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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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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.

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. ...

Geologic and Navajo Time Line part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Students develop a time line using registrar tape and correlating marking off divisions of geologic eras. Above this they develop a Navajo time line of creation. Each week they focusing on the topic (era/period) of ...

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.

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.

Time Scales of Climate Change part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
This activity introduces students to the fact that climate change occurs at timescales of 1 year to 108 years and there are various drivers to explain these changes. It addresses how scientists detect these scales ...

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.

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.

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.

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 ...

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.

Assembling a Geologic History part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Field Labs:Field Lab Examples
Assemble a regional geologic history by compiling observations made a several sites. -

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.