Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Introduction to Physical Geology

Introduction to Physical Geology

Mary C. Gorte
, Delta College


This course is designed for science and non-science majors. It is the study of the overall structure of the earth and the rocks which form the crust. It is an introduction to the process of weathering and erosion caused by natural agents.

Course Type:
Entry Level Physical Geology

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture only

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites. Typically 50% of the students take this course to fulfill a lab requirement or education requirement. The course has a required lab.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

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? yes

Course Content:

This is a basic introduction to physical geology course. Topics covered include the sceintific method,weathering and erosion, minerals, rocks, Plate Tectonics, Geologic time, earthquakes, volcanoes, fossils, rivers and streams, and groudwater. A required lab reinforces geologic concepts and prinicples covered in lecture.

Course Goals:

The goals of this course are to introduce students to the basic concepts and principles of physical geology; to understand the processes that have produced the materials, surface features and structures of our earth. Another goal is for students to understand that geology is not just the study of rocks but that geology affects their world on a daily basis.

Course Features:

This course has a short 4-6 page research paper on a topic of their choice. This is assigned later in the semester so that students can apply learned geologic concepts and principles. Pertinent topics are encouraged.

Course Philosophy:

Initially I mirrored my class after the chair's class but have tweaked it as I have gone along. Hands-on labs have allowed me to have a more one-on-one and laid back environment.


In general, based on feedback from students, these goals have been obtained.

Teaching Materials:

Activity sheet for a short geology research paper

References and Notes:

Essentials of Geology by Frederick K. Lutgens and Edward J. Tarbuck
The language of this book is straightforward and written to be understood. There is a minimum of technical language and is written for science and non-science majors. In addition, it includes a CD-ROM with randomly generated chapter quizzes as well as chapter reviews.
Text and Laboratory Manual by Dr. Timothy Clarey
The chair of the department wrote it and he uses it. It makes is easy if both profs are using the same text.

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