On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Teaching about the Early Earth: Evolution of Tectonics, Life, and the Early Atmosphere
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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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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.

Using Popcorn to Simulate Radioactive Decay part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Popping popcorn in your class is an excellent way to illustrate both the spontaneity and irreversible change associated with radioactive decay. It helps students to understand the unpredictability of decay.

Calibrated Peer ReviewTM: Kerguelen Plateau, Southern Indian Ocean - Geologic History of A Large Igneous Province part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Peer Review:Examples
This activity explores the significance and geologic history of the Kerguelen Plateau Large Igneous Province, as revealed by Ocean Drilling Program. -

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: Earth History Timeline part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Question The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. A roll of good quality toilet paper has 1000 squares. If the roll of toilet paper represents the ...

Back-of-the-Envelope Calculations: Age of the Earth part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
Question The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. Suppose that you decided to count to 4.6 billion and that you counted 1 number every second. How ...

M&M Model for Radioactive Decay part of Quantitative Skills:Activity Collection
A tasty in-class demonstration of radioactive decay using two colors of M&M's. Illustrates the quantitative concepts of probability and exponential decay. This activity is appropriate for small classes (<40 students).

Gallery Walk Questions about Time and Earth History part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Gallery Walks:Examples
created by Mark Francek, Central Michigan University The following are potential questions that could be used in a gallery walk activity about time and earth history. The questions are organized according to the ...

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 ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #40 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the layer that was formed earliest? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Unconformity Explaination part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Which of the following sequence of events would best explain what happened between deposition of layers C and E illustrated in the diagram below? a. Uplift only. b. Uplift, erosion, then sea level rise. c. Uplift ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #42 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter is located on an unconformity surface? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #41 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the layer that was formed most recently? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Oldest Rocks part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Carefully examine the relative positions of the lettered arrows on the timeline below and estimate the ages represented by each arrow. Identify which letter corresponds most closely to the age of the oldest known ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #8 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which sequence of letters best represents the order in which the layers were formed (from oldest to youngest)? Image courtesy of USGS a. A, B, C, D, E b. B, D, C, E, A c. A, ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #14 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the layer that was formed most recently? Image courtesy of USGS. a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #15 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
What principle would be the best to apply to determine the order in which layers A, B, C, and D in the image below were formed? Image courtesy of USGS. a. Superposition b. Cross-cutting relationships c. Original ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #9 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Tilting must have occurred Image courtesy of USGS a. after A was deposited. b. between deposition of layers E and A. c. before B was deposited. d. between deposition of ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #11 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the layer that was formed last? Image courtesy of USGS a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #12 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which sequence of letters best represents the order in which the layers were formed (from oldest to youngest)? Image courtesy of USGS a. A, B, C, D b. D, A, C, B c. B, D, A, ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #16 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which letter represents the layer that was formed earliest? a. A b. B c. C d. D