Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

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This lesson accompanies the BrainPOP topic Relative Dating, and supports the standard of analyzing and interpreting data to understand Earth’s history. Students demonstrate understanding through a variety of creative projects.


Display an image of rocks and rock layers, like those shown below:






Ask students: 

  • What have you noticed about rocks?
  • Where else have you seen rock layers? What can you infer about them?


  • Read aloud the description below the Movie player.
  • Play the Movie, pausing to check for understanding. 
  • Have students read one of the following Related Reading articles: “Flora and Fauna” or “Mother Nature”. Partner them with someone who read a different article to share what they learned with each other.

Step 3: APPLY
Students synthesize their ideas and express them through one or more of the following creative projects. They can work individually or collaborate.  

  • Make-a-Movie: Produce a mini-documentary about an important discovery related to Earth’s history from the point of view of one of the featured scientists.
  • Make-a-Map: Make a concept map comparing and contrasting relative age and absolute age.
  • Creative Coding: Code a debate between geologist James Hutton and a European from his time about the formation and age of Earth.


Reflect: After sharing creative projects with each other, students reflect on what they’ve learned about relative dating. Prompt them by asking questions such as: 

  • What can we understand and learn about Earth from knowing its age?
  • How do scientists learn about the history of the universe?
  • What can we learn from fossils and strata? How does this relate to the geologic time scale?

Assess: Wrap up the lesson with the Relative Dating Quiz

Step 5: Extend Learning

Play a learning game to apply knowledge of relative dating:

Continue to build understanding around Earth and geology with BrainPOP’s Earth System topics, games, and teacher resources.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments