Teach the Earth > Oceanography > Course Descriptions > Natural History of Oregon Coast

Natural History of Oregon Coast

Jennifer Bown

Clackamas Community College,
Two Year College


This natural history course covers basic Oceanography topics along historical events in our area and basic marine biology.

Subject: Geoscience:Oceanography
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Earth System Topics: Oceans
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography
Course Size:

Course Context:

This is a lower division science course meant to introduce students to ocean studies both in physical and life science. It is taught as a hybrid with 3 hrs/week of lecture for one quarter (33 hours) along with a combination of labs and field trips to equate to the remaining 33 hours/quarter. Several labs encorporate internet based research.

Course Goals:

  • Describe the scientific method and the tools and procedures used in generating hypothesis and solving scientific questions
  • Apply data collected within the class and by scientists to examine broader ecological topics pertaining to the Oregon Coast
  • Evaluate existing scientific explanations of our coastal processes in order to develop evidence-based decisions and apply those to environmental policies and laws that affect our Pacific Northwest coast
  • Describe the geologic theories that have shaped our Pacific Northwest Coast
  • Describe the geologic origin of the coastal headlands, islands, stacks, and arches
  • Evaluate the sources and effects of coastal environmental hazards
  • Describe historic and future potential for earthquakes and Tsunamis in our region
  • Summarize aspects of oceanography that pertain to our coastal region
  • Define what an estuary is and list the different geologic origins that form estuaries. Discuss the mixing models of marine and freshwater
  • List the unique abiotic and biotic features of estuaries and address their importance as an ecosystem
  • List the activities of man that serve to erode or destroy Oregon's estuary ecosystems
  • Diagram the general trophic structures of a typical tide pool food pyramid
  • Describe some of the reasons that contribute to the relative high biodiversity of tide pool ecosystems and the constraints that organisms have living in an intertidal ecosystem.
  • Summarize intertidal zonation schemes and discuss the factors that control the upper and lower regions
  • List the general features of different types of beaches and sand dunes and describe the general history of their disturbances
  • Demonstrate plant succession and its role in dune stabilization
  • List the features of a coastal old growth forest and describe the symbiotic relationships within them
  • Compare and contrast Pacific Northwest rainforests with the ecosystems of the tropical rainforests and their conservation
  • Describe the strategies, distribution, and adaptations of marine mammals and marine birds to a life of living in a marine habitat

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Since this is a hybrid course, students learn in a variety of ways: through traditional lecture and group discussions, lab experiments, research of key topics and field trips meant to not only get their hands wet and collect data, but to also show the inter-relatedness of the physical and life sciences. We asses using a variety of standard quizzes and exams along with research projects, lab reports, and scientific journaling.

Skills Goals

Our focus is to help student think more critically and be able to evaluate sources of information (critical analysis of web sites does come in often).

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Since students are utilizing the material in a variety of ways, their repetitive exposure to topics helps solidify their understanding (lecture, discussions, labs, field trips). Many students comment about the variety of activities as helping them immensely.

Attitudinal Goals

  • changing student attitudes toward science is pivotal
  • build confidence in evaluating scientific data and statements
  • think critically
  • develop their understanding of human impacts and fost a sense of stewardship of the environment

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Since the students engage in a variety of activities, we try to assess in all those areas to show the full range of their understanding.


Through forum discussions, quizzes and exams, writings in a variety of mediums (lab reports, journals, etc).


New TTE Logo Small

Oceanography resources from across Teach the Earth »

Oceanography resources from Teach the Earth include:

Specialized collections including

or search

Intro Geoscience resources from across Teach the Earth »