Observations and Measurements in Geology
Stacey Cochiara, and Andrea Deanne Rodgers (SUNY Stony Brook)
Stony Brook University
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: May 16, 2008
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This exercise gives students an introduction to topics they will encounter throughout the semester, and future course work. It covers plate tectonics, weathering, and basic rock descriptions.
This lab exercise is used as the first lab in the introductory physical geology course
. Enrollment includes approximately 3/4 non-majors, 1/4 majors.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
As this is an introductory lab, the skills that they use include basic calculations such as volume and density. The rest of the concepts are elaborated in the lab itself, making it ideal for an initial lab.
How the activity is situated in the course
This is the first lab that the students complete in the course. It allows them to see the types of concepts that will be elaborated on further throughout the semester.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Recognition of plate tectonics and buoyancy, bimodal crustal distribution, sedimentation rates, topographic images, mineral and rock identification
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Students are expected to draw conclusions about rates and causes of sedimentation, and also weathering processes on Mars. These are challenging because students must use reason and intuition to determine these answers since these topics have not yet been covered.
Other skills goals for this activity
Students are exposed to basic measurements which serve them well in other courses.
Description of the activity/assignment
This activity allows students to see several key geologic concepts that they will learn in greater detail later in the semester. They compare densities of two different blocks, which serve as proxies for the differences between oceanic and continental crust, and this provides an example of isostasy. They determine sedimentation rates and deduce what type of changes in environment can affect these rates. They determine the relative ages of two different Martian surfaces. Students also get to see hand samples of rock and mineral specimens, and compare hardness and relative sorting. These topics allow students exposure to several different concepts that they will develop a greater appreciation of throughout their courses.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Some students become frustrated with this lab activity when they first do it. But we give them the lab activity at the end of the semester as well, to look over and see how much they have learned.
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