EarthLabs for Educators > Climate Detectives > Lab 5: (Geologic) Timing Is Everything!

Lab 5: (Geologic) Timing Is Everything!

The lab activity was developed by Jeff Lockwood of TERC and Alison Mote of the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

In Part A, students develop a timeline of Earth's geologic history. In Part B, they take a section of their timeline that encompasses the data taken from Expedition 341--the Neogene-Quaternary time period.

After completing this Lab, students should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What major events in Earth's geologic history shaped our planet and enabled life to evolve?
  • What were the major climate events during the past 23 million years?
  • How does the scope of human civilization compare to the entirely of geologic time?
  • Open the Student Lab »



    Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

    Detailed overview of what students will do in each lab activity, how long it will take, and what materials are required to complete the lab.

    Part A - Earth's Geologic History
    • Make copies of the Timeline Organizer and Timeline Cards.
    • Determine where and how to hang your 4.6 meter string timeline. It should be easily visible, but not easily disturbed, as you will leave the timeline up until the end of the module.
    • Cut the string to an appropriate length and temporarily hang it. Mark a spot representing "current time" near the right-hand end of the string.
    • Starting from the "current time" mark, mark the string every 10 centimeters—for a total of 4.6 meters. It is helpful to use a marker of a different color to highlight every tenth (1 meter) mark, including the "current time" mark. Take the string down.
    • Thread 40 paperclips onto the string so that the double-loop end of the clips hangs down.
    • Hang the marked string with the "current time" mark and the paperclips at the right end.
    • Make date signs: today, 1 billion years ago, 2 billion years ago, 3 billion years ago, 4 billion years ago, and 4.6 or 5 billion years ago.
    • Hang the first and last date signs or post them on the wall at the ends of the string. Hold on to the intermediate signs until class time.

    Part B - Miocene Timeline

    1. Make copies of the Part B Miocene Timeline Organizer and Timeline Cards for each team.

    • Cut up each set of Timeline Cards and put them in random order.
    • When making the timeline, each class will consume one set of cards. If you teach multiple sections, produce extra sets to replace the ones used by earlier classes.

    2. Prepare the string for your timeline.

    • This timeline will be 2.3 meters long since a meter equal 10 million years and each centimeter is equal to 100,000 years of time.
    • Determine where and how to hang your timeline. It should be easily visible but not easily disturbed, as you will leave it up until the end of the module.
    • Cut the string to an appropriate length and temporarily hang it. Mark a spot representing "current time" near the right-hand end of the string.
    • Starting from the "current time" mark, mark the string every 10 centimeters (1 million years)—for a total of 2.3 meters. Take the string down.
    • Thread 40 paperclips onto the string so that the double-loop end of the clips hangs down.
    • Hang the marked string with the "current time" mark and the paperclips at the right end.
    • Make date signs: today, 5 million years ago, 10 million years ago, 15 million years ago, 20 million years ago, and 23 million years ago.
    • Hang the first and last date signs or post them on the wall at the ends of the string. Hold on to the intermediate signs until class time.

    Printable Materials

    Download and print files needed for each lab activity, including images, data tables, and Stop and Think questions.

    To download one of the PDF or Word files below, right-click (control-click on a Mac) the link and choose "Save File As" or "Save Link As."
    • Part A Earth History Timeline Cards (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 66kB Jul23 15) Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 74kB Nov8 14))
    • Part B Miocene Timeline Cards (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 33kB Jul23 15) Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 63kB Jul10 14))
    • Timeline Organizer Part A (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 38kB Jul23 15) Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 88kB Jul8 14))
    • Timeline Organizer Part B (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 43kB Jul23 15) Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 107kB Jul8 14))
    • Lab 5 Stop and Think Questions (
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    Teaching Notes and Tips

    What you need to prepare ahead of time, and general recommendations for classroom implementation, as well as guidelines and facilitation tips for leading class discussions.

      Introduction

      1. Have students read the Introduction, watch the video, and answer the Stop and Think questions for homework. NOTE: An alternative way to demonstrate for students the concept of a million is to obtain a piece of screen that is (roughly) 3 feet by 6 feet. A piece of screen this size has 1 million holes. If you fill one square with a drop of nail polish you get to see the comparison between 1 and 1 million.

