The Grand Time Game
The Grand Time Game is a collection of middle school activities to teach about geologic time. It was developed by Dr. Bill Witherspoon, geologist at Fernbank Science Center, a unit of the DeKalb County, Georgia Public Schools. The Grand Time Game has been used in a wide range of classrooms. It consists of the following elements:
The model allows the instructor to show the sequential deposition of major
sedimentary layers (rock units) in the eastern
After all the layers have been added, while students have their attention on
written materials, the stack of layers is quietly switched for a duplicate
stack constructed with removable cutaway pieces. Then as the instructor lifts
the floor of the model to demonstrate uplift, the cutaways are removed, taking
three stages to demonstrate the progressive carving of the canyon by the
Click here for instructions on building the model. The materials are relatively inexpensive, but there are many hours of labor, especially in cutting and painting foam layers. We are evaluating the possibility of manufacturing the Grand Time Game, including the model if there is sufficient demand. If you are interested in being on a waiting list to purchase a "Grand Time Game" including the tabletop model, please e-mail email@example.com.
Students enjoy playing several rounds of a card game that demonstrates important concepts about fossils and the geologic time scale. Their scoring sheet (pdf file: 50K) is copied to the back side of the matching activity.
The overall goal of the game is to “collect” an assemblage of four fossils that will tell a realistic, specific story about the geologic past. The organisms must have overlapped in geologic time in order for a player to earn a non-zero score. After that, points are awarded for organisms that share a common habitat, form a complete food chain, and point to as short as possible an interval of geologic time.
Before students can play the game, they must learn the ways in which they can make points. They learn by scoring the results of three fictitious rounds as shown on overhead transparencies (pdf file: 407 K) in their "Round 1" through "Round 3" columns. (For the solutions to the sample round scoring, see pdf file: 45K.)
Students are arranged in groups of (preferably) four or three. Each group receives a deck of thirty-two cards. The dealer can be chosen as the person closest to the classroom door. Four cards are dealt to each player, then the remainder of the deck is placed faced down and one card is turned over to begin the discard pile. The player to the dealer’s left begins. In a player’s turn, he or she may draw either (and only) from the top of the deck or the top of the discard pile. He or she decides whether the drawn card would improve his or her score, and discards the same card or another face up on the discard pile.
The round continues until the instructor calls time (about five minutes). Each player then scores his or her four cards using the scoring sheet. If students exhaust the cards in the deck during a round, they can shuffle the discard pile and begin as before.
After each played round, there is further opportunity for students to investigate their four-card fossil assemblage. Using an “Assemblage Activity” form (pdf: 44 K), students record all the information about each fossil. They have an opportunity to earn bonus points based on the shortness of their assemblage’s time range. To complete the activity, students write a paragraph about the assemblage, describing the relationship of the four fossil organisms.
As a follow-up activity, students can paste card images into a calendar
brought from home. On each card, the organism’s span in geologic time is shown
in three ways. The "era" symbols p
Pz, Mz, and Cz are centered at the bottom of
the card. The times of origin and extinction (if any) are shown in millions of
years on either side of the era symbols. Lastly, unless the organism began in
the Precambrian, the time of origin is shown as a calendar date based on the
one minute to one thousand years scale.
By using this last date as a guide, students can paste cards into a calendar and discover how crowded the latter part of the year will be!