Teacher Preparation > Supporting Preservice Teachers > Browse Teacher Preparation Courses > Minnesota State University, Mankato: Our Geologic Environment

Our Geologic Environment

Course Type:
General Education - Lab Science

Course Size:
Lecture/Lab 72/24

Course Summary
Students examine mudflats in Sioux quartzite at Jeffers Petroglyphs National Monument

Our Geologic Environment is a general education course designed to help non-science majors gain a broad understanding of the natural functioning of the Earth system and humanity's interaction with and dependence on it. Meeting for 2 hours of lecture and 2 hours of lab per week, requires the course to focus on major geologic themes. Students engage in inquiry and the scientific method for individual laboratory activities but also for larger group projects. The entire course is erected within the frame work of individual students' examination of self-selected 'Special Places'. These individual case studies give students a personalized investigation of a specific landscape of importance to them, demonstrating the importance of geology to their own lives. The course uses a mix of group and individual assessments to encourage learning and success while serving different learning styles.

For Dr. Moosavi's reflections on the course and its design, see Our Geologic Environment: Role in the Program.

Course Context:

Our geologic environment is a general education course designed for students not majoring in a physical science. The course fulfills 3 general education categories including lab science, physical science and man & environment. High demand relative to supply causes most students in this course to be juniors and seniors who register before students with fewer credits. Students from all majors are represented though science majors are generally lacking unless a student has a specific interest in geology. Construction management majors have this course recommended as the only earth science course many have the opportunity to take. Most of the students can be described as science phobic having taken no earth science since middle school and potentially no other science in college when they enter this course. The content taught in this course has parallels to the requirements found in the companion courses Earth & Space Systems and Earth Science for Elementary Educators also profiled on this site.

Course Goals:

This course introduces students to the physical foundation of our world by focusing on fundamental concepts from geology. How the methods of inquiry used in science can contribute to human understanding and the role that geology plays in human affairs are also key goals to the general education categories fulfilled by Our Geologic Environment.
  1. Students complete a writing-intensive, place-based case study of a specific Special Place of their choosing.
  2. Students gain a broad understanding of the what and why behind the physical and chemical foundation of our world in order to accurately assess environmental information used to make educated decisions pertaining to natural resource and environmental issues.
  3. Students are exposed to a broad overview of the structure and processes occurring on earth addressing the fundamental question of why the natural world is the way it is.
  4. Students gain experience in observing natural processes and insight into how science strives to determine the interrelationships between earth, water, atmosphere and biosphere in an objective manner before examining the subjective aspects of natural resource and environmental decisions.
  5. Student practice group research and presentation skills in conducting detailed projects on specific environmental issues.

Course Content:

Our Geologic Environment is a broad geology survey course covering topcis typical of a 100 level introductory geology course. Unlike most such courses, however, this course is built around student driven inquiry into a special place of the student's choice.
  • Special Place Project
    For details on the Special Place Project and research regarding its effectiveness please contact Dr. Moosavi
  • Earth/Atmosphere Formation
  • Minerals
  • Rocks - Rock Cycle
  • Maps
  • Earth's Interior
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Earth Quakes
  • Stratigraphy
  • Volcanism
  • Glaciology-Ice Ages
  • Soils/Weathering/Mass Wasting
  • Ground Water Quality & Pollution
  • Hydrologic Cycle/Stream Valleys
  • Rivers/Floods
  • Coastal Processes/Erosion
  • Energy
  • Climate Change

Teaching Materials:

Materials available for this course on this website include:
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 48kB Aug17 05)Listing of course requirements.


Assessment in Our Geologic Environment serves the dual purpose of monitoring student learning and encouraing student inquiry and learning. It occurs against the backdrop of a large course with a combined lecture and multiple smaller laboratory sections in which the logistics of course management require a compromise between individualized attention and limited faculty time. individual performance is assessed across all lab sections in tests, quizzes, and some class projects. Group assessment occurs in other projects and lab exercises with all students receiving an identical grade unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise. Students in this course are assessed in 3 roughly equal parts by:

References and Notes:

This is a very popular course whose growth remains stymied by staffing limitations. A frequent comment received orally and in evaluations is student regret that they had not discovered earth science sooner or they might have chosen to study it. MSU does not offer a geology major; students showing such an interest must transfer to pursue it.