The Timeline of Life – Millions and Billions of Years

May 20, 2010 at 4:01 PM Leave a comment

On the one hand, “Where did we come from?” is a central, mesmerizing question from little children to career biologists. But it can also be a tedious slog through Silurian, Devonian, Carbonic, Plasticene, all these wierd eras and periods then poof, people!

Karen and I have been wrinkling our brains to try to breathe some, er, life into this. Not killing them with note-taking but keeping them engaged. This is what we came up with SO FAR. Still room for lots of improvement…

1. Had kids sort strips with major events in the evolution of life, based on stuff we’ve done in the classification unit, the origin of life at the start of the year and their own background knowledge.

2. They checked their sequence guess with the Chicago Field Museum’s “Tour Through Time” interactive website and text book back-up.

3. The next day, they used the Tour Through Time to hang strips from yesterday on a giant ribbon wrapped around the classroom, marked off in 0.1 billion year segments. How many million is that?

Head scratching… 100. We’ve been using this ribbon since the start of the year and already have the origin of life at around 4.6 BYA. So where would the dinosaurs have died off? They point to places. Usually about 2/3 of the way to the present. I tell them it was about 65 million years ago. They are WAY off usually. But a bright spark usually points to about the right place. They go stand under it and explain why and how they figured it out. It’s about 1 ft from the end of a 50ft ribbon.  

As they read through and explore the Tour Through Time, they find where to hang their strip (using paper clips attached to binder clip). By the end of the period, they can see where most stuff happens, all bunched up at the end. Another exponential increase, life explodes, it recovers after being beatend down by 5 mass extinctions and flourishes even more in bursts of adaptive radiation. In the midst of the 6th great mass extinction, life will survive, probably people too, but will civilization? The question is put into context today.

4. While reading the Tour Through Time, they also add information into a cladogram sheet:

Tomorrow, it’s the Walk Through Time. Everyone got an event or a time period to illustrate and tell a story about as we walk from the office up the breeze way to the present at the end of science.

Do you have playful ways to teach this? Beyond the paper cash register tape? Share, we’d love it! What has stayed with you about life through time? Why/what made it so memorable?

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Entry filed under: Evolution, Math Concepts in Science. Tags: , .

Evidence for Evolution – Chicken ‘Arms’ The Evolving Lesson Plan: Events, Eras and Extinctions

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