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Geologic Time Activities


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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.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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Geologic Time Calculations
Francisco San Juan, Elizabeth City State University
Radiometric age determination using parent/daughter composition and a radiometric decay curve.

Relative Geologic Time and the Geologic Time Scale
Bret Bennington, Hofstra University
Group simulation of the development of the geologic time scale illustrating concepts of correlation and relative time. Extremely effective for teaching the significance of the geologic time scale.

South Carolina Studies: Bringing the Geologic Time Scale Down to Earth in the Students' Backyard
John Wagner, Clemson University
Students visit Drayton Hall historic plantation near Charleston, South Carolina and are led on a field trip that starts with a discussion of documented historic changes that have affected the mansion and the surrounding property. The field trip continues with a study of Native American artifacts and ends with analysis of coastal plain deposits exposed along the Ashley River. Students use paleogeographic maps to discuss both historic and prehistoric changes to the landscape. Back in the classroom, students gather data to draw paleogeographic maps of their own school site through geologic time.

Geologic Time Discussion Analogies
Noah Fay, Pima Community College
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 ...

Teaching geologic time and rates of landscape evolution with dice
Kate Ruhl, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Landscape evolution provides a convenient framework for understanding geologic time and rates because students can observe how processes like erosion and deposition shape their surroundings. In this example, students build 3-D sandbox models based on topographic maps and design and stage a "virtual adventure race." Sandbox landscapes are used to illustrate erosional processes,while local examples are used to discuss landscapes as transient or steady over different time- and length scales. Dice experiments illustrate radioactive decay and the shape of the age equation curve, and 14C dating, geochronology and thermochronology are introduced as "stopwatches" that start when a plant dies, a crystal forms, or a rock nears the surface and cools to a certain temperature. The sandbox model and thermochronometer "stopwatches" are combined to measure erosion rates and rates of landscape change. Ultimately, model rates (cm/hour) calculated from stopwatch times on the order of seconds can be related to geologic rates (km/My) calculated from real million-year-old samples.

Toilet Paper Analogy for Geologic Time
Jennifer Wenner, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
An in class demonstration of the vastness of geologic time using a 1000-roll sheet of toilet paper and unrolling it around the room.

Implementing A Constructivist Teaching Model For Conceptualizing Geologic Time
John Pecore
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.

Learning Assessment #6 - Geologic Time (2010)
Leslie Reid, University of Calgary; Michelle Speta, University of Alberta
An in-class activity that tests students' understanding of the principles of relative age, absolute age and numerical age dating.

Illinois through time
Surangi Punyasena, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This assignment serves as an introduction to geologic time, using Illinois as an example. It uses the Paleo Portal website to illustrate each geologic period.

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