Initial Publication Date: May 29, 2015

Course profile: Chicago Rocks! Geology in the City

Northeastern Illinois University

Entry level earth science course, 16-30 students

Information for this profile was provided by Karen S. Bartels in 2007. Information is also available on the course website. The course was designed and is taught by Jean Hemzacek Laukant and Laura Sanders.

Jump down to Overview and Context * Course Content * Connecting to the Future of Science * Goals and Assessment * References and Resources * Additional Materials

Overview and Context

This course is specifically designed for first year students (part of the university First Year Experience program), to fulfill a natural science requirement of our university's General Education program. The course objectives cover specific content of earth science, with a focus on the local geology of Chicago. Integrated with this geology content are course elements to develop student skills necessary to succeed in college. The course is team-taught by two instructors, both of whom use a hands-on, interactive approach to learning.

Course Content

This Earth Science course covers geologic and hydrologic concepts as illustrated and applied to the local environment (city of Chicago). For example, earth materials are covered by focusing on bedrock and surficial deposits maps of the region, as well as geologic resources used in the city. Glacial geology, environmental geology, and topographic and geologic map interpretation are other major areas of focus. Elements of the course are designed to develop skills for future success in college and are integrated with the science content.

Connecting to the Future of Science

This general education course focuses on real-world, local applications of earth sciences. As one of only a few science courses that most non-science majors will take, its purpose is to show students why science is relevant to their lives, and to help develop informed citizens.

Goals and Assessment


Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:
  • Correlate specific types of earth materials, including the bedrock and surficial deposits of the region and resources used in Chicago, to their geologic origins (environments and major geologic forces involved).
  • Analyze the impact of past glacial processes on the geologic deposits and landscape of Chicago.
  • Interpret the changes to the landscape effected by stream, lake, and coastal processes; predict continuing/future changes from these forces.
  • Evaluate the impact of geologic factors on human activities (including water and waste management, stormwater and sewage treatment/control, construction, and energy use) in Chicago.
  • Analyze map evidence to interpret basic topographic, geologic, and hydrologic features and processes of Chicago.
In addition, students will
  • Situate their learning as part of their personal growth and as part of a process of lifelong learning.
  • Gain insight into the links between the courses they undertake as part of a study program and the type of careers that emerge from those disciplines.
  • Prepare for academic achievement that spans across the curriculum in terms of the development of critical thinking skills as well as improved written and oral expression.
  • Come to know themselves better as they explore and come to know the city in which they live better.
  • Be able to understand the purpose of the General Education curriculum and the need for becoming engaged students at the University.


Attitudinal surveys and self-reflective questionnaires are used to assess progress in student study skills. In-class activities and classroom assessment techniques are used as formative assessment for earth science concepts. Exams, assignments, an individual term paper, and a group project are used to evaluate student performance.

References and Resources

  • Chicagoland: Geology and the Making of a Metropolis: Field Excursion for the 2005 Annual Meeting Association of American State Geologists, June 15, 2005 / Michael J. Chrzastowski. 2005.64 p.
  • Essential College Experience With Readings (6TH Edition) by John N. Gardner and A. Jerome Jewler, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2005.

Additional Materials

Download the course syllabus. (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Mar26 07)
Download Northeastern Illinois University's First Year Experience Goals Matrix (Acrobat (PDF) 35kB Mar26 07)