Teach the Earth > Course Design > Course Goals/Syllabus Database > Geology of National Parks

Geology of National Parks

Rich Schultz

Elmhurst College
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


"Geology of National Parks" draws upon the various landscapes of America's National Parks to introduce geologic concepts and processes. The course explores the concept of geologic time, among others, based on the rock record to present a basic evolutionary history of the U.S. Locating physiographic provinces and national park sites assists in geographic literacy and map skills.

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Course Context:

This is an introductory course, although 300-level undergraduate, with no pre-requisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. It does not serve as a General Education requirement, but as an elective for students of all majors. The course has no associated lab. Students who decide to major in geosciences must take an additional course in physical geology.

Course Goals:

Based on the application of skills introduced via brief lecture and developed through interactive group exchange, and upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. Given a map of the location of the physiographic provinces and selected National Parks, predict what dominant geologic processes have shaped the region.
2. Evaluate the geology of selected National Parks and interpret their basic geologic processes associated with physiographic provinces.

Students will also be able to:

1. Interpret and utilize maps as a tool for geographic literacy and recreational visits.
2. Research geologic literature about National Parks for the intent of visiting them.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Through a series of interactive jigsaw teechniques, concept sketch exercises, virtual scavenger hunts, and brief "vacation planners", students will actively learn about the geology of National Parks. Assessment includes both formative and summative types including: classroom assessment techniques (CATs) such as "minute papers", "muddiest point", and "quickie quizzes", as well as jigsaw exercises, concept sketches, gallery walks, and virtual scavenger hunts.

Skills Goals

geographic literacy
writing across the curriculum (WAC) initiatives
critical research methods

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Geographic literacy is achieved through map skills exercises, virtual field trips, and jigsaw exercise techniques. WAC initiatives are achieved through a series of "one minute" papers and abstract writing activities. Gaining an understanding of research methods is practiced through virtual field trip and jigsaw exercise techniques.

Attitudinal Goals

developing an appreciation for the Earth's geology and natural beauty

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Through a plethora of images, exercises and summative assessment techniques, students will gain an appreciation for the National Park system and geology of the Earth.


Student learning is assessed through both formative and summative assessment methods including, but not limited to: concept sketches, jigsaw exercise techniques, gallery walks, classroom assessment techniques (CATs)including such WAC initiatives such as "one minute papers", "muddiest point", "quickie quiz", and abstract writing.

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