# Radiocarbon dating lesson plan

To introduce the idea of radioactive decay and carbon dating, I play a video clip from Nova "Hunting the Elements". As the video comes to an end, I pose the question, "Why is Carbon useful to determine the age of organic remains? I tell the students that they will now become archaeologists as they play with the PhET simulation " Radioactive Dating Game ". I ask the students to divide themselves into partners, and request that one partner to get a computer, while the second partner gets the record sheet they will use.

## Absolute dating (radiometric dating)

How old are the Egyptian tombs? How long ago did the redwood trees begin growing? These and many similar questions can be answered by carbon dating , a method used by archaeologists and other scientists to discover the age of ancient remains and artifacts. But how does it work? All living organisms on this planet are composed partially of carbon. A small amount of that carbon is in the form of a radioactive isotope called carbon This isotope is created when solar radiation acts upon nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

The atmospheric carbon is then absorbed by plants on the earth's surface, and any animal that eats the plants in turn absorbs some of that C into its body. What makes carbon useful to scientists is that it begins to break down at a known rate. Since this rate of decay is predictable, scientists can then measure the amount of carbon in the remains of an organism or artifact, plug that value into a generalized equation, and calculate the age of those remains.

This process, known as carbon dating, was developed by the American chemist Willard Libby in at the Institute for Nuclear Studies at Columbia University. In other words, this function takes in a number of years, t , as its input value and gives back an output value of the percentage of carbon remaining. So, if you were asked to find out carbon's half-life value the time it takes to decrease to half of its original size , you'd solve for t number of years when C t equals 50, because fifty percent represents one half.

Carbon dating does have certain limitations. After about 50, - 70, years, almost all of the carbon in any remains will have broken down. So, objects older than that do not contain enough of the isotope to be dated. Conversely, the method doesn't work on objects that are too young. This method also cannot apply to the remains of aquatic life, because carbon doesn't enter the ocean at an amount substantial enough for proper analysis.

Carbon dating also does not work on fossils; usually they are too old, and they contain very little carbon. In general, other factors, such as changes in solar radiation or the burning of fossil fuels, affect the accuracy of carbon dating procedures, because they cause fluctuations in the relatively constant cycle of carbon in the atmosphere. Scientific calculations, however, adjust for these minor inaccuracies.

Despite its limitations, carbon dating has proven to be an extremely useful way to determine the age of important archaeological discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Iceman remains. It has also given scientific weight to arguments surrounding controversial objects and their dates of origin. Is the Magic 8-Ball Really Magic? How Does Alcohol Affect the Body? How Does a Spring Scale Work? Quadratic Equations, Set 1. Spend more time teaching and less time searching.

Get full, ad-free access to all our learning resources—curated and vetted by teachers and curriculum specialists—for one-low price. Sign Up Sign Up. We have a plan for every budget. All plans include a free trial and enjoy the same features. Cancel anytime. Learn more about Premium. Breadcrumb Mathematics Carbon Dating Carbon Dating Explore connections in mathematics and science with this article on carbon dating.

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## This lesson will help students understand how scientists use carbon dating to try have been set up already as described in the Planning Ahead section above. Resource ID#: Primary Type: Lesson Plan. Submit Feedback Student Assessment. This assessment accompanies the Radiometric Dating lesson.

How old are the Egyptian tombs? How long ago did the redwood trees begin growing? These and many similar questions can be answered by carbon dating , a method used by archaeologists and other scientists to discover the age of ancient remains and artifacts. But how does it work? All living organisms on this planet are composed partially of carbon.

Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find. They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.

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## Educator Resources for Carbon Dating

This grade activity introduces students to age dating with exercises using relative and absolute dating. Geology and Geologic Time. Geological Society of America. Links to various activities and lesson plans concerning relative and absolute dating. Sequencing Time , University of California, Berkeley. This grade activity lets students place parts of their own life story into a time line so that they can better understand how geologic time is reconstructed by scientists.

## Radiometric Dating: Methods, Uses & the Significance of Half-Life

Date a Rock! SYNOPSIS Students get simulated "rock samples" which show a "highly magnified" selection of atoms, each sample with a different proportion of the atoms of two different elements: By counting the parent radioactive atoms and knowing the "half-life" of those atoms, students can figure the number of half-lives since the sample solidified, and therefore the "age" of the sample. This lesson would probably fit best whenever the ages of fossils or rocks have been encountered, enabling students to readily understand the essentials for how they are dated. Although it could just be a stand-alone lesson, it was intended to introduce our Deep Time lesson, laying the background for doing the isotope sequencing activity 15 in that lesson, then the Deep Time packet and worksheet which can be finished as a homework assignment. Have available the following items: Overhead transparencies of: Good sources: A colorful geological map, preferably of your area on wall, or as an overhead color transparency. The Deep Time activity envelopes one for each team of two, with isotope strips in them The Deep Time handouts:

This lesson can be used as an introduction to radioactivity.

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## Educator Resources for Carbon Dating

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75, lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed. Already registered? Log in here for access. Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Log in or Sign up. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic. The aging process in human beings is easy to see. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows. However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around. So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.

## Radioactive dating lesson plans

Vicki Peplin Source: Ideas gathered from: This lesson is designed to help students understand the concepts of radioactive dating to help determine the approximate age of fossils and rocks. After this lesson students will have an understanding of how materials undergo radioactive decay and that the rate of decay allows scientists to predict the approximate age of the specimen. This lesson is geared to help take the "mystery" out of scientific dating of rocks and fossils. Have students work in groups of per group. The teacher may assign groups or allow students to pick with whom they would like to work.

## Radioactive Dating

Learn more about this. In this activity, students model the process of radiometric dating, and apply basic mathematics skills to understand how scientists used the process of radioactive decay as a tool to learn about Earth's past. The website is not compatible for the version of the browser you are using. Not all the functionality may be available. Please upgrade your browser to the latest version. Password is required.

## Radiometric dating lesson plan from

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## In the Classroom

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum. For many unstable nuclei, stability will not be attained after one nuclear decay process. An unstable nucleus often will decay into another unstable nucleus, which decays into another unstable nucleus, and so on An unstable nucleus often will decay into another unstable nucleus, which decays into another unstable nucleus, and so on; a series of nuclear transformations follows until a stable nucleus is reached. This is called a "radioactive series" or "decay chain.

## Carbon Dating Lesson Plans

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Carbon Dating