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In the hierarchical alignment activity, students are given multiple opportunities to align time to space in a linear representation. They begin by scaling a familiar amount of time (e.g. a personal time line) to a spatial representation (e.g. a meter stick), and progressively align increasing/decreasing amounts until completing the target unfamiliar time line (e.g. geologic time). For example, in the hierarchical alignment of geologic time, students can work through 10 time lines: personal, human lifespan, American history, Recorded history, human evolution, Cenozoic, Phanerozoic, Proterozoic, Archean, and then Hadean. While the amount of time varies, the amount of space remains constant: in this example, students align all new temporal scales to one meter. For each time line, students are asked to locate specific events, hierarchicaly organized divisions of time, and the length of the time line in order to engage the students in thinking about that temporal scale. Additionally, every time students align a new temporal scale to space, they locate all previous scales relative to the current scale.
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