May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Geologic Time Scale

Posted: Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

by Bonny Ralston

Looking at the geologic time scale can be overwhelming for younger students; 4.6 billion years ago has little meaning on its own.  Students can be introduced to large periods of time by accessing information a little at a time. Students also need to become familiar with the conditions for each of the different time periods, and they can accomplish these goals by working together by working in small groups to bring each era to life.

Timeline: Up to 3 or 4 days depending on how far you want to engage students.  Some work can be done at home, while group work is done in class.

Intro: To begin, have students create a timeline about the 10 to 15 most significant events in their lives (15 minutes).  Have them turn to a partner and tell them about the most important event so far (trade).

Through: Create groups of four students.  Each group will create an “adding machine paper” timeline strip.  Each group will measure out 4.6 meters of adding machine paper.  Have groups draw a straight line across the bottom of the paper.  Label the end as 4.6 BYA (billion).  This is the beginning of the Precambrian Era.  Continue to label each geologic event.  Add a small picture that represents an event for the time.  (Hints: allow for a lot of space for students to spread out the timeline so all students can complete their part.  If you have a long hallway outside your room, this works well.)

4.6 BYA Precambrian

3.9BYA Oldest known rock

3.5 BYA Single cell organism

1.0 BYA Multicellular organisms (algae develop)

530 MYA First vertebrates appear

225 MYA Pangea begins to break up.

50 MYA First whales appear

10,000 YA Last ice age ends

Alternative Models:

  • Use a large sheet of paper to create a clock.  Have the hours represent the passage of time as recorded for each hour.
  • Determine the time elapsed in different modalities.  Students will model geologic time periods.  Examples: (Timelines) use a clock (with hands) to represent time periods (based on length).  What does each hour represent? Remember that it may take more or less than one hour to represent an event.
  • Use your own lifespan to determine eras.  Time in elementary school + time in middle school + high school + career goals.  Use your imagination.
  • Create a railroad track or racetrack (etc).  You can use any model you wish including a 3-D model (from top to bottom) or writing a story through time.

Beyond: These activities can be completed at home.  Each can use different presentations based on student interest.  PowerPoint, comic book, small poster, or research paper.  Allow students to use any modality possible.

Research a Geological Time Period

Which geological time period will you research?

What were the major geological events of that time period?

What did the earth’s surface look like then?

What was the climate like?

What were the dominant organisms living in that time?

What was the environment like compared to present day?

What are the main things travelers might see?

What should travelers pack for comfort and safety?

This can be a creative writing piece, a story, or report format.

(Attach rough draft)

A Travel Brochure  (For a selected Geological Time period)

What is the geologic time period?

Describe the general design of your brochure.

Tell what kinds of information will you include in your brochure.

Tell how you will encourage people to visit your geological time period.

Describe and tell the purpose of each illustration you plan to make for you brochure.

Describe the illustrations and tell why they are important.  Choose wisely.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

One Response

  1. I really like the Travel Brochure idea for the different periods. I’m going to use it in my classroom.
    Thanks for the idea.

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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