Geological Oceanography One-Page Papers

Laura Wetzel, Eckerd College
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Each student in the Geological Oceanography class writes a series of one-page papers for topics throughout the semester, presents one topic as a 3 to 5 minute oral presentation, and revises all papers as a portfolio for submission at the end of the semester. The eight topics are objects in the solar system, minerals, rocks, hydrothermal vents, volcanoes & earthquakes, marine sediments, hurricanes & typhoons, and tides.

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The assignment is for first semester undergraduates in a 100-level Geological Oceanography course. It may be easily adapted for a Physical Geology course by removing or substituting topics.

Geological Oceanography at Eckerd College is a gateway course for Marine Science majors, which includes students specializing in marine biology, geology, geophysics, or chemistry.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to conduct some basic literature research, which may be done from reputable on-line resources.

On a basic level, students simply need to use word processing and presentation software, MS Word and PowerPoint, or their equivalents. Four of the eight topics require students to use on-line databases or mapping applications:

Hydrothermal Vents: InterRidge Vents Database at

Volcanoes & Earthquakes: NOAA's Natural Hazards Viewer at

Hurricanes & Typhoons: NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks at

Tides: NOAA's Tides & Currents at

None of these applications require specialized training. All have intuitive user interfaces and target narrow topics. Students can go straight to the URLs and start working.

How the activity is situated in the course

Students work on one-page papers throughout the semester. The first one-page paper is due the first week of class and feedback is provided before the next paper is due about a week later. In this way, students improve throughout the semester, and submit revised versions of all papers as a portfolio that is due the last week of the semester. Each student also gives one three to five minute oral presentation. Students complete all research and work with on-line applications on their own outside of class time.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The primary goal of the activity is to actively engage students in learning about the solar system, minerals, rocks, hydrothermal vents, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, marine sediments, and tides over the course of the semester. The strategy of using one-page papers allows student to learn a little bit about a lot of subjects.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students integrate material from reputable sources to write clear and concise summaries of topics in Geological Oceanography. They also use on-line applications to create maps, which must be incorporated into their one-page papers and presentations.

Other skills goals for this activity

Writing Skills:

  • Create and revise concise one-page papers throughout the semester.
  • Incorporate illustrations and maps into a written report.
  • Properly format a bibliography.

Other Skills:

  • Present scientific information in a three to five minute talk.
  • Use on-line applications to explore scientific data and create maps.

Description and Teaching Materials

On the first day of class students are assigned specific topics in eight areas (e.g., Pluto, pyrite, granite, TAG, etc.). They are randomly assigned to give a three to five minute oral presentation on one of the topics. For example, four students will present at the beginning of the lab when we identify minerals. Students are required to write one-page papers on five of the seven other topics. This allows students to skip weeks when they are ill, have extensive work in other classes, or are less interested in the subject matter. At the end of the semester, students submit revised versions of at leave five one-page papers as a portfolio.

Students are encouraged to be creative in completing the assignments. The papers should include substantive information as well as illustrations and a bibliography. All papers are submitted electronically in PDF format.

Four of the topics require students to use on-line applications. The Presentation file provided here provides some examples of one-pagers and illustrates how to use these tools. The Presentation file may be used as "just in time teaching" when each topic is encountered during the semester and may be posted for students to use as needed.

Student Handout for Writing Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 144kB Jun16 15)

Paper Topics (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 47kB Jun16 15)

Presentation Showing Examples and Instructions (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 30.4MB Jun16 15)

Paper Topics PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 63kB Jun16 15)

Presentation Showing Examples and Instructions PDF (Acrobat (PDF) 19.5MB Jun16 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips

I update the list of volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes each year to reflect events in the news. I mix the specific topics from year to year to cut down on the chances of plagiarism. For example, one year someone might have Phobos, hematite, and obsidian and the next year someone might have Phobos, calcite, and gneiss.

While this version of the assignment requires students to use on-line applications for four of the topics, one can make this optional or omit the applications entirely.

Deltas and Estuaries was a category one year, but students found it difficult to find substantive geologic information on some of the locations. In the second year of using this assignment I replaced it with Tides and added the Solar System category as well.


Evaluation forms are included in the on-line materials. Anecdotally, students who completed the one-pagers seem to learn the material better than those who took the course with me in the past.