7th Grade Science : Unit #7 - Geologic Time : Lesson #4

Geologic Time Mini Project

Objective: Students will be able to explain that many changes in biodiversity have occurred since life evolved on Earth.
Standards: 6.SP.A.2 MS-ESS1-4 SP8 XC-SF-MS-2 XC-SC-MS-3
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Hook - 5 minutes

At the beginning of this mini-project, I show The History of Earth in one year video I made, meant to inspire students to learn more about the different eras. Often, The students have a hard time visualizing how much time 4.6 billion years actually is, and by compressing this time into the more comprehensible one year, the students begin to realize the vastness of the history of Earth.


2 Guided Research - 2 days - 50 minutes

After the video, I navigate to the Geologic Time website I created for this mini-project. Although this is an individual project, the final product is collaborative. Students are told that they have been hired by a travel agency that is promoting travel through time. Each student is assigned to one of the four major eras in history (Pre-cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic). 

Once the assignments are handed out, the students are asked to navigate to the website, where they can find the data sheet and links to their respective eras. The data sheet serves as a note-taking tool that helps hold students accountable during the research phase of the project, and aids students in obtaining the needed information as they derive meaning from scientific text (SP8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information). After two days of guided research, the students are ready to tackle the creative aspect of the project.

3 Product Development - 2 days - 50 minutes

The final product is a collaborative, interactive poster, where all four eras are represented. Although each student is responsible for their piece, the end product must be cohesive in design and include interactive features (flaps, folded paper, etc.). The students have access to sample pictures of work done in previous years and other topics on the website. I use this type of collaborative project to promote the development of artistic and engineering design skills. This is a visual product, where the students must work together using principles of line, color, shape and form to make their collective design visually pleasing, while maintaining the individuality of their ideas.

As the students work to create their product, they are exposed to the CCC Structure and Function, specifically, "Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used". The conversations had while they collectively decide what information to include helps to develop a sense of how "stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time." (CCC Stability and Change).

On the website, the students also have access to the Rubric, and I go over it several times during the project to help students meet the standard.

Want to see what the project development and final products look like? Go ahead and watch this video.


My students would like to give your students some advice on how to work through this project.



The use of rubrics has become commonplace to evaluate student work. Rubrics provide a common language between the teacher and students, and serve almost as an agreement between the two about what the expectations for a project are. The key to using rubrics, in my opinion, is to go over them with the students. This means that the students are given the rubric, and then we work together, on day one of a project, to unpack the rubric in relation to the project. The conversation we have centers on the highest point in the rubric as I ask, for example "What does it mean that Ideas are easy to understand and well developed? - I wait for student answers, and clarify points like the sentences need to make sense and have transitions that move me from one thing to another. The reader should not have to work to understand what you wrote, or go searching for more information.

During workdays, we also go back to the rubric. This is really when examples and non-examples arise from the work that is being created. As I move around the room during these days, I often call upon different students to evaluate interim work from one another, with rubric in hand. This helps the student being "evaluated" see where improvements could come in, and see his/her work from a non-creator perspective. When doing this, however, you have to be careful not to allow students to nit-pick each other ("Well, I would use however instead of but"). Although the rubric is there, the conversation between the students must start with identifying a strength, so that it can then move to a suggestion. The students are taught how to do this, and reminded of how this works before they are allowed to continue. This is a sample of what this looks like:

You may have noticed in my rubric that the criteria are not assigned a point value, but rather a level of mastery. This is done intentionally to have students focus really on the expectation at each level rather than on a number that does not really mean anything. 

Follow this link if you would like more information on how to use rubrics.

4 Presentation Day - 40 minutes

On presentation day, I start by giving students about 10 minutes to put any final touches on their work, and set up their posters around the classroom. As a way to keep students accountable for visiting several posters and interacting with them, I give students the Geologic Time Poster Walk note catcher, and ask that they complete it as they visit with each other (123). Since the posters are "interactive", I remind students to be careful with them "No-one wants to see their work torn by carelessness."

As students are walking around viewing each other's work, I take this opportunity to grade posters using the rubric. This also allows me to give any feedback beyond the rubric, and ask any clarifying questions about the work.