Teach the Earth > Sedimentary Geology > Teaching Activities > Where Did That Quartzite Clast Come From?: A Problem-Based Provenance Study

Where Did That Quartzite Clast Come From?: A Problem-Based Provenance Study

Andrew Hanson
University of Nevada Las Vegas
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jun 27, 2006


Students conducting geochemical provenance studies are forced to deal with obvious things such as manipulating/interpreting geochemical data, but also must deal less obvious factors such as considering earlier tectonic configurations. This project was developed as a semester-long research project that employed microprobe trace element geochemistry and cathodoluminescence in an undergraduate Sed/Strat class. Incorporating this research into our undergraduate class resulted in two significant things that had been missing in previous classes: true excitement amongst the students related to research, and multiple opportunities for assessing and improving students' writing skills.

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This project was developed for a Junior-Senior level undergraduate sed/strat class.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students are best prepared for this project if they have previously taken geochemistry, petrology, and statistics classes.

How the activity is situated in the course

This was developed as a semester long project. Activities are carried out during the lab period at different times during the semester as outlined in one of the attached documents.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This project utilizes trace-element geochemistry to address provenance of quartz-rich clasts and stratigraphic units that may have been their source.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students formulate hypotheses, and carry out a research project whereby they process, manipulate, and interpret geochemical data.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students write Introductions, Geologic Backgrounds, Methods, Results and Discussion, Conclusions, and References as the semester progresses. They learn how to conduct a literature search, how to prep rock samples for microprobe analyses, how to manipulate and interpret data, how to make a group poster, and how to give an oral presentation.

Description of the activity/assignment

For this project, students read Goetze and Lewis (1994) paper on trace element geochemistry of quartz-rich sandstones. They then select one of six possible stratigraphic units, find relevant literature related to their unit, and formulate sampling strategies. In class they are provided microprobe geochemical and cathodoluminescence data and manipulate/interpret it in order to reach conclusions. They answer questions regarding both the provenance of clasts from a young conglomerate as well as commenting on the validity of the data. Students learn how to manipulate and analyze data, how to make a scientific poster, and how to prepare and give an oral presentation

Determining whether students have met the goals

Throughout the semester students hand in written assignments which are reviewed and students are required to revise as needed. Students' oral presentations are also graded as is their participation in constructing the poster.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Goetze, J., and Lewis, R., 1994, Distribution of REE and trace elements in size and mineral fractions of high-purity quartz sands: Chemical Geology, v. 114, p.43-57.

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