Physical Geology: Amazing GeoRace

Simon Kattenhorn
University of Idaho
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Allows introductory physical geology students the opportunity to examine various uses of geological materials in society, in a manner that is also fun and enjoyable.

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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to identify different rock types (skills gained in an accompanying laboratory component of the course).

How the activity is situated in the course

This optional activity is placed near the end of the course as an extra-credit opportunity (which is the time of the semester when most students are likely to participate) but is based on material learned earlier in the semester (requiring some brushing up on material).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Rock and mineral identification. Societal use of geological materials. Understanding of the possible sources of the rock types used on campus (local or not) and the environments (e.g., tectonic) in which they are likely to have formed.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must think about why these particular materials were used for the purpose they observe, determine where those materials were likely to have been obtained based on their knowledge of the local or regional geology, and relate the materials back to a likely genetic process or environment.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students are permitted to work in groups, allowing discussions about how to correctly identify rock samples. Students must also solve somewhat convoluted navigational clues to on-campus "outcrops" to encourage excitement about locating the next outcrop in the activity sequence.

Description of the activity/assignment

The purpose of the activity is to get students out of the traditional classroom setting and to spend several hours navigating their way between various localities on campus where different rock types are used for a variety of purposes. Students are encouraged to bring along their introductory geology laboratory manuals to remind them of the techniques used to correctly identify rock types. The activity is designed to promote enjoyment of the task (clues need to be "solved" to figure out the location of the next outcrop in the sequence) and to encourage students to follow the task through to completion. As a result, students invariably spend many hours engaged in the activity despite the fact that it is completely optional.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are required to individually email a set of answered questions (based on the characteristics of each location visited during the activity) to the instructor by a set deadline. The instructor then evaluates the student responses for accuracy to determine the number of bonus points to be awarded.

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