Relative Age Correlation

Gwen M. Daley
Department of Chemistry, Physics and Geology, Winthrop University
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Initial Publication Date: February 20, 2012 | Reviewed: November 3, 2013


Students learn to apply basic correlation principles to geologic cross-sections.

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Undergraduate historical and physical geology students with non-earth science majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

1. A basic understanding of how igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks form.
2. An introduction to how faults and unconformities form.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is part of a unit on geologic time which includes relative and absolute dating techniques. It is usually preceded by a unit on how rocks form.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learn how to apply basic, logical correlation principles to determine the relative age of rocks and other geologic features.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students must synthesize their prior knowledge of how different rocks form with how the processes of formation work in geologic time.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

The purpose of this exercise is to introduce students to how simple relative age correlation principles can be used to reliable determine the relative ages of rock units and other geologic features. Students will apply the principles of original horizontality, superposition, cross-cutting relationships and inclusion to determine the relative ages of sedimentary rocks, igneous rocks and metamorphic rocks, as well as unconformities and faults.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The students' answers on the two cross-section worksheets are used to evaluate their mastery of the techniques.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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