Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Earth Science

Earth Science

Karen Bridges
, Mount San Antonio Community College


A survey course that introduces fundamentals of geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy. The companion Earth Science laboratory (GEOL 8L) is recommended for students needing a lab to transfer to a 4-year college/university. Field trips are required.

Course Type:
Entry Level Earth Science

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only, lab optional

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no prerequisites and is not a prerequisite for other courses. Almost all students enroll to satisfy general education requirements for transfer to a four year college. There is an optional lab which is recommended for transferring students.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? yes
Generally, the Earth Science course in a GenEd course whereas the Physical Geology course is aimed more towards potential majors. Majors and non-majors alike are free to take either or both courses.
If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no

Course Content:

A survey course that introduces fundamentals of geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy. Major concepts such as: plate tectonics, global atmospheric and oceanic circulation, atmospheric characteristics & weather, history of astronomical thought and our place in the universe are covered. One field trip is required; location and emphasis is instructor-dependent.

Course Goals:

After completing this course, students should demonstrate a basic understanding of the interconnectedness of the geosphere, atmosphere, and our oceans. I would hope that students would also gain an appreciation of the complexities of Earth, recognize our place in a much bigger picture, understand that "science" in general is very relevant in everyday life. I realize this second statement isn't very measurable, but it IS something I think is quite important.

Course Features:

One way I try to bring seemingly esoteric concepts down to earth (so to speak) is having students present current topics to the class. For example, a discussion of plate tectonics allows for presentations regarding volcanoes, earthquakes, human impacts of several natural disasters and our own vulnerability (in California). I also require summaries of current articles from scientific journals pertaining to subjects such as CO2 in oceans, species extinctions, etc.

Course Philosophy:

I have developed this design mainly through trial and error. I have so many different types of students and different types of learners, that I try to address many ways of reaching them. I do experiments in lecture and have them predict outcomes and watch what happens. I want their grades to reflect many types of assessment, and I really want them to enjoy the material. I know I love the subject, and I want them to love learning! This definitely challenges me to be creative and flexible.


As stated above, students give oral presentations, write article reviews, take short quizzes and go on field trips. A facet of my grade is based on attendance and effort. I also have the customary exams and a cumulative final (I do not make the final worth any more than the exams). Exams consist of multiple choice, matching, short answer and problem-oriented questions (I give students a scenario, and they draw conclusions based on the observations I have given them).


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 56kB May7 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: Foundations of Earth Science, Tarbuck & Lutgens
I also assign current articles from scientific journals, although I try not to make the articles mind-boggling...just spark some interest and provide a opportunity for students to see the big picture.

Pedagogic Development:
I've taken a couple professional development courses (Accommodating Students with Disabilities, Developmental Ed class) that have helped me to adjust my approach.

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