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Authors: Brent D Turrin1, Margie Turrin2

Author Institutions: 1. Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jerse, Piscataway, NJ, USA; 2. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

After “What is this rock?”ù the most common questions that is asked of Geologists is “How old is this rock/fossil?”ù For geologists considering ages back to millions of years is routine. Sorting and cataloguing events into temporal sequences is a natural tendency for all humans. In fact, it is an everyday activity for humans, i.e., keeping track of birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, meetings, AGU abstract deadlines etc”_ However, the time frames that are most familiar to the non scientist (seconds, minutes, hours, days, years) generally extend to only a few decades or at most centuries. Yet the vast length of time covered by Earth’s history, 4.56 billion years, greatly exceeds these timeframes and thus is commonly referred to as “Deep Time”ù. This is a challenging concept for most students to comprehend as it involves temporal and abstract thinking, yet it is key to their successful understanding of numerous geologic principles. We have developed an outdoor learning activity for general Introductory Earth Science courses that incorporates several scientific and geologic concepts such as: linear distance or stratigraphic thickness representing time, learning about major events in Earth’s history and locating them in a scaled temporal framework, field mapping, abstract thinking, scaling and dimensional analysis, and the principles of radio isotopic dating. The only supplies needed are readily available in local hardware stores i.e. a 300 ft. surveyor’s tape marked in feet, and tenths and hundredths of a foot, and the student’s own introductory geology textbook. The exercise employs a variety of pedagogical learning modalities, including traditional lecture-based, the use of Art/Drawing, use of Visualization, Collaborative learning, and Kinesthetic and Experiential learning. Initially the students are exposed to the concept of “Deep Time”ù in a short conventional introductory lecture; this is followed by a ‘field day’. Prior to the field exercise, students work with their textbook selecting events is Earth History that they find interesting. Using the textbook and online resources they then draw figures that represent these events. The drawing exercise reinforces the learning by having students visualize (imprinting an image) of these geologic events. Once the students have produced their drawings, the outdoor field exercise follows. Working collaboratively, the students measure and lay out a scaled linear model representing 4.56 billion years of geologic time. They then organize and place their drawings in the proper sequence on the temporal model that they have created. Once all the drawings are in place they are able to visualize the expanse of time in Earth’s history. Through comparing results from a pre-test to those from a post-test we can show the gains in student understanding of Deep Time, a concept that is central to many of our geologic understandings.

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