Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Course Descriptions > GEO 1001 - Earth and Its Environments

GEO 1001 - Earth and Its Environments

Kent Kirkby
, University of Minnesota


The goal of this course is to be an effective 'concluding' earth science course, one that explicitly provides students with the knowledge they need to become more informed citizens in a global community that is greatly affected by the natural world. This goal is accomplished through the integration of three approaches: 1) the use of regional case studies to present concepts in a context that is already familiar to students or easily visited; 2) an ambitious computer visualization effort; and 3) woven throughout the project, a comprehensive quantitative evaluation of students' prior knowledge, misconceptions and changes in student knowledge.

Course Type:
Entry Level:Physical Geology Entry Level

Course Size:
greater than 150

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture is taught by the professor and the lab is taught by TAs.

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is a 1000-level course with no pre-requisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. Nearly all the students are taking the course to satisfy their physical science with lab requirement.

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

There is no 'introductory course' for majors.
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

Course Content:

This course covers the same general geologic processes as traditional introductory physical geology courses, but uses a historical theme to emphasize interaction of geological processes and human society.

Course Goals:

  • Be able to explain to friends or family how earth processes function as well as how earth processes interact with human society.
  • Given a real or hypothetical change in an earth system, students should be able to predict the consequences of that change on the system or associated systems.

Course Features:

Labs are a stand-alone sequence of exercises that explore geological processes, specifically highlight Upper Midwest examples, and explicitly illustrate the interaction of earth processes and human society.

Course Philosophy:

For over 80% of the students, this is their last science course, so it seems foolish to teach it as an 'introductory' course. It is more important to provide them with the skills and information they need to be better informed citizens.


  • Performance on labs, biweekly quizzes and final.
  • Changes in student knowledge and comprehension as measure on pre-instruction and post-instruction surveys.
  • Responses on student evaluations and survey instruments.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 50kB Jun25 08)

Teaching Materials:

Lecture Schedule (Acrobat (PDF) 24kB Jun25 08)

References and Notes:

Various textbooks are used, and are chosen on basis of price and quality. We use an in-house lab manual because no commercial lab manual addressed the course goals, and an in-house manual allows us to focus on Upper Midwest geology, making case studies more 'real' and accessible to our students.