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Resource Type: Activities

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M & M Decay
Rebecca Teed, Wright State University-Main Campus
This is a simulation of radioactive decay which illustrates what a half-life is and explains some of the challenges involved with radiometric dating. Pennies or other cheap coins can be substituted for M&Ms if ...

Mark Schmitz, Boise State University
This is an example of an activity used in a Quaternary Geochronology course, in which a small group of students (3-4) is tasked with transforming a set of activity measurements into radiocarbon ages and calibrated ...

Crater Counting Lab exercise
Kevin Mullins, Coconino County Community College
This lab is designed to teach students how we can estimate the age of other planetary surfaces by counting and size-binning impact craters. It also illustrates some examples of how erosional or deopositional ...

Teaching radioactive decay & radiometric dating: an analog activity based on fluid dynamics
Erika Grundstrom, Vanderbilt University
Radiometric dating/geochronology is a difficult concept for students. Using the (rather messy) medium of shampoo, students watch it flow through holes of different sizes, determine the exponential decay equation, ...

Radiometric Dating Isochron exercise
John Weber, Grand Valley State University
Hands-on introduction to using the isochron method to determine radiometric ages.

Dating Students: Relative vs. Numerical Time
Susan Zimmerman, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
This activity introduces students to the fundamental ideas of relative versus radiometric dating, using the students themselves as a sample population. In the first half, the students attempt to order the people in ...

Relative vs. Numerical Dating and Geochronology with Beads
Karen Viskupic, Boise State University
Students use relative dating principles to interpret the ages of rocks in a block diagram. They then "date" samples from these rocks to test their relative age hypotheses. Sample dating is done by ...

Modeling U-Series Concordia/Discordia Using STELLA
Kirsten Menking, Vassar College
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.

Determining Earthquake Recurrence Intervals from Trench Logs
Patricia Cashman, University of Nevada-Reno
Trench logs of the San Andreas Fault at Pallett Creek, CA are the data base for a lab or homework assignment that teaches about relative dating, radiometric dating, fault recurrence intervals and the reasons for uncertainty in predicting geologic phenomena. Students are given a trench log that includes several fault strands and dated stratigraphic horizons. They estimate the times of faulting based on bracketing ages of faulted and unfaulted strata. They compile a table with the faulting events from the trench log and additional events recognized in nearby trenches, then calculate maximum, minimum and average earthquake recurrence intervals for the San Andreas Fault in this area. They conclude by making their own prediction for the timing of the next earthquake.

Roping Geologic Time
Randall Richardson, The University of Arizona
After having talked about the geologic time scale, I ask for two volunteers from the class to hold a rope that is 50 feet long. I say that one end is the beginning of the Earth (4.6 billion years ago), and the other is today. I then give out 16 clothes pins and ask various students to put a cloths pin on the 'time line' at various 'geologic events'. Throughout the activity I have a quiz going on where the students calculate percentages of Earth History for major geologic events, and compare it to their own ages. On their time scale, the dinosaurs died only about two 'months' ago! The exercise is very effective at letting them get a sense of how long geologic time is, and how 'recently' some major geologic events happened when you consider a time scale that is the age of the earth.