Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Virtual Workshop 2014 > Course Descriptions > Dynamic Planet

Dynamic Planet

Stephen R. Mattox,
Grand Valley State University


This physical geology course is a traditional lecture/lab course that needs updating/modification. Students commonly have three 1-hour lectures per week and one 2-hour lab. The course covers materials, landforms, and plate tectonics. Clickers are commonly used to increase interaction.

Course Type:
Entry Level:Physical Geology

Course Size:

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

Institution Type:
Two Year College

Course Context:

This is a introductory course with no prerequisities. It serves as a prerequisite to historical geology. It also serves as general educational physical lab science. Most of the students are non-science majors. We do attract geology majors using this course.Lab is required.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses?

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. At present that is the case but we plan to revise our curriculum and that will not be the case. BUT we are seeking some content and skills across the three different intro course to prepare the majors with a minimum of content and skills to move on to historical geology.

Course Content:

The course covers materials, landforms, and plate tectonics. It is a general survey course. There is a required field trip, commonly to the Keweenawan rift, Canadian shield, Michigan basin, lake shore, or localo gypsum mine. In lab students learn identification skills for materials and topographic map reading.

Course Goals:

  1. to provide students with a basic understanding of earth materials and processes,
  2. to introduce the methods that geoscientists use to explore the Earth,
  3. to increase student appreciation and understanding of the Earth,
  4. to produce knowledgeable citizens that can make informed decisions concerning geologic issues.

What are the main features of the course that help students achieve these goals?
Class will consist of lecture, discussion, Powerpoint, demonstrations, and videos that reinforce the important topics of the text. Useful materials and current news items will be posted in Blackboard. Work in lab will complement the lecture material and demonstrate methods used by geologists. Field study, in the form of trips on and off campus, will used to broaden your understanding of geoscience. I will frequently ask you to write about your thoughts and feelings about science and the class and to speculate on how science works, etc.


Lab exercises
Lab exams
In class quizzes etc
Lecture exams
Field trip
Article critique


GEO 111 Syllabus Winter 2012 (Microsoft Word 68kB Feb24 14)

Teaching Materials:

Earth by Tarbuck and Lutgens, 8th edition
Accesible to the students. ~ well illustrated.

References and Notes: