The Geologic Timescale and Paleoclimates

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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Initial Publication Date: November 24, 2014 | Reviewed: July 21, 2015


This is a basic exercise in which students utilize a variety of online resources to answer questions about the geologic timescale, major theories in geology, and temporal scales of climate change.

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The activity is used in an online undergraduate introductory physical geography course. The focus of the course is landforms and soils. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered


How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture. This exercise is typically completed early in the course, prior to investigating geomorphic landforms and processes.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Interpret the geologic timescale
  • Recognize the major theories of landscape evolution
  • Link major events in life history with geologic eras and periods
  • Understand different natural climate drivers at different temporal scales

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students first navigate to the University of California Museum of Paleontology "The Geologic Timescale in Historical Perspective" website to answer a series of background questions about the geologic timescale. Students then navigate to the National Park Service Geologic Timescale website and use the Geologic Time Views Module to answer questions about major theories in geology and watch a video to answer questions about the age of the earth. Finally, students visit the National Climate Data Center "Exploring Weather & Climate Change Through the Powers of 10" website to answer questions about different scales of climate change.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during the week it is assigned. Upon completion of the exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs