrochronology exercise part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Simple classroom activity to highlight how cyclostratigraphy and concepts of astronchronology can be used to refine age control in sedimentary rocks, estimate rates of processes, and for time control and ...

Relative vs. Numerical Dating and Geochronology with Beads part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students use relative dating principles to interpret the ages of rocks in a block diagram. They then "date" samples from these rocks to test their relative age hypotheses. Sample dating is done by ...

Multiple temporal scales of landscapes and landforms part of Cutting Edge: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 ...

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.

Exploring the nature of geoscience using cartoon cards part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
In this activity, students work in groups to put a set of cartoon cards in order, much in the way that we might assemble a geologic history. The primary goal of the activity is to explore the nature of science in general and the nature of geoscience or historical science specifically, without requiring any content knowledge.

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 ...