Virtual Field Trip to the Book Cliffs

Ann Holmes
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

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This page first made public: Jul 3, 2006


Problem-based learning techniques have been applied to geological datasets collected and published about the Cretaceous Book Cliffs exposures in Utah.

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undergraduate sedimentary geology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

basic understanding of geologic principles: superposition, lateral continuity (Walther's Law), basic sedimentary rock identification

How the activity is situated in the course

Initially, I used this project as an introduction to the Fall semester course due to the heat, vegetation and wildlife in the South. When this class moves to the spring semester in 2008, I plan to shift this project's appearance to later during the semester.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

learn to graphically represent basic stratigraphic data

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

analysis of data > measured sections and thin-sections
hypothesis development > facies interpretations

Other skills goals for this activity

oral presentation skills, computer graphics experience, microscope experience

Description of the activity/assignment

In Exercise 1, students are given modified data published by Cole & Friberg, 1989, Stratigraphy and Sedimentation of the Book Cliffs, Utah. They follow instructions to construct a measured section. In Exercise 2, students work either with polarized microscopic photographs linked online to specific units in their measured section or directly with the thin-sections. Grain characteristics are measured and observed. In Exercise 3, facies units are determined on the basis of bedding, sedimentary structures, trace and macrofossil evidence. An interpreted facies overlay of their first graphically generated measured section. A table is also generated to support their facies determinations. In Exercise 4, correlations are made using an east-west transect of several stratigraphic sections. Shallowing-upward cycles and exposure and flooding surfaces are marked; lateral facies correlations are made.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The same 1-5 scaled rubric is used in all projects. Key elements of the rubric include demonstration of basic understanding of geologic principles illustrated, creating professional looking product that is turned in on time, and with correct spelling and grammar.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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