Teach the Earth > Course Design > Course Goals/Syllabus Database > Oceanography


David H. Griffing

Hartwick College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


This course examines the oceans and related marine environments from a Earth System science perspective. Selected selected oceanic settings will serve as the focal point for a more in-depth examination of ocean system components and their interaction.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Oceanography
Resource Type: Course Information:Goals/Syllabi, Course Information
Special Interest: Complex Systems
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Ready for Use: Course Goals Only
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography
Course Type: Entry Level:Oceanography
Course Size:


Course Context:

A one-semester, non-laboratory course with no prerequisites. This course will be introduced as an elective that will satisfy the non-lab science requirement in Hartwick's general education curriculum.

Course Goals:

Students should be able use data to model Earth Systems and predict the response of system components to disturbance.

Students should be able to: 1) evaluate the relationships between physical, chemical and biological components of the ocean system, 2) predict how natural and anthropogenic disturbances will affect the system (and sub-systems), and then 3) critique ocean-related news stories from a scientific perspective.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The first half of this course focuses on introducing students to system science concepts, such as linkages and feedback loops through examination of the tectonic cycle, water cycle and carbon cycle, among others. Important oceanic phenomena (tsunamis, ENSO, hurricanes) will then be the examined closely from the perspective of: 1) rock-water interactions, 2) water-air interactions, and 3) water-life interactions. Students will gain practice with these concepts by a series of concept mapping (feedback loop diagram), concept sketching and data poltting/interpretation excercises. Finally, four ocean topics (barrier islands, reefs, mid-ocean ridges & ocean islands, and ocean resources) will be examined through analysis of level-appropriate scientific articles and popular press reports. Through this course students will build their system modeling skills with progressively more detailed examples. They will also have ample chance to compare popular press/news articles with scientific summary articles through reading assignments.

Skills Goals

Students should be able to develop simple and effective science writing skills and critical reading skills. Students should learn to plot and interpret numerical data, as well as interpret image data. Communication skills through poster and oral presentation will practiced.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Concept mapping and other practice activities are predominantly short-duration, so that repeated practice will increase chance for improvement of skills.

Attitudinal Goals

This course seeks to foster an appreciation for the interconnected nature of Earth's many processes. This course should also result in developing students' sense of stewardship of the Earth.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Students will occasionally be asked to write brief refelctive paragraphs (ungraded) that discuss if and how they have developed new perspective on Earth's oceans.


Although three short problem-based tests will gauge their understanding of major concepts, most of the assessment will revolve around grading concept maps, concept sketches and related paragraph write-ups throughout the semester.

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