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Ocean Stratigraphy Challenge

Teaching materials by Kim Kastens (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (more info) ) - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC)
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This is a complex puzzle beginning with a description of a stratigraphic section from a deep-sea core. The students are asked to explain the sequence of rock and sediment types and to devise an experiment to test this hypothesis. It is intended for students with some prior knowledge of oceanography, sedimentary geology, and plate tectonics and requires them to synthesize all of this knowledge to answer the question.

Learning Goals

This question enables students to:

Context for Use

This is a piece of someone's exam, but could be the basis of an in-class puzzle. It involves a combination of concepts, as do many real-world problems and might work very well at the end of an intro course (perhaps as a practice for the final exam).

Teaching Materials

All you need are:

Teaching Notes and Tips

Print the question as a handout and give it to small groups or pairs of students to work on for 15-20 minutes. The next 30+ minutes can be spent going over the solution and discussing concepts behind it.


This exercise was originally one of three questions on a 75-minute exam and with the helpful rubric could easily become part of another exam.

References and Resources

The Teacher's Information page contains a number of links to resources used to teach the material that this question tests.


Geoscience:Oceanography:Marine Geology and Geophysics, Geoscience:Geology:Sedimentary Geology, Geophysics

Resource Type

Activities:Classroom Activity, Datasets and Tools:Datasets

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use


Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Sedimentary Geology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography, Geophysics

Earth System Topics

Solid Earth:Earth Materials:Rocks, Surface Processes:Coastal Processes, Oceans:Ocean Basin Topography

Ocean Environments

Deep Sea Floor/Abyssal


Solid Earth, Earth surface:Sedimentary Geology, Ocean:Marine Geology and Geophysics, Time/Earth History

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