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Ready-Set-Tech: Geological Time Line Project
Geological Time Line Project

The study of geological time periods and fossils are a standard part of the middle school Science curriculum. This project attempts to utilize technology to help students understand these key Geology concepts, as well as producing their own travel brochure on a specific time period on earth.

Students investigate and research earth's geologic time periods, they examine how fossils help us understand the past, they use the Internet to research and collect information about the animals, plants, and environment of each of the time periods. In this unit, students will use the Internet to conduct research and learn about geological time periods. Half of the activities take place in the classroom to introduce students to the geological time scale and its components.

The other half of the activities takes place in the school library, where students are taught how to properly access information on a given topic. Additionally, the computers with Internet access in the library serve as a crucial resource to support student activities. This project uses modern technology to allow students to investigate the past.

Carla Mazzella & Chris Buchman

Carla Mazzella is a School Library Media Specialist at M.S. 67 in Little Neck, NY . She works with all subject teachers and helps students in grades 6-9. Previous experience includes teaching science at the jr. high school level. She received a Master of Library Science from Queens College.

Christopher Buchman is a science teacher at M.S. 67. This is his second year teaching sixth and seventh grade science. Chris has a master in education in technology from C.W Post and is currently completing a master in earth science and biology. Previous experience working as a biologist at the Riverhead Foundation in Atlantis Aquarium and as a chemist has allowed him to give that experience back in the classroom.



Science, English Language Arts, Information Literacy

Grade Level: 6-8

Materials: Computers with Internet access, sample fossils, chart paper, clay.






Students will:

  1. Investigate and research the geologic time periods and explore the basis by which they are defined.
  2. Comprehend how fossils help us broaden our understanding of the past.
  3. Collect information on the animals, plants, and environment of the time periods.
  4. Improve their skills in using the Internet to research topics.
  5. Create a travel brochure to depict what life was like during the time periods.

Web sites:

Information on fossils and geological times





Day One:

Teaching Point: The earth's history is divided into segments.

Do Now: Name examples of things that are divided into separate sections.

The scale is divided into four subdivisions of time:

•  Eons-this is the longest subdivision and it is based on the abundance of fossils.

•  Eras-this is the next longest division and is based on major changes in the world and the fossils present.

•  Periods-these are subdivided eras and are characterized by what life existed worldwide.

•  Epochs-further subdivision of time and also takes into account different life forms but based on regions. For example the Mississippian, Pennsylvanian.

Make a time line based on either your day or your life so far. Divide the activities or events into eons, eras, periods, and epochs. Remember the longest subdivision of time (eons) and the shortest (epochs).

Share: We will discuss the timelines created by the student.


  1. Look for a medium sized shell at home. (I will hold up an example).
  2. Using enchantedlearning.com, print out the Geologic Time Scale:

Day Two:

Teaching Point: Fossils are one of the items or tools used by scientists to make a time line.

Do Now: I will pass around shark teeth. What are they? What information can you get from these items?

Fossils are remains, imprints, or traces of prehistoric organisms. They are the evidence of when and where an organism lived and how they lived.

Conditions needed for fossils to form.

  •   Fossils can only be formed from hard parts, e.g. bones, shells, and teeth.
  •   Scavengers are less likely to eat these parts.
  •   These parts also decay very slowly.

If a dead organism is covered in sediments before being eaten by scavengers, it has a better chance of being fossilized.

Fossils will be handed out to groups of students. The fossils are numbered. The students will draw the individual fossils and try to figure out what the fossil was. The fossils will include bones, plants, teeth, and whole animals.

I will put the numbers on the board and ask each group what they think the fossil is and we will discuss why they think it is an animal, plant, etc.

Using the Internet, look up the different ways organisms can be fossilized and take notes on your findings.

Use the following web sites:

Day Three:

Teaching Point: There are 7 ways fossils can form. We will go over 3 of them today and 4 tomorrow.

Do Now: What are the conditions needed for fossils to form?

•  Mineral Replacement:
Bones, teeth, and skulls have spaces and these spaces can be filled with mineral deposits from groundwater. These fossils are called per-mineralized remains. Sometimes minerals replace hard parts such as shells and leave silica in their place.

•  Carbon Films:
Carbon films are silhouettes or images like a photograph on a rock that is caused by extreme pressure and heat. The image leaves a carbon residue or thin film showing the outline of the organism.

