September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at Learn More…

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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. Learn More…

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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…

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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.