EARTHTIME: Teaching Geochronology to High School Students in the USA

  • Britta BookhagenEmail author
  • Noah McLean
  • Robert Buchwaldt
  • Matthew Rioux
  • Francis Dudás
  • Samuel Bowring
Part of the Innovations in Science Education and Technology book series (ISET, volume 21)


As part of the EARTHTIME outreach initiative, we have developed an educational module that teaches students about the basics of geochronology and how geologic time is measured. The exercises focus on the uranium-lead (U-Pb) dating method using the mineral zircon with applications to solving geological problems. During several Lab Day tutorials, students from local high schools attended a day of workshops, participating in hands-on exercises and a discussion of geochronology in earth science research. Student performance and learning impact were assessed using pre-tests (1 week before the event) and two post-tests (1 week after the event and 4 months after the event). These revealed that students greatly appreciated the hands-on exercises and that the exercises resulted in a significant increase in knowledge. We also developed and tested a “Lab Day on the road,” where scientists traveled to a local high school to introduce hands-on exercises and lead discussions related to geochronology. To further develop the module, a teacher workshop was conducted to identify educators’ needs and perspectives. The teaching methods, developed iteratively during 2 years of Lab Days, were incorporated in a Geochronology Lesson Plan and Material Kit. The finalized lesson plan is a 90- to 120-min educational module, downloadable at, along with supporting spreadsheets and a video demonstration of the material. An EARTHTIME geochronology kit, linked to the lesson plan activities, is available by request to K-12 teachers in the USA.


Lesson Plan Radioactive Decay Geologic Time Teaching Module Educational Module 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



 We would like to thank Jessica Creveling, Stacia Gordon, and Christy Till for helping with the Lab Day programs. We very much appreciate the help of all the participating students and teachers, especially Rita Chang from Wellesley High School, Massachusetts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Britta Bookhagen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Noah McLean
    • 1
  • Robert Buchwaldt
    • 1
  • Matthew Rioux
    • 1
  • Francis Dudás
    • 1
  • Samuel Bowring
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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