Exploring South Africa's Geologic Environment for Integration into High School Earth Science

Cynthia Hall and Adem Ali, Geology and Environmental Geosciences,
College of Charleston


This is a three - week field based course to study geology, earth history and current environmental impacts in South Africa. In addition, graduate Masters in Education in Science and Mathematics students will take earth science content and design and develop curricula around key issues taught in high school earth science.

Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is a field-based course with only one prerequisite of environmental geology. As such, there are different levels and expectations of the different students. My focus for the field-based course, however, are the graduate Masters in Education in Science and Mathematics students and the undergraduates interested in pursuing education fields.

Course Content:

The field-based class is a course that introduces students to geology as a whole. It consists of several exercises that cover the fundamentals of geologic mapping using modern tools and methods. It includes environmental issues pertaining to water scarcity and water quality (data collection) as well as issues encompassing access to potable water in rural communities (health issues related to access to clean water). The course also focuses on evolutionary theory, as it relates to Earth's history. And finally, it encompasses African culture, history and way of life with the idea of taking all of this information back into a high school earth science course.

Course Goals:

Learn geologic principles and field skills, and Interpretation of geologic features.

Observe and understand issues pertaining to water scarcity, water quality and pollution

Understand Earth History by applying geologic principles, earth materials, depositional environments, stratigraphy, the geological timescale, plate tectonics, and evolutionary theory.

Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts

Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between beliefs, political systems, and environmental values of various cultures

Demonstrate understanding of environmental issues caused as the result of human interaction with the environment, and knowledge related to alternative solutions to issues

Integrate content into a high school earth science curricula for dissemination to school in the US.

Course Features:

The final project for this course (for the education students) is to take geologic, environmental, and earth history content and develop curricula integrating content, as matched to SC Science, Geography, Math, ELA (and any others of relevance) standards. In addition, the project includes development of a video blog to show students in South Carolina different histories, cultures, geologies, etc.

Course Philosophy:

This course was designed to broaden our students' geology and environmental experience by providing an opportunity for them to see firsthand some of the best geology in the world and some current environmental issues facing South Africa. In addition, the course was designed to showcase African culture, history and way of life through a series of videos, which can be shared with a primarily underrepresented Charleston area K-12 school, ultimately to dispel misconceptions and raise awareness to geologic and environmental issues facing other countries.


Assessment takes place through a journal/notebook, in which students will write and sketch their observations and interpretations. There will be a written interpretive report, considering the geologic history (readings and discussion) coupled with their observations. The environmental piece will have students collecting water quality data, analyzing the data and making interpretations, which will culminate in an awareness brochure for the community. The Earth History piece will consist of a lesson plan for how the content might use this timeline to teach the history of the Earth from a South African perspective at a museum or in the classroom. And finally the final project will take geologic, environmental, and earth history content and design and develop curricula integrating content for an interdisciplinary lesson plan for a high school Earth Science course.


Syllabus for Exploring South Africa (Acrobat (PDF) 1000kB Apr27 17)

Teaching Materials:

References and Notes: