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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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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.

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. -

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 ...

Teaching Geoscience with Video Snips part of Cutting Edge:Enhance Your Teaching:Videos:Activities
Video snips are short video segments of live footage of geologic processes (settling sand, cleaving minerals, or landslides) used to engage students, foster discussion, and stimulate higher order thinking skills. ...

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.

Greenstone Belt Assessment part of Cutting Edge:Topics: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 ...

Geologic Time Discussion Analogies part of Cutting Edge:Topics: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 ...

Cyclostratigraphy and astrochronology exercise part of Cutting Edge:Topics: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 ...

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: Rock Ages part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Match the features in the relative time diagram below with the events described in the short sentences. Assume all rocks are sedimentary unless otherwise indicated. What is the best estimate of the age of F if A is ...

ConcepTest: What percentage of parent isotopes remain? part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
The half-life of a radioactive isotope is 1,000 million years. Scientists testing a rock sample discover that the ratio of parent and daughter isotopes indicates that the rock is 3,000 million years old. What ...

ConcepTest: Isotopic Dating with Parent to Daughter Ratios part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
The half-life of a radioactive isotope is 500 million years. Scientists testing a rock sample discover that the sample contains three times as many daughter isotopes as parent isotopes. What is the age of the rock? ...

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #4 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. Which statement is most accurate? Image courtesy of USGS. a. Layers A and E are the same age. b. Layers B and D are the same age. c. Layers C and F are the same age.

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #5 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 first? Image courtesy of the USGS. a. A b. B c. C d. D

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #6 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 e. E

ConcepTest: Relative Layer Age #7 part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:ConcepTests:Examples
Examine the image of rock layers below. An angular unconformity is present between layers ___ and ___. Image courtesy of USGS. a. A and E b. B and D c. C and F d. F and D