Ordering Geologic Events and Interpreting Geologic History: The Grand Canyon

Jennifer Wenner
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (constructed in conjunction with Eric Hiatt and Christie Demosthenous)
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Initial Publication Date: May 7, 2008 | Reviewed: November 3, 2013


This activity is designed to have students re-examine rocks they looked at earlier in the semester and use them to interpret some of the geologic history of the Grand Canyon.

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Introductory physical geology course for both majors and non-majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students need to have learned the process for identifying rocks (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic). When they get to this lab, they have also already completed some "sequence of events" block diagrams and activities having to do with radioactive decay.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity happens in the middle of the lab part of the course. It makes students remember the rocks and minerals that they have learned previously and combines that with the geologic time activities that they are learning.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity is designed to help students recognize the reasons that they learned to identify rocks. It makes them revisit the concept of rock identification and apply it to telling a story about the rocks they are identifying.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Unlike the rock ID activity earlier in the semester, this activity asks students to synthesize the material and analyze their observations. They are asked to interpret a geologic map in the context of rocks, minerals and topography.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity is designed to help students recognize the connections among things like rock identification and map reading with the "story" that these things can tell us in terms of geologic history. Students have already learned about using observation to identify rocks and the principles of interpreting geologic cross-sections. The activity gives students practice in rock ID, topo map reading, geologic map reading and the aspects of geologic time. Students work with rock samples and a geologic map of the Grand Canyon to interpret a history for the area.

Determining whether students have met the goals

They are asked to do similar things on an exam.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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