Ocean Stratigraphy Challenge

Teaching materials by Kim Kastens (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (more info) ) - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC)

This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.


This is a complex puzzle beginning with a description of a stratigraphic section from a deep-sea core. The students are asked to explain the sequence of rock and sediment types and to devise an experiment to test this hypothesis. It is intended for students with some prior knowledge of oceanography, sedimentary geology, and plate tectonics and requires them to synthesize all of this knowledge to answer the question.

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Learning Goals

This question enables students to:
  • connect geoscience concepts that were originally learned separately.
  • recognize concepts previously learned in a new context and apply this information in new ways.

Context for Use

This is a piece of someone's exam, but could be the basis of an in-class puzzle. It involves a combination of concepts, as do many real-world problems and might work very well at the end of an intro course (perhaps as a practice for the final exam).

Description and Teaching Materials

All you need are:

Teaching Notes and Tips

Print the question as a handout and give it to small groups or pairs of students to work on for 15-20 minutes. The next 30+ minutes can be spent going over the solution and discussing concepts behind it.


This exercise was originally one of three questions on a 75-minute exam and with the helpful rubric could easily become part of another exam.

References and Resources

The Teacher's Information page (link down) contains a number of links to resources used to teach the material that this question tests. (http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/lithosphere/dlese/plat_strat_answr.html)