Earth Systems Science
Course URL: http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/hannula%5Fk/courses/geol_107/Geo107_labs_W08.htm
Course Type: Intro Level Earth System Science
In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? yes
Introductory courses for majors (Physical Geology and Earth Systems Science) are broad survey courses with labs. Introductory courses for non-majors are topical (Earth Shock, Oceanography, Geology of the Southwest) and do not have labs.
All students are required to take two science courses (at least one with a lab) as part of their general education requirements, so most of the students in the "majors" courses are not science majors. However, science majors generally do not take the non-lab courses, because they have no trouble fulfilling their science gen ed requirement.
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? yes
- the basics of geologic time (relative and absolute dating)
- the role that minerals play in sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic, and surficial processes
- the basic processes that form sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks
- the types of plate boundaries, and how they relate to earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building, ocean floor bathymetry, and the nature of continental margins
- the movement of water in the atmosphere, on Earth's surface, and underground
- the fundamental processes that control weather and climate
- distinguish between a few common rocks and minerals
- graph data and discuss what it means
- develop a test for a hypothesis
- move into Historical Geology or Mineralogy without being overwhelmed, lost, or unreasonably frustrated
- Students should leave the course more aware of the natural world around them, and curious enough to explore phenomena that they do not understand.
The lab includes a group research project, which is spread across about five lab periods. The goal of the project is to monitor the water quality of the Florida River, a local stream that is used as the water source for the city of Durango and for irrigation, and which crosses all of the major geologic units and climate zones of the Durango area, and which travels from a wilderness area through ranchland and suburban development into the natural-gas-producing San Juan Basin. To prepare students to collect and interpret data, we integrate the Florida River into a number of other labs. The Florida River basin is used for examples and problem-solving during the topographic maps lab. Students are required to graph existing discharge data by hand, and then to graph past water quality data on Excel (and to discuss observations based on the graphs). Then students are divided into groups to prepare for data collection in four groups (discharge, sediment load, and two water chemistry groups). Groups turn in short papers explaining the type of data collection they will be doing and speculating about the values that they should get. Each lab section is assigned one reach along the river for data collection. After we collect data in the field, one lab period is devoted to discussing the changes in the data between different sites and between different years (and seasons). Finally, each group writes a short paper discussing their data.
See an overview of the Florida River Project.
(I would like to learn more about good assessment techniques. I have thought about using concept inventories, but have not tried yet. I would also like to learn about ways to assess courses using course management software, especially Moodle - with the number of students that we teach, analyzing surveys by hand is very time-consuming.)
Lab syllabus (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 40kB May7 08)
Florida River Project: Semester-long group project project overview
Topographic Maps: Integrated Florida River project activity description
Florida River Project: Minerals in the field activity description
Florida River Project: Sedimentary and metamorphic rocks lab activity description
Florida River Project: Plotting discharge data activity description
Plotting Florida River Data Using Excel activity description
Florida River Project: Measuring discharge, sediment, and water chemistry activity description
Groundwater lab activity description
References and Notes:
I selected this text because:
- It uses a lot of images from the local area, and we hope to engage the local students (particularly the large Native America population) by using familiar images.
- The visually-oriented style looks like it will make it easier to have discussions in class, rather than traditional lectures.
- I want to use some of the teaching ideas from the book - the accessory materials involve a lot of interactive teaching ideas.
This course has supplemental information submitted as part of the InTeGrate Teaching the Methods of Geoscience workshop in June 2012.