      Part A: The History of Earth

      1. Have students attempt to put the 30 cards in chronological order.

      (a) This is a good exercise to check on student preconceptions that surround the geologic processes and the evolution of life on Earth. This ordering process may frustrate students and you should establish a 10 minute time limit for each group to put their cards in order.

      (b) This is a formative type of assessment for students. After 10 minutes, hand each group an Earth History Timeline Organizer sheet and have them re-order their cards in the correct sequence. Discuss with students how many cards they had in the correct order. What surprised them the most?

      2. Have your students make a string timeline representing the history of life on Earth.

      (a) Hand out several timeline cards to each group until the 30 cards are distributed. They should write the date, in millions of years ago, on the back of their card(s), using the Timeline Organizer sheet.

      (b) Starting at 4.6 billion years ago, ask students to come up and hang their card(s) in the appropriate positions on the string. Have them clip the card onto a paperclip and slide it along the string until it reaches the correct position. (NOTE: If a card is slipped onto the paperclip so that the string is pinched, it will stay in place on the timeline.)

      (c) After a card has been placed, briefly review the event on the card. An option is to ask the student who hung the card to explain it. Also, whenever possible, put the event in perspective relative to the timeline. Pay particular attention to five key milestones:

    • When life begins on Earth
    • The advent and effects of oxygen— photosynthesis begins, microbes begin to use oxygen to release energy, Earth's ozone layer forms, and oxygen levels skyrocket
    • The great extinction
    • The extinction of the dinosaurs (K-T Boundary Event)
    • The appearance of hominids and us (homo sapiens)
    • Facilitation Tips

      - The timeline works best when done with a paperclips on a string. If done along a wall, the timeline cards become overlapped too much and students have difficulty in seeing the sequence of events.

      - If you want students to have an up-to-date geologic timeline, you can download one from the Geologic Society of America Timeline. Have students cut into four strips and tape them together. They can refer to this timeline, and the one they constructed while they complete Lab 6.

      Part B: The Miocene Timeline

      1. Have students attempt to put the 31 cards in chronological order.

      (a) This is a good exercise to check on student preconceptions. This ordering process may frustrate students and you should establish a 10 minute time limit for each group to put their cards in order.

      (b) This is a formative type of assessment for students. After 10 minutes, hand each group a Neogene-Quaternary Timeline Organizer sheet and

      2. Have your students make a string timeline representing the history of life on Earth from the Miocene Era to the present.

      (a) Hand out a few timeline cards to each group until the 31 cards are distributed. They should write the date, in millions of years ago, on the back of their card(s), using the Miocene Timeline Organizer sheet.

      (b) Starting at 23 million years ago, ask students to come up and hang their card(s) in the appropriate positions on the string. Have them clip the card onto a paperclip and slide it along the string until it reaches the correct position. (NOTE: If a card is slipped onto the paperclip so that the string is pinched, it will stay in place on the timeline.)

      (c) After a card has been placed, briefly review the event on the card. An option is to ask the student who hung the card to explain it. Also, whenever possible, put the event in perspective relative to the timeline. Pay particular attention to five key milestones:

    • The formation of the St. Elias Mountains
    • The Arctic ice cap forms
    • Glaciers begin to advance in the Northern Hemisphere and erosion increases
    • Homo Sapiens appears
    • The most recent advance of North American glaciers
    • Facilitation Tips

      To follow

      Wrap Up: Ask students


    Student Notebooks

    Suggestions for how to use Student Notebooks for Lab 5.

      The following items are suggestions for inclusion in optional printed student notebooks. The materials are linked in the Printable Materials section, above.
      • Key Questions listed in introduction to lab
      • Stop and Think questions

    Assessment

    There are several options for assessment of student understanding of material introduced in this lab. Choose from the following list, or create your own assessments.

      Assessment Options:
      1. Assess student understanding of topics addressed in this investigation by grading their responses to the Stop and Think questions.
      2. Written Test for Lab 5 (
        PDF


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        Suggested Answers


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    Science Standards

    Lab 5 supports the following Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):

    Science and Engineering Practices

    #2 Developing and Using Models

    #3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

    #4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data

    #6 Constructing Explanations

    #8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

    Cross Cutting Concepts

    #2 Cause and Effect

    #3 Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

    #4 Systems and Systems Models

    Examples of how students engage with the standards:


    Go to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)


    Additional Resources

    Explore background information and content extensions related to Lab 2.

    Background Information