Playa-Lunette Systems: Environmental Barometers of the High Plains

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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Initial Publication Date: November 24, 2014


Part 1 - students answer questions based on assigned readings
Part 2 - students answer questions based on topographic map analysis
Part 3 - students create and interpret paleoclimate proxy record graphs

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The activity is used in an undergraduate introductory physical geography course that includes a 2-hour laboratory session that meets once per week. The focus of the course is landforms and soils. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

It helps if students have previous experience with topographic map analysis and creating and interpreting graphs.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture. This exercise is assigned near the end of the semester, so students already have considerable experience working with topographic maps and creating and interpreting graphs.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Purpose is to become familiar with utilizing proxy records to reconstruct past climates and processes of landscape evolution
  • Interpret a topographic map
  • Create and interpret graphical data
  • Link climate data with geomorphic processes

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Students complete background readings and answer questions in part 1 as a pre-lab activity with a five-question online pre-lab quiz. In class, students are placed in groups of four. I show the online video

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during a 2-hour laboratory session. Students are expected to work in groups of four. Upon completion of the laboratory exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise as well as questions on the background information included in the lab before the next lab meeting. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

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