Our Geologic Environment
Our Geologic Environment is a general education course designed to help non-science majors gain a broad understanding of the natural functioning of the Earth system and humanity's interaction with and dependence on it. Meeting for 2 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week, requires the course to focus on major geologic themes. Students engage in inquiry and the scientific method for individual laboratory activities but also for larger group projects. The entire course is erected within the frame work of individual students' examination of self-selected 'Special Places'. These individual case studies give students a personalized investigation of a specific landscape of importance to them, demonstrating the importance of geology to their own lives. The course uses a mix of group and individual assessments to encourage learning and success while serving different learning styles.
For Dr. Moosavi's reflections on the course and its design, see Our Geologic Environment: Role in the Program.
- Students complete a writing-intensive, place-based case study of a specific Special Place of their choosing.
- Students gain a broad understanding of the what and why behind the physical and chemical foundation of our world in order to accurately assess environmental information used to make educated decisions pertaining to natural resource and environmental issues.
- Students are exposed to a broad overview of the structure and processes occurring on earth addressing the fundamental question of why the natural world is the way it is.
- Students gain experience in observing natural processes and insight into how science strives to determine the interrelationships between earth, water, atmosphere and biosphere in an objective manner before examining the subjective aspects of natural resource and environmental decisions.
- Student practice group research and presentation skills in conducting detailed projects on specific environmental issues.
- Special Place ProjectFor details on the Special Place Project and research regarding its effectiveness please contact Dr. Moosavi
- Earth/Atmosphere Formation
- Rocks - Rock Cycle
- Earth's Interior
- Plate Tectonics
- Earth Quakes
- Glaciology-Ice Ages
- Soils/Weathering/Mass Wasting
- Ground Water Quality & Pollution
- Hydrologic Cycle/Stream Valleys
- Coastal Processes/Erosion
- Climate Change
- Syllabus (Microsoft Word 48kB Aug17 05)Listing of course requirements.
- Tests and quizzes Overall student learning is monitored through use of a pre-post test format. Weekly quizzes in the course are designed to provide an efficient systemic measure of learning across all sections and to provide students rapid feedback on their retention and ability to use their knowledge. Cumulative midterm and final exams assess hard-rock versus surficial geologic features. These assessments utilize multiple choice questions primarily. Hands-on quizzes relating to mineral and rock identification are also used to support learrning.
- Class Projects
This course includes 3 major projects. Regional groundwater pollution in the midwest's contribution to Gulf of Mexico anoxia and the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol at ameliorating the effects are climate change are both investigated through group projects. Each lab section is divided into 2 halves with one half focusing on each project. Each group investigates its issue using web-based and literature resources in order to prepare a proposal for debate and vote in a town meeting style format. The groups presenting attempt to win the votes of the half of the class not focusing on the issue in question. These students perform more general reading and research and are asked to take the stance of a special interest group for purposes of discussion and voting. Each group's performance is evaluated using rubrics to assess the content, understanding the issue, strength of argument, quality of oral and written presentations and ability to participate respectfully and effectively in the debate phase.
The Special Place Project is a semester long activity in which students engage in an individualized case study of a 'special place' of their own choice. Students choose a place of personal importance to them which they analyze as the various geologic topics are studied. The objective of the student is to create a pair of essays indicating their understanding of their chosen place at the start of the semester when their geologic knowledge is limited and at the end of the semester after their knowledge has increased. Weekly writing segments help students to identify how each topic might help to explain their place and serve as drafts for the final essay. Students receive feedback about their writing and analysis of their place from their peers and the instructor. The former occurs in writing groups chosen by the instructor based on similarities in the students' places. The latter occurs in a personal meeting with the instructor part way through the semester. The entire process is meant to more closely mimic the way in which scientific inquiry actually occurs with collaboration and revision of understanding as more information is obtained. This project is assessed individually.
- LaboratoriesWeekly laboratories and a selection of field trips afford students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities investigating physical and geologic processes. Many of the labs focus on information that relates to controls on climate and past climate change such as glaciation as preparation for the group project on climate change. These activities are conducted in groups of 3 with a group lab report providing a measure of the cadre's learning.