Teach the Earth > Early Earth > Expedition to the PreCambrian

Expedition to the PreCambrian

Michael A. Phillips and Walter S. Borowski
Illinois Valley Community College and Eastern Kentucky University

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Feb 19, 2008


A group exercise that investigates geological, atmospheric, hydrologic, and biological conditions during the Hadean, Archean, and Proterozoic. Students will plan a trip to a certain time period within the Precambrian, research critical environmental clues, and report their findings with a group presentation to the class.
Note: This activity is still under development and has not yet been used in the classroom. We encourage instructors to add supporting information or to try this activity and suggest changes or additions.

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Introductory historical geology course for non-majors (and majors)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Overview of Hadean, Archean, and Proterozoic Earth in terms of key events and questions concerning tectonics, evolution of the atmosphere, and life.

How the activity is situated in the course

A group assignment that involves classwork (possibly a homework assignment), and a group report to the class.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

1. Instructor identifies an appropriate number of key dates in the Precambrian to investigate.

2. Students break into groups (method to be determined by instructor) and each group will be assigned a particular time in the Precambrian (one author likes to have groups draw assignments out of hat!).

3. Students investigate their time period using appropriate source materials (we suggest the class notes, textbook and perhaps supplementary materials identified in the form of popular articles (e.g., Scientific American, Smithsonian, National Geographic, etc.) or websites.


4. Group presentation
a) Create a very simple PowerPoint presentation (10 minutes) for the class.
b) Each group member must present part of the information.

Determining whether students have met the goals

1. Presentation and PowerPoint sides evaluated by instructor using rubric.
2. Groups submit question or questions as possible exam questions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs


The Divisions of Precambrian Time
The Precambrian from Palaeos
Map of Precambrian rocks in North America from the USGS North American Tapestry of Time and Terrain
Map of Late Precambrian Supercontinent and Ice House World
'http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/474302/Precambrian-time' by Encyclopedia Britannica (requires a free trial membership)
The Precambrian Eon by Earth Floor


The Dawn of Animal Life Miller Museum Online Exhibit
Study Suggests Clay Paved the Way for Evolution of Complex Animals, by David Biello, Scientific American
First Life, Michael Russell, American Scientist, January-February 2006
The Origin of Animal Body Plans, by Douglas Erwin, James Valentine, David Jablonski, American Scientist, March-April 1997


Artist's painting of the Precambrian

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