Teach the Earth > Rates and Time > Courses > Historical Geology

Historical Geology

John Chadwick,
Deparment of Geology, College of Charleston


This course will be taught once per year. It provides an overview of geological and biological processes and of major geological and evolutionary events in Earth's history. It uses lecture and hands-on laboratory activities to help students gain understanding of the geological and fossil record.

Course Size:
greater than 150

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, primarily masters programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites. It can be used as a General Education science class for all undergraduate students at the College, and 80% of the students in the class are not geology majors.

Course Content:

Historical geology describes the evolution of planet Earth and its life through time. Students will learn about (or review) basic geologic principles and techniques as well as how scientists apply these to unravel Earth's history. This class will review both the geological and biological history of Earth as a continuum of inter-related events. These events reflect the underlying principles and processes that have shaped our planet. Three major themes of the class: time, evolutionary theory, and plate tectonics will be woven together throughout the semester.

Course Goals:

To present the scientific method, basic geologic and biological evolution principles and processes, and to provide a detailed overview of the history of the Earth from its formation 4.6 billion years ago to the present.

Course Features:

The course is a standard lecture class with external lab projects (taught by a TA). Students read textbook chapters, do homework assignments based on the readings and websites, take quizzes, and conduct small "hands-on" projects in small groups in the lecture. I may also use the electronic "clickers" when I teach the class in the fall.

Course Philosophy:

The large class size requires a standard lecture format, however, I will be trying to include "hands-on" activities that even large numbers of students can work on in small groups in class. Discovering supplemental activities beyond the lectures is one of my primary goals for this workshop.


Through graded homework assignments, quizzes, and through three exams. I may also give a pre-test at the beginning of the semester to comapre with some answers to the same questions on the final exam.


Syllabus for Historical Geology (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB Feb16 12)

References and Notes:

Historical Geology: Evolution of Earth and Life Through Time 6th edition by Wicander and Monroe