Determining Ages of Rocks and Fossils

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Link to Resource: https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/McKinney.html
Resource Type:Classroom Activities; Curricula and Instruction
Grade Level:
8 9
Language:English
Organization:University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP)
Summary:The age of fossils intrigues almost everyone. Students not only want to know how old a fossil is, but they want to know how that age was determined. Some very straightforward principles are used to determine the age of fossils. Students should be able to understand the principles and have that as a background so that age determinations by paleontologists and geologists don't seem like black magic. There are two types of age determinations. Geologists in the late 18th and early 19th century studied rock layers and the fossils in them to determine relative age. William Smith was one of the most important scientists from this time who helped to develop knowledge of the succession of different fossils by studying their distribution through the sequence of sedimentary rocks in southern England. It wasn't until well into the 20th century that enough information had accumulated about the rate of radioactive decay that the age of rocks and fossils in number of years could be determined through radiometric age dating. This activity on determining age of rocks and fossils is intended for 8th or 9th grade students. It is estimated to require four hours of class time, including approximately one hour total of occasional instruction and explanation from the teacher and two hours of group (team) and individual activities by the students, plus one hour of discussion among students within the working groups.
Earth Science Big Ideas:Big Idea 2; Big Idea 3
NGSS Discplinary Core Ideas:ESS1.C; ESS2.B
NGSS Performance Expectations:HS-ESS1-5; HS-ESS1-6; HS-ESS2-1; MS-ESS1-4; MS-ESS2-3
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:Analyzing and interpreting data; Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering); Developing and using models; Engaging in argument from evidence
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:Patterns; Scale, proportion, and quantity; Stability and change
Subjects: fossil; geologic time; geology; radioactive dating; rocks
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