The University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) created a fabulous introduction to the geologic time scale on the web called “Understanding Geologic Time”. Students are led through a series of interactive web pages covering a wide range of earth history concepts: relative vs. absolute time, the law of superposition, radiometric dating, the geologic timescale, and the origins and evolution of life on Earth. While the teacher section includes assessment materials including a “Scavenger Hunt” activity, I have included an alternative worksheet for students to follow as they navigate through the website and some extra credit questions in UCMP’s online “Geology Wing” for students that finish early. Links to activities that teach radiometric dating are included in the Going Further section.
Note: The simplicity of this lesson makes it appropriate for a substitute teacher to lead. On the other hand, the concepts covered are central to the curriculum and it is recommended that this lesson follows the Personal Timeline activity and precedes the Geologic Timeline activity.
Can read information from a Geologic Time Scale
Can explain the difference between relative and absolute time and how each is inferred from geologic evidence
Develop a sense of the vastness of geologic time compared to everyday experience or even the existence of modern humans
Law of superposition
Geologic time scale