•  Coal:
Plants in swampy areas that have died over millions of years ago are squeezed under intense pressure. This forms coal. These fossils are not used primarily for identification of individual plants because the plant structures have changed but are used for fuel (gas, oil, coal).

Activity: Making fossils. Students will use a medium sized shell, modeling clay, and plaster of Paris and Vaseline. (Teacher models making of the fossil).

First students will take the clay and make a round flat slab on a paper plate.

They will put a small amount of Vaseline on their shell and press it into the clay.

They will remove the shell and pour plaster of Paris into the imprint left in the clay.

Then the "fossil" will be left to dry overnight.

Share: The students will discuss whether or not they think this happens on the earth.

Day Four:

Teaching Point: We have already learned 3 ways fossils can be formed: mineral preservation, coal, and carbon films. Now, here are the other 4.

Do Now: How is coal formed?

•  Molds/Casts:
-When hard parts of organisms fall into soft sediment, the organism gets buried in more sediment and compaction and cementation turn it into rock.
-Cementation occurs when deposits of minerals from water go into the spaces between sediment particles.
-With more air and water, the organism decays breaking the hard parts forming a mold.
-More sediment is added and forms new rock and produces a copy or cast of the original.

•  Original Remain:
-Preserved animals can be found in amber. Amber is tree resin that traps insects and other small organisms.
-Mammoths have been found in frozen ground and animals have been found in Tar Pits in California.

•  Trace Fossils:
These are animal foot prints that can tell us how organisms lived. They can also be images of seeds and leaves.

•  Tracks and Burrows:
These are tracks made by worms or other burrowing animals. They are not originals of the organisms but the tracks of that organism.

The students will pop out their fossils from the clay. They will also write down what type of fossils they have made.

We will discuss the types of fossils and look at the fossils made. They should realize that they made molds (the clay image) and casts (the part popped out of the clay).

Day Five:

Students will view teacher-created Power Point Presentation on Geological Time Periods.

Teacher will hand out and explain Travel Brochure Project.

Homework: Have project sheet signed by parent/guardian.

Day Six:

Teaching Point: What are Boolean Operators?

Purpose: What are Boolean Operators and how can they help use search the Internet and complete our Science project?

Students will:

-Learn the definition of Boolean Operators (special words used to link search terms together so that a search will go faster and give more useful results. The words AND, NOT, and OR are examples of Boolean Operators).
-Learn the ways in which the Boolean Operators AND, NOT, and OR can help them focus their search results on the Internet.
-Learn that specificity is necessary when searching the Internet.

-Chart paper
-AND workout, NOT workout, and OR workout questions

The AND workout:
Stand up if you have blond hair. Remain standing if you have blond hair AND blue eyes. Remain standing if you have blond hair AND blue eyes AND are wearing earrings.

•  Did using AND make your search bigger or smaller?
•  How would you use AND in a search?

The OR workout:
Stand up if you have blond hair. Stand if you have blond hair OR brown hair.

•  Did using OR make your search bigger or smaller?
•  How would you use OR in a search?

The NOT workout: Stand up if you have blond hair. Stand up if you have blond hair NOT blue eyes.

•  Did using NOT make your search bigger or smaller?
•  How would you use NOT in a search?

Students will begin to research a geological time period of their choice and will use the Internet to research it. Students will perform a minimum of four searches for their subject using Boolean Operators to link together search terms.

Students will gather as a class to discuss their search strategies and results, along with the benefits of using Boolean Operators when searching the Internet for specific information.

Days 7 & 8:

Using the computers in the library, students will continue to gather information on their geological time periods.

Days 9 & 10:

During class, students will work on their travel brochures.


Science Standards

Life Sciences Concepts:
Demonstrates an understanding of interdependence of organisms.
Demonstrates an understanding in evolution, diversity, and adaptation of organisms.

Scientific Connections and Applications:
Demonstrates an understanding of big ideas and unifying concepts.

Scientific Thinking:
Uses evidence from reliable sources to develop descriptions, explanations, and models.
Works individually and in teams to collect and share information and ideas.

Information Literacy Standards:

Accesses information efficiently and effectively.
Evaluates information critically and competently.
Uses information effectively and creatively.
Strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation.
Contributes positively to the learning community and to society and practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology.
Participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information.

English Language Arts Standards:

Read and comprehend informational materials.

Produce a report of information.

Speaking, Listening, and Viewing:
Participate in one-to-one conferences with the teacher.
Participate in group meetings.
Prepare and deliver an individual presentation.



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