MS-ESS1-4: Geologic Time Scale

Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth's 4.6-billion-year-old history. (Scale, Proportion, and Quantity)

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how analyses of rock formations and the fossils they contain are used to establish relative ages of major events in Earth’s history. Examples of Earth’s major events could range from being very recent (such as the last Ice Age or the earliest fossils of homo sapiens) to very old (such as the formation of Earth or the earliest evidence of life). Examples can include the formation of mountain chains and ocean basins, the evolution or extinction of particular living organisms, or significant volcanic eruptions.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling the names of specific periods or epochs and events within them.


The following assessments were created by science teachers hoping to better understand the NGSS. In most cases teachers went from standard to assessment in around an hour.  These are drafts and should be used accordingly. Feel free to improve these assessments or contribute to the collection. Learn more about assessment design here.



Anchor Charts



Earth’s history (4.6 billion years old)
Geologic time scale
Rock strata
Fossil record
Relative age
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

Learning Plans

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