Pictorial Geologic History Book

Beth Pratt-Sitaula
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In this project the student creates a 10-part written & pictorial geologic history book of a region (the assignment below mentions the Pacific NW specifically because that is the emphasis of the class for which it was developed, but this project can be adapted for any region). Each of the 10 parts pertains to one interval of time during which something geologically significant occurred in their region of interest. The student is asked to evoke—with pictures and simple language—what the processes of rock formation, climate, and life was like at that time in a way that a secondary student would be able to understand. The book also includes a glossary of geologic terms used and an overview description of the geologic history in 1-2 pages. The book is assessed based on the rubric in the assignment below.

Learn more about the course for which this activity was developed.

Learning Goals

This project was designed for college students majoring in secondary earth science teaching. Teaching frequently requires gleaning information from a variety of sources and then translating it to children in a way that is visually meaningful. In order to complete this project, the students must collect geologic information and images from a number of different paper and electronic sources and distill it to an easily understandable essence. During this process, they learn about the geology of the region in which they will ultimately teach and they have practice presenting a summary of their findings in a way that is meaningful to a non-geologist.

Context for Use

This assignment was developed as part of a 300-level Pacific NW Geology class that is specifically designed for earth science teaching majors. The only prerequisite for the class is Geology 101 - although actual student geologic experience ranges from only 101 to more than 6 prior geology classes. The course averages about 10 students, but the assignment could certainly be used in a class with more students. The scope and expectations of the assignment are described in class but the work is all done on the student's own time. It is one of the larger assignments for the course (points and student time-wise) and is due at or near the end of the quarter. A related assignment is that each student leads a class period (20-30 minute lecture followed by class discussion) about the geology of their chosen region.

The attached assignment is specific to the Pacific NW because that is the focus of the class for which it was developed, but it could easily be adapted for use in any region.

Description and Teaching Materials

Pictorial Geologic History Book Assignment (Microsoft Word 45kB May7 07)

Teaching Notes and Tips

When introducing the assignment, it helps to show some slides of the types of images I hope the students include in their History Book. I show them Paleomap Project images and artists' depictions of past geologic environments. It also helps to give them a example of a good quality History Book from prior years. I stress that I want someone reading their book to really be able to picture what it would look like to be in their region at each time in the past. Was it hot? Cold? What, if any, animals and plants were growing at the time. Were the rocks being formed at the surface or was, for example, paleo-Central Washington kilometers below the surface getting intruded by molten lava?


The students are assessed using the rubic found at the end of the assignment file.

References and Resources

The following are websites I point my students towards to get started on their project.

Paleomap Project - global plate tectonics and climate through time (http://www.scotese.com/)

Geology-related images

Detailed earth history - http://www.nmnh.si.edu/paleo/geotime/main/index.html