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Lesson summary for:
Understanding Geologic Time


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A web-based module in which students gain a basic understanding of geologic time, the evidence for events in Earth's history, relative and absolute dating techniques, and the significance of the Geologic Time Scale.

UC Museum of Paleontology

Grade level:

One class period.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Through billions of years of evolution, life forms have continued to diversify in a branching pattern, from single-celled ancestors to the diversity of life on Earth today.

  • The fossil record provides evidence for evolution.

  • The fossil record documents the biodiversity of the past.

  • Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)

  • Scientists use fossils (including sequences of fossils showing gradual change over time) to learn about past life.

  • Scientists use physical, chemical, and geological evidence to establish the age of fossils.

  • The sequence of forms in the fossil record is reflected in the sequence of the rock layers in which they are found and indicates the order in which they evolved.

  • Radiometric dating can often be used to determine the age of fossils.

Teacher background:

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