Using field trips to local rivers to enhance student understanding of depositional environments

Alexander Ray Simms
Oklahoma State University
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The purpose of this activity is to take advantage of modern rivers to teach basic principles in sedimentology and interpreting past deposits. The students first observe the sedimentological features of a modern river and use those observations to interpret the depositional environment of recent fluvial deposits from a near-by gravel pit.

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This exercise is appropriate for upper-level undergraduates or can be modified for entry-level geology courses or graduate students

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The activity works best if the students have been introduced to some basic sedimentary structures (e.g. ripples, trough-cross bedding) and terminology (e.g. grain-size, sorting).

How the activity is situated in the course

A stand-alone field exercise to compliment lectures and in-class labs on the topic.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Fluvial sedimentology, sedimentary structures, depositional environments

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Critical evaluation of competing models, recognition of patterns, application of facies models, development of facies models.

Other skills goals for this activity

Observation skills, paleocurrent analysis, measuring section (if time permits). One could also use this opportunity to collect samples for later grain-size analysis.

Description of the activity/assignment

To prepare for this exercise the student must have been introduced to sedimentary structures and some sedimentology terminology (e.g. grain size, sorting).

Determining whether students have met the goals

After observing the modern environments, the students will be asked to apply that knowledge in interpreting recent fluvial deposits in a nearby gravel pit.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Rice University Gulf of Mexico Research Group

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