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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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.

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.

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 ...

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.

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

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 ...

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.

South Carolina Studies: Bringing the Geologic Time Scale Down to Earth in the Students' Backyard part of NAGT:Teaching Resources:Teaching in the Field:Field Trip Collection
South Carolina Studies - Bringing the Geologic Time Scale Down to Earth in the Students' Backyard: John R. Wagner, Clemson University Intended Audience: This exercise is suitable for the general public, though ...

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. -