Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > Evolution of the Earth

Evolution of the Earth

John Dawson
, Kirkwood Community College


A presentation of basic concepts in historical geology, which includes the origin of the earth, stratigraphy, the geological time scale and geochronology, evolution and the fossil record, and plate tectonics. A review of Precambrian to the present utilizes these principles in the interpretation of earth history.

Course Type:
Intro Level Historical Geology

Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in separate lecture and lab components. The lecture and the lab are both taught by the professor.

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

My course does not require students to have a previous physical geology class, so I teach it from a non-majors perspective. Once in a while I get students that have had a previous course in geology, so this course is still appropriate for students planning on being a major in their first year of college. Since most students have not had a previous course in geology, I spend time reviewing some physical geology concepts where they are appropriate in the course. This course has a separate optional lab, which does create challenges in how some of the material is approached.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no

Course Content:

This course is designed to meet a student's general education science requirement. Beyond that this course is designed to introduce students to the methodology and scientific thinking of historical geology as it relates to deciphering the geological record. It emphasizes how the earth has changed over time in its life, climates, environments, and plate tectonics. The course starts with basic principles of reconstructing the past with discussion of evolution and its principles. A good half of the course is spent marching through time from the Precambrian to the Present and tries to focus on major changes in the earth's history.

Course Goals:

General course learning objectives:
  1. Learn about science:
  2. a) Gain knowledge of basic science principles and theories.
    b) Develop a scientific vocabulary.
    c) Become comfortable with science and dealing with science issues.

  3. Practice scientific skills:
  4. a) Know how to identify key variables, develop models, and carry-out solutions
    b) Practice logical thinking skills.
    c) Use scientific reasoning to evaluate real world issues.

  5. Practice college level study skills:
  6. a) Be able to take usable notes from a lecture setting.
    b) Know how you best learn new material, and use that to your advantage.
    c) Identify your weak areas, and develop strategies to strengthen them.


The assessment for course includes quizzes, exams, short writing assignments, short in-class assignments, and online homework (in CE6).


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 140kB May7 08)

Teaching Materials:

Lab Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 129kB May7 08)
See an activity sheet for a lab on sedimentary environments

References and Notes: