Epic of Evolution  

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystical. It is the source of all true art and science."
~ Albert Einstein


Epic of Evolution Beads

Students age 7 to adults engage their minds and hands in this activity that is fun to do and creates a beautiful object that they can keep as a reminder of the major events of evolution. Because students include beads that represent their lives, they appreciate that they, too, are a part of the ongoing Epic of Evolution. By selecting different beads to represent events in the Epic of Evolution and stringing these together, students will be able to tell about the major events in evolution since the time of the Great Radiance (Big Bang) to the emergence of our solar system and Earth, to the emergence of Life and major milestones in biological and cultural evolution.

This hands on activity is adapted from an activity presented by Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd at www.thegreatstory.org.

Time: Although this can be done in one, rushed hour, it's best to do this for half an hour spread over several days or even weeks.

National Standards Addressed (NRC):


Per Class:

  • Variety of beads. These may be purchased by the pound at craft shops.

Per person:

  • String (2 mm chord with built in needle is ideal)
    • Optional: people may also use wirewrapping techniques to put together beads. Although this is initially much more time consuming, it has the advantage of allowing you to easily insert new beads as they become available.
  • Epic of Evolution Bead Guide (coming soon).


  • Give each student string and the Epic of Evolution Bead Guide.
  • Have students select a bead to represent each of the events corresponding to the guide. Have them write down the type of bead they used in the blank space on the Bead Guide.
  • You may have the students string together beads in chronological order since the Great Radiance, or you may choose to work from the present time and work backwards. This has the advantage of students recognizing immediately that they are a part of the Epic.
  • If you have several days to do this activity, have students work in reverse chronological time, adding beads as follows:
    • Cenozoic
    • Mesozoic
    • Paleozoic
    • Precambrian
    • Great Radiance to emergence of life


Great Story Beads - This has a comprehensive narrative of the major events in evolution, including many more culturally important events. Michael Dowd, one the authors of this site, has the most comprehensive sets of Great Story Beads in the universe.

Geologic time scale - Wikipedia's excellent web-based time scale uses data from the International Commission on Stratigraphy and using the color codes of the US Geological Survey. This site contains timeline, brief history and useful links.

Cosmic Voyage - This web site has timeline describing events with illustrations since the Great Radiance.

Cosmic Evolution - this web site has the 8 epochs of cosmic evolution with movies of Cosmic Evolution created by folks at the Wright Center for Science Education, at Tufts University.

TimeScale: An Atlas of the Fourth Dimension by Nigel Calder. A great heandbook that shows our progress through time. Although out of print, used copies are still available through Amazon.com.


This page last updated October 11, 2007.
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