Geography 101 / 101L

Peter Selkin

San Diego City College (Two Year College)


(From catalog description)
This course examines the major world patterns of the physical environment. The course covers the fundamental information and processes dealing with the earth's landforms, atmosphere, natural vegetation, water, and soils, along with the appropriate use of maps and charts.

(Instructor's note) The course, as I teach it, emphasizes being able to "read" landscapes, and to interpret the natural processes and cycles that produce them. The lab (from which I submitted an exercise) offers hands-on training in some of the basic techniques used to study physical features, patterns, and landscapes.

Course Size:

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no prerequisites. The vast majority of the students take the course to satisfy general education requirements; many have not taken and will not take another physical science course. Only about 5% of the students intend to major in the geosciences. The lab, which meets for one 3-hour session per week, is not required and is only taken by about 30% of the students.

Course Goals:

After successfully completing this class, students can expect to:

1. Specify their exact location using latitude and longitude.
2. Interpret features on a map in relation to real-world features.
3. Compare the benefits and drawbacks of different types of maps and remotely sensed images, and choose the best map for a particular task.
4. Identify global patterns of the earth's climate, landforms, bodies of water, and biomes.
5. Relate global landscape patterns to each other.
6. Infer the climate, geological, hydrological, and biological processes that produce landscape features and patterns.
7. Collaborate with a group of students to pose questions about the origin of natural landscape features, and propose hypotheses to begin to answer these questions.
8. Deduce the location of an unknown scene from landscape patterns and other natural clues.
9. Evaluate relationships between humans and their natural environment.
10. Critique written work (both their own and fellow students').
11. Record field observations in a clear and readable way (lab).
12. Communicate results of measurements and experiments using appropriate terminology and units (lab).
13. Recognize a variety of ecosystems and geographic features in the San Diego area (lab).


For the past two semesters, I have been assessing my class' learning, collectively, using a pre- and post-test with a set of 5 questions about a range of physical geography topics. I have not yet analyzed the data from these tests.

I have been assessing individual student learning using tests (short answer and multiple choice) and a semester-long group project (four assignments and a paper). In the lab, I evaluate students' progress based on their field notes and three more formal lab reports.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 3.2MB Jun23 06)

References and Notes:

Required text:
Strahler, A. and A. Strahler, 2006, Introducing Physical Geography 4th ed., Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 752 pp.
An atlas is also highly recommended.
(Last year, when I assigned the lab submitted to the quantitative skills workshop, I used:
McKnight, T.L. and D. Hess, 2004, Physical Geography: A Landscape Appreciation, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 640 pp.)