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Time Line of Life

Curricular Area

Biology, History


Introduced to students beginning Lower Elementary


Understanding of order and chronology; expanded scientific vocabulary; foundational knowledge in botany, zoology, ecosystems, microorganisms


The Time Line of Life is a chart representing the history of life on Earth, including pictures and information about microorganisms, plants, and animals.

Scroll through the slides to take a closer look:

The timeline is broken down into parts—first by era, then by age, then by period, and finally by epoch. The great diversity of life is emphasized, and special care is paid to the "jobs" that each living thing does to contribute to life on Earth. 

Long lines track the rise and fall of different species on the time line. The highest point is the time of their height of population and dominance. The end points represent when species became extinct.​


Teachers introduce the Time Line of Life by telling an impressionistic story that spans the eras included on the material.

This story highlights some interesting species on the time line, and key features.

The next series of presentations give an in depth look at each of the eras and periods on the Time Line of Life. The climate and physical features of Earth are discussed. The children are also told about the vertebrates, invertebrates and plants of each time period with a focus on the evolution of each species and adaptations they made to adjust to a changing environment. The importance of each species in laying the foundation for the next era is also highlighted.

Next, children see blank copy of the time line and loose pictures of all of the species represented. Students can use these to build a copy of the time line.

Click through the slide show for examples of this process.

After this, children are free to use the material in a variety of self-directed ways.

They can choose to complete research about particular species, eras or evolutions. They can draw their own time line or write a story about a specific era. This material is well suited for both independent and collaborative work.

  • The child is exposed to a visual history of the evolution of life on Earth

  • The names given to different time periods in Earth’s history are reinforced

  • Interdependence is emphasized as a key element of our universe

  • Similarities between ancient species and those we see today are identified

  • This material fills the need of children in this stage of development to answer big picture questions about how and why our world is the way it is

  • It serves as a springboard for the cultural curriculum and studies of the five kingdoms of life, the study of botany and zoology, understanding animal habitats and adaptation, fossils and archeology, and a study of early humans

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