Earth's history in 4.56 meters: constructing a timeline with calculator tape
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection
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This page first made public: Aug 1, 2006
- To create a timeline of Earth's history
- To gain familiarity with the metric system
- To make basic scaling calculations
- To increase knowledge of large numbers
- To become familiar with the order and rough timing (or numeric age) of major events in Earth's history
- To get a sense of the scale of human events compared to geologic events
Context for Use
There are a couple of places where students can run into trouble.
- When they switch from events in billions of years to those in millions of years, they sometimes get stuck. I have them mark 500 million and 250 million years (one-half and one quarter billion years) so that they get the pattern.
- The end events are too crowded and they can't put them in. For some students, to be asked to do something that is not possible is scary for them. I always tell them to do their best and that indeed, that is one of the major points of the lab.
- Finally, I try to gather a group of students together at the end and ask them why I had them do this. They typically think that the goal is to make the timeline. I then draw out the other outcomes with them so that they see the 'point' of what they have done.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- How many millions are in a billion?
- In this activity, you will make a timeline 4.56 meters long that represents 4.56 billion years of Earth's history. How long would 1 billion years be on the timeline? How many years would 100 centimeters represent? How many years would 1 cm represent?
- Draw a line 1 cm long.
- Prelab (Microsoft Word 37kB Feb16 05) - This is a set of questions that I recommend students complete before beginning the activity to help it go more smoothly an quickly.
- Dates (Microsoft Word 52kB Feb16 05) This is a list of dates that I have the students put on the timeline.
- Student instructions (Microsoft Word 38kB Feb16 05) This is a set of instructions for students.
References and Resources
Controlled Vocabulary Terms
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Special Interest: 2YC:Geo2YC, Geo2YC- OLD DO NOT USE, Quantitative
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Quantitative Skills: Problem Solving, Probability and Statistics:Describing Data Distribution, Models and Modeling, Graphs
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Earth System Topics: Time/Earth History
Quantitative Skills Activity Type: Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Topics: Time/Earth History