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"Lifelines and Earth lines" is the first lab activity of the semester in an undergraduate, introductory-level geoscience course for non-majors and majors. It requires no homework or preparation by students. The first goal is for students to get to know one another and the instructor. Students work in teams of 2, construct lines representing the length of their lives on large easel paper, mark important life events on their lines, and introduce their partners to the class (about 25 minutes total). Students then construct lines representing the length of earth history and mark important geologic events, and answer questions about geologic time and events (about 25 minutes). This part of the lab has the goal of helping students gain a better understanding of geological time scales and the current scientific models that attempt to explain the evolution and future of our planet. The questions ask them to think about why we "count" time differently for people (moving forward from birth) and geology (going back from the present). The events chosen relate to appearances of major life forms and mass extinctions; questions ask them to think about these events and what evidence for them might be preserved in the geologic record. These questions serve as a springboard for discussion of geologic time and evolution as controversial topics.
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