A wonderful way to teach how scientists determine Absolute Time is to have some Tree Cookie Activities.
Here are a collection of great activities to choose from. I would usually do the PowerPoint first and then do a simple "count the rings" lab. If I had time, I would do a cross-dating activity, which shows how dendochronologists string rings from many trees together to determine the climate of an area. Exploring the Methuselah Grove is a really nice way to calm them down after a couple of active activities. Give them a homework worksheet and they will do both things at the same time!
What fun! And real learning, too!
These are in the order I would do them over one or two days, with extras at the end.
- Tree Cookies PowerPoint - fun way to introduce the whole concept of using trees to do some Absolute Dating. NOTE: I'm having problems with some of these images! Email me if you are, too. Can probably work something out.
- The Stump - show your students how to count tree rings.
- Be a Dendochronologist - good practice reading two different tree cookies
- The Tree Cookie Lab Activity - Great lab. You need your own Tree Cookies for this lab, at least a couple dozen, preferably from several different trees - and if you must make your own, use downed trees, please! Try to find trees with different ring thicknesses and/or wounds.
- The original Tree Ring Science Lesson - FABULOUS crossdating lesson - I used this idea for many years.
- My version of the Tree Ring Activity - I've got it simplified and organized with a page to run off multiples of the "straws"
- Interactive Tree Ring Activity - from NOVA - requires Shockwave -project onto your SmartBoard
- Explore the Methusalah Grove - from NOVA - uses a QuickTime plug-in - beautiful 360 degree panoramic view of very old bristlecone pines - project onto your SmartBoard
- Tree Cookie Game - not really a game but good practice for "reading" tree cookies
- Tree Cookie Worksheet - basic identification of terms - might be good followsheet for PPT
- Label Tree Ring Anatomy - from Enchanted Learning - also might be good PPT followsheet
- How to Make Tree Cookies - good basic info for teachers - has a great section on what the different Special Features mean, such as thin rings, wide rings, scars, narrowing of rings on one side, etc.
- YouTube has several videos on Reading Tree Rings; such as this one, which includes a visit to the Methusalah Bristlecone Pines. Search for Dendoclimatology or Reading Tree Rings.