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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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. -

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.

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 ...

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 ...

Understanding Radioactivity in Geology: The Basics of Decay part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
PowerPoint module leading students through creation and manipulation of spreadsheet to forward model an example of exponential decaythe number of remaining unpopped kernels of popcorn in a bag of popping popcorn.

A field trip to explore rock formation and tectonics of southern California part of Cutting Edge:Geoscience in the Field:Activities
In this contribution, we provide an example of a one-day trip to examine Proterozoic metamorphic and Mesozoic intrusive igneous rocks that are easily accessible along and near roads in southern California. The ...

Relative Dating of Geologic Materials part of Teacher Preparation:Resource Collections:Activities
This lessons allows students to constuct the basic principals used to understand relative geologic time and the skills used to construct the geologic time scale.

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.

Faint Young Sun, Radiocarbon dating part of Cutting Edge:Early Career:Previous Workshops:Workshop 2010:Teaching Activities
This problem set follows lectures and readings on (1) the Stefan-Boltzmann equation and the greenhouse effect in an n-layer atmosphere and (2) radiometric dating. The goal is for the students to apply equations ...

Modeling U-Series Concordia/Discordia Using STELLA part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
U-Series dating techniques are widely used to determine the absolute ages of some of Earth's oldest rocks, but the concordia/discordia diagram can be quite difficult for students to grasp. I have produced a STELLA-based lab exercise to develop students' understanding of this important chronologic technique. Students create models of the two isotopic decay systems and run these models to create the concordia diagram. They then carry out experiments in which they "add" or "remove" varying amounts of lead or uranium in simulation of metamorphism. In the course of the lab, students are introduced to the concepts of exponential decay and secular equilibrium as well as modeling concepts such as the creation of if-then statements.

Learning Landscapes: RIVERS part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
Learning Landscapes provides historic "geo-images" of Rivers and Slopes. Students work at their own pace through a series of on-line images with directed questions and expert answers for each image. Images stem in most part from the University of Vermont's Landscape Change Program archive. Preliminarily, we have found that students relate to local images of New England, use the site as a resource, relate image content to course field laboratories, and relate images to their previous knowledge.

How much is a million? How big is a billion? part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
We constructed a geologic timeline along a 5K road-race route across the MSU campus at a scale of 1 meter = 1 million years, using signage to mark important events in the history of life. In addition to over 1500 race participants, numerous casual observers were exposed to the timeline. This project works well in the classroom at a scale of 1 mm = 1 million years, and as a manageable one-day outdoor sidewalk chalk activity at a scale of 1" = 1 million years. Timelines drawn to scale lead the observer to the inescapable conclusions that "simple" life appeared early in Earth history; that it took the bulk of Earth history to achieve the next, multi-cellular stage of development; and that once the metazoan threshold was crossed, subsequent biological diversification-and the resulting fossil record-followed in rapid succession.

Diverse: Field, role play, storytelling, puzzle, cooperative, information systems part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
Multiple activities–see the poster

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Calculating the radius of the Earth part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
Science students often have difficulty thinking about large spatial scales. The purpose of the exercise is to redo Eratosthenes' calculation of the radius of the Earth using data from to sites in ancient Egypt. The excercise teaches about the methodology of science - how Eratothenes figured it out - rather than worried about what the "right" answer is. It can also be used to discuss the role of models in geological thinking.