At any particular time all living organisms have approximately the same ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in their tissues.
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Once students begin to grasp "relative" dating, they can extend their knowledge of geologic time by exploring radiometric dating and developing a timeline of Earth's history.
Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.
However, "relative" dating or time can be an easy concept for students to learn.
In this activity, students begin a sequencing activity with familiar items letters written on cards.
Understanding the ages of related fossil species helps scientists piece together the evolutionary history of a group of organisms.
For example, based on the primate fossil record, scientists know that living primates evolved from fossil primates and that this evolutionary history took tens of millions of years.
The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time into nitrogen 14 and other particles.
Carbon is naturally in all living organisms and is replenished in the tissues by eating other organisms or by breathing air that contains carbon.
As these changes have occurred, organisms have evolved, and remnants of some have been preserved as fossils.