Integrate > Workshops and Webinars > Teaching Environmental Justice: Interdisciplinary Approaches > Course Collection > GEO 201 Physical Geology

GEO 201 Physical Geology

Matthew Nyman, ,
Oregon State University


This is a mixed lab and lecture course designed to teach physical geology basics using direct instruction, guided inquiry activities and problems based learning experiences. This course is aimed at pre-service teachers but open to all students. The general course goal is to provide learning opportunities for pre-service teachers where they can use both course content and pedagogical approaches in their future teaching. Course content will be taught through a social justice lens, which includes a significant component of environmental issues.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course that satisfies Science, Technology and Society (STS) baccalaureate core for Oregon State University students. STS courses are a special class of OSU courses that are required to explicitly cover aspects of each area - science, technology and society.

Course Content:

I have designed GEO 201 Physical Geology following other sections taught previously at OSU. The course covers basic physical geology content including plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, earthquakes, volcanoes and geologic time. An Environmental/social justice framework is used to make students' aware of the impact and connection between earth science concepts and societal issues.

Course Goals:

At the end of GEO 201 Physical Geology:
Students will have learned basic physical geology concepts;
Student will be able to access a variety of geologic data from the Internet to complete guided and free inquiry projects that enhance and apply physical geology concepts;
Students will be able to work efficiently and effectively in small groups;
Students will be able to make clean, thoughtful and concise presentations;
Students will have a better understanding of Oregon geology, including earthquake and volcanic hazards;
Students will be able to evaluate the larger impacts of geologic processes and events on society;
Students will have explored potential inequities in the impact of geologic events and avenues for mitigating the inequities.

Course Features:

Each major section of the course contains a variety of pedagogical approaches - direct instruction, guided inquiry and free inquiry. Each major section will also explore the intersection between physical geology content and environmental/social justice issues.

Course Philosophy:

Most of the students in GEO 201 are non-geology majors, with many of them pre-service teachers. I chose to use a social and environmental justice lens for three reasons. The first reason is to stimulate student interest. Many pre-service teachers are not crazy about science classes and generally do not have strong aptitude or good attitudes towards science teaching and learning. This bodes poorly for their potential to teach science in their future classrooms. My hope is that a social/environmental justice lens will expose the close connections between science and society. The second reason is to expand students' perception of the importance and impact of earth science locally, regionally and globally. My intention is to demonstrate that science learning does have importance and implications; it is not simply an opportunity to accumulate facts and figures. The third reason is to encourage pre-service teachers to explore the potential of teaching using a social/environmental justice lens. This is, of course, controversial - some factions believe that teaching for social justice goes beyond the boundaries of what is expected in classrooms and that it resonates with social activism. I believe that this lens can be effective not as a tool to dismiss certain ideologies and philosophies but as an avenue to build a population that looks beyond the close-up to view the longer term and longer scope implications and impacts of our actions and choices. During the course I will make explicit the idea that science practices (questioning, data collection, observations, arguing from evidence, etc.) are used for investigating questions about our natural world as well as the larger environmental and social impacts of earth science phenomena and processes.


Assessment will include:
Pre-unit quizzes and reflective writing. These will be tasks for the students to complete prior to the start of the unit.
Major projects for each of the six units.
End of unit online quizzes and writing assignments. The writing assignments will be geared to connection social and environmental justice with the recently learned content.
Field project. We will take a field trip at the end of the semester that will require students to collect, analyze and, synthesis data, collaborate with other groups and develop a final group project.


GEO 201 Physical Geology Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB Mar15 13)

References and Notes: