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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JiTT - Geologic Dating part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Just in Time Teaching:Examples
1) How are zircons formed? 2) Which of the following statements describes relative geologic dating? a) the Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex went extinct at the same time b) dinosaurs came later than horseshoe ...

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.

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.

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 ...

Ordering Geologic Events and Interpreting Geologic History: The Grand Canyon part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
This activity is designed to have students re-examine rocks they looked at earlier in the semester and use them to interpret some of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon.

Rock-Tectonics synthesis lab part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
This lab aims to draw together rock identification and plate tectonics as well as relative age relationships. It gets students to "be" geologists...looking at rock suites and trying to see how they fit ...

Relative Time Application and Synthesis Exercise part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
This classroom activity is a formative assessment that explores the degree to which students can apply relative time principles and synthesize that information with concepts related to the rock cycle.

The Four-Winged Dinosaur part of Cutting Edge:Early Career:Previous Workshops:Workshop 2010:Teaching Activities
This is assignment is completed in two parts: It begins in class with a showing of the Nova documentary "The Four-Winged Dinosaur." It continues as a homework assignment in which students write a short ...

Illinois through time part of Cutting Edge:Early Career:Previous Workshops:Workshop 2010:Teaching Activities
This assignment serves as an introduction to geologic time, using Illinois as an example. It uses the Paleo Portal website to illustrate each geologic period.

Understanding Geologic Maps part of Cutting Edge:Early Career:Previous Workshops:Workshop 2011:Teaching Activities
Exercise in deconstructing a geologic map & writing a geologic history of the area.

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.

Rates of Change and Deep Time in the Middle Grades Classroom part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
The nature and scientific measurement of geological and cosmological time are among the most misunderstood and difficult to teach concepts in all of K-12 science education. To address this issue, a multi-disciplinary team of geologists, astronomers and education professionals at Western Kentucky University developed a series of professional development workshops for pre- and in-service middle grades teachers. The participants clearly advanced their content understanding of geological and cosmological time and the implementation plans received clearly show a desire to apply many of the activities learned in the workshop.

Using Dendrochronology to Determine the Age and Past Environments of the Black Forest Region, Colorado, USA part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
The use of dendrochronology in determining the geologic history of a location. The development of an understanding how tree growth can indicate the relationships between climate, geomorphology, ecology and archeology.

Radiometric Dating Isochron exercise part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Hands-on introduction to using the isochron method to determine radiometric ages.

Dating Students: Relative vs. Numerical Time part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
This activity introduces students to the fundamental ideas of relative versus radiometric dating, using the students themselves as a sample population. In the first half, the students attempt to order the people in ...

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

Personal Timeline part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students start this worksheet by listing the most important events in their own lives, plotting them on a timeline, and then doing the same with Earth history events. Usually, their personal timelines will resemble ...

The Cosmic Calendar part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
In this activity, one takes ALL of time, from the beginning of time (i.e., the Big Bang) all the way up to today, but one compresses it into one year. One can do this for all levels of students depending on how ...

Metaphor for the geologic time scale part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students choose an object or concept that they are familiar with (e.g., football field, pint of beer, etc) and calculate the cumulative amount of that object or concept that represents intervals of geologic time. ...