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Timeline of the Early Earth

Selby Cull
,
Washington University in St. Louis
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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: Jun 16, 2010

Summary

Students assemble timelines of the early evolution of Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere by examining data from Archean rocks and minerals.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Context

Audience

I use this activity in intro Solar System classes, but it would also be appropriate for an introductory history of the Earth course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Concepts:

How the activity is situated in the course

I use it as a stand-alone exercise.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Concept Goals:

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

Other skills goals for this activity


Description of the activity/assignment

Each student is assigned a sphere: Lithosphere, Atmosphere, or Biosphere. They will be responsible for constructing a timeline documenting events in the evolution of that sphere from 4.5 to 1.0 Gya. They are then given a set of cards, each with a photo of a rock/mineral from that time period, a summary of the research done on it and the conclusions various researchers have reached about that rock/mineral, and references. Students need to use the rocks to assemble their timeline. After each student is done, each student shares their timelines with the group, fills in the timelines for the three other spheres, and draws conclusions about how the three spheres interacted with each other as they evolved.

Teaching Tips

Adaptations that allow this activity to be successful in an online environment

In the classroom, I use groups and hang a giant map of the world on the wall; then tape the rock cards as posters near the map, connecting them by string to the place the rocks were found. This doesn't work as well online! But the cards can easily be distributed electronically.

Elements of this activity that are most effective

Having students be responsible for teaching the rest of the class about the evolution of their spheres in quite effective - as teachers, they're forced to articulate the timeline in a way that they wouldn't have to on paper.

Recommendations for other faculty adapting this activity to their own course:

Determining whether students have met the goals

I use a rubric that addresses the level of detail the students include in their timeline, whether they extract all the interesting information that is there to be extracted, and the quality of the connections they draw among the different spheres.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials




Timeline of the Early Earth --Discussion  

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