Introduction to Physical Geology

Ann C.H. Hadley
, Manchester Community College


An introduction to the principles governing the composition and structure of the Earth's crust, and the study of land forms and geological processes on the surface and within the Earth. Topics include: rock forming minerals, rocks, glaciers, earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics and mountains.

Course Type: Intro Level:Physical Geology Intro Level
Course Size:

Course Format:
Integrated lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. It is a required course for our Environmental Science A.S. Degree Program. It serves as a general education science/lab course for many degree programs. Most students who take this course are non-science majors. The lab is an integrated and required part of the course.

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 physical geology course investigates earth materials, surficial processes and interior processes. There are weekly lab activities integrated into the course. There are 2 field trips designed to investigate local rock formations and shoreline processes, and to illustrate the geologic history of Connecticut.

Course Goals:

Course Objectives: As a result of successfully completing this course, the student will be able:
1. Outline evidence for plate tectonics and the theory of sea-floor spreading;
2. Diagram and describe a cross-section of the Earth's interior;
3. Utilize keys to identify minerals and rocks;
4. List the most common properties utilized to distinguish minerals;
5. List the most common elements abundant in the Earth's crust;
6. Distinguish between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks;
7. Diagram and describe intrusive igneous formations such as dike, sill, laccolith, batholith;
8. Discuss the relationship between magma composition and volcano type;
9. Present a detailed description of the hydrologic cycle;
10. List the roles played by subsurface water as a geologic agent;
11. Describe the youthful, mature and old age stages in the cycle of stream development;
12. Describe the processes and byproducts of weathering;
13. Distinguish between various types of glaciers, how they form and how they move;
14. Describe coastal erosion processes and coastal landform features;
15. Describe causes of earthquakes and distinguish between the types of earthquake waves;
16. Diagram and describe various types of faults and folds;
17. Interpret the geologic history of deformed rocks;
18. Diagram and describe the rock cycle;
19. Describe some of the basic history of a rock sample by interpreting the features of the rock sample.
20. Interpret data on a topographic map and a geologic map;
21. Plot and interpret data relating to flood hazard zones, climate change and earthquake activity;
22. Describe the 3 major events in the geologic history of Connecticut.

Course Features:

Students in this course complete weekly lab reports. They complete 4 unit tests and a cumulative final exam. Students regularly write about concepts they have learned utilizing a "One Minute Essay" activity.

Course Philosophy:

This course breaks the subject into units with labs used to illustrate and reinforce concepts learned in class. The class is taught in the Earth/Environmental Sciences lab, and it is equipped with classroom technology to access/project the internet, animations and DVD from the teaching station as well as the 10 student computers.


See above.


Syllabus (Microsoft Word 43kB May7 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: The Dymanic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology; 5th Edition; Skinner, Porter and Park, 2004
This book has good visuals and is utilized in other area colleges and universities.
Lab text: Laboratory Manual in Physical Geology, 8th Edition; R.M. Busch, editor, AGI and NAGT, 2009
Exellent graphics and photos, good activities in a work-book format. Current data and internet references.
We also utilize data from USGS web sites, and we discuss articles from GeoTimes and other periodicals.