Geology of a graveyard

Sharon Browning
Baylor University
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This is a simple field experiment exercise that illustrates differences between basic rock types and weathering in a region.

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Introductory level course for non majors- it would most likely would work best with a smaller group of students in a laboratory setting.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students need to be able to identify some basic rock types (granite, marble), also need concept of weathering (chemical and physical), along with basic knowledge of climate of the region (humid, arid).

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be used as a stand alone exercise in lab, or as a sequence of exercises; primarily depending on logistics including size of the class and how much travel must be done.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Recognize basic rock types in field (primarily marble/granite/gneiss); be able to make observations and inferences about weathering of tombstones in context with local climate conditions (amount of rainfall,average temperature/rate of weathering).

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students should be able to express initial opinions, e.g. do they expect to see changes on tombstones in a cemetery based on different factors (i.e. rock type, age of tombstone, change in weathering rate). Also be able to compare/contrast results with other data from other regions (e.g. arid region).

Other skills goals for this activity

Students could turn in individual or group reports with initial descriptions/observations and photos of examples used in report, which would facilitate either teamwork/communication within group, or individual written and oral communication.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for the exercise, students research the climate of their own area, including average temperature, rainfall, and climate to learn whether weathering (primarily chemical) has a major impact in their area. They also must understand which rock types are susceptible to chemical weathering and why. Correct identification of rocks is essential for accurate interpretation, and gives intro students experience outside of hand samples in lab.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Individual written reports most likely best tool for assessment of understanding, as limited rock types in graveyard would lead to repetitious group reports. Also, evaluation of understanding could be discussed in the field, and the comparison/contrast with other climates could be given as homework or short report.

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