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Historical Geology Reconstruction Analogy

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Karen Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island
Course: Introduction to Historical Geology
20 students
Students remember what they have seen and done much better than they remember what you have told them.

The Activity

Before class, I make up a sentence and cut it up into pieces of the individual words. I hand out these groups of words (up-side-down) to groups of students and have them flip over 5 pieces and make a story. I then have them flip over 5 more pieces and make a story. They continue until all the pieces are flipped over, and we then discuss how this applies to Historical Geology:

  • there is no one correct interpretation
  • we don't know the right answer
  • the more you learn, the more complete the story is
  • some information is more important than others...

I think this exercise gives students a better understanding of how interpretation of the earth's history works. They also meet each other and have some fun on the first day.

Additional Information

I learned this activity from the workshop: Dinosaurs: Science Behind the Stories at GSA in October 2003 led by Judy Scotchmoor and Dale Springer.