Understanding Earth's Deep History

Working with 8th graders to understand earth's LONG history can be a challenge! Developmentally, this population is in the midst of their own volatile time line. This concept and engagement in the concept can be a struggle.

So, this year, I engaged my students in various activities to try to build the understanding.

Two of my favorites were sketchnoting with the iPad using a video resource and walking Earth's major events.

This Ted-Ed video led to a great sketchnoting activity. Because the video is short, we could watch it multiple times for content. This is what I try to do with many videos that I use as resources. We watch the video one time straight through without any expectations or interruptions. After this first viewing, we discuss the major ideas and think of a general flow of the information. This gets us talking about the BIG IDEAS. We set up a sketchnote framework on the iPad and watch the video a second time. This time, I pause the video giving time for discussion, drawing, and thinking. After a few minutes, we proceed to the next section of the video. When this second viewing is complete, I ask my students to do a quick pair and share of their work. Understanding that we are all still needing time to finish up, this gives time to verbalize and get ideas from our neighbors. The third and final viewing of the video gives time to polish up the sketchnotes and listen one last time to the information.

Here are some student samples for this video: (I love them!)


This sketchnote shows four ways to understand Earth's age including condensing it to a calendar year and more.
This sketchnote shows how to understand the Earth's age.

The other way that we worked with the content in by walking out a length of fence line stopping to read and discuss major Earth's events going back billions of years. Students made connections to the vast breaks in time and enjoyed just BEING OUTSIDE!

The resource is from this website:


Even though it is for Ohio, such a great resource!

iPad Sketches and outdoor walks for the win in teaching Earth's long history!

All Comments

Posted on October 29, 2022

The student sketches are great Leah! You’ve hit on some great learning techniques to teach this concept. Wonderful way to grab the attention of 8th graders - and all of us!

Posted on November 04, 2022

Thank you, Cheryl!

Posted on October 30, 2022

I love the scaffolded approach to sketchnoting you shared in this post, Leah! I'm definitely going to try out a similar workflow in my classes when we sketchnote. Thank you!

Posted on November 01, 2022

These are great, Leah! 🤩

I love how they have represented time! Really helps to give them an understanding of such impossibly vast time frames! 🌎

Posted on December 02, 2023

Love sketchnoting and it probably got your student more engaged in the learning of the timeline.

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