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Rates of Change and Deep Time in the Middle Grades Classroom
Fred Siewers, Western Kentucky University
The nature and scientific measurement of geological and cosmological time are among the most misunderstood and difficult to teach concepts in all of K-12 science education. To address this issue, a multi-disciplinary team of geologists, astronomers and education professionals at Western Kentucky University developed a series of professional development workshops for pre- and in-service middle grades teachers. The participants clearly advanced their content understanding of geological and cosmological time and the implementation plans received clearly show a desire to apply many of the activities learned in the workshop.
How much is a million? How big is a billion?
We constructed a geologic timeline along a 5K road-race route across the MSU campus at a scale of 1 meter = 1 million years, using signage to mark important events in the history of life. In addition to over 1500 race participants, numerous casual observers were exposed to the timeline. This project works well in the classroom at a scale of 1 mm = 1 million years, and as a manageable one-day outdoor sidewalk chalk activity at a scale of 1" = 1 million years. Timelines drawn to scale lead the observer to the inescapable conclusions that "simple" life appeared early in Earth history; that it took the bulk of Earth history to achieve the next, multi-cellular stage of development; and that once the metazoan threshold was crossed, subsequent biological diversification-and the resulting fossil record-followed in rapid succession.