Introduction to Earth Sciences

Important Notice

This course is not active. Please contact Department Chair for more information.

Science & Technology
Earth & Environmental Sciences
Course Code
GEOL 1120
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
An introductory course focusing on physical geology. Topics include minerals, rocks (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic), plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanic activity, Earth resources, geologic time, and the many processes that have shaped the Earth. The course includes practical hands-on labs and some sections may have a field trip schedules outside class time.
Course Content

Instructional Topics:

  1. Earth Science: Atmosphere/Biosphere/Hydrosphere/Lithosphere, rock cycle, earth time, scientific theory, uniformitarianism, earth science and society, careers
  2. Minerals: Composition, crystal structure, and identification
  3. Igneous Rocks: Composition, texture, classification, identification, formation, intrusive and extrusive activity and structures
  4. Sedimentary Rocks: Composition, texture, classification, identification, formation, weathering and erosion soils, sedimentary processes
  5. Metamorphic Rocks: Composition, texture, classification, identification, formation, agents of change
  6. Interior of the Earth: Structure of the Earth, Plate tectonics, Earthquakes, Oceanic and Continental crust, structural deformation
  7. Surface of Earth: Mass wasting, running water, ground water, glaciation, wind, deserts, shorelines and nearshore environments, ocean floor
  8. The Universe: Origin, solar system, Earth/moon
  9. Resources and the Environment: Minerals, fossil fuels, groundwater, global environmental issues

Lab topics may include:

  1. Mineral
  2. Igneous Rocks
  3. Sedimentary Rocks
  4. Metamorphic Rocks
  5. Topographic and geologic map interpretation, profiles
  6. Geochronology 
Learning Activities

2 hours per week lectures

2 hours per week lab

Lecture and labs may be supplemented by videos, slide or film presentations, and by field trips.  Textbook and other readings will be assigned to supplement the lectures

Means of Assessment
Lab Assignments 5 - 15%
Lab Exams 20 - 40%
Term Paper/Project 0 - 15%
Midterm Exams 20 - 30%
Final Exam 30%


Learning Outcomes
  1. Geology as a Science
  • Understand the nature of science and its strategies
  • Understand the difference between experimental and historical (interpretive) sciences
  • Develop critical thinking skills in assessing evidence and interpretations (observation/inference/opinion)
  • Understand the role of time perspective in geological investigations: time as the fourth dimension
  • Understand the place of geology vis-à-vis other disciplines
  • Earth Materials 
    • Understand the nature and relationships of rocks and minerals, and the reasons for their classification
    • Knowledge of the basic groups of minerals based on composition and structure
    • Understand the structural basis of silicate mineral classification
    • Know how to identify a basic suite of minerals by application of specific (diagnostic) observational criteria
    • Knowledge of the basic rock groups and their relationships in the rock cycle
    • Understand the roles of texture and composition in rock classification
    • Know how to identify a basic suite of rocks by application of specific (diagnostic/continuum-based) observational criteria
    • Understand the chemical and structural basis for mineral and rock behaviour in natural environments (P/T responses) as a basis for process studies
    • Understand the place of rocks and minerals in the global system (lithosphere-biosphere-hydrosphere-atmosphere)
  • Earth Processes 
    • Understand the relationships between materials and processes and the range of interactions
    • Understand the role of observation and time perspective in inference of earth processes
    • Earth surface processes as linked to subsurface processes by unifying theory of plate tectonics
      • Understanding of basis of plate tectonic theory
      • Knowing a wide range of earth surface processes (both constructional and denudational) as illustrations of the great variety possible
      • Knowing a wide range of subsurface processes (tectonic, P/T, seismic, magmatic, etc.) as illustrations of the great variety possible
    • Development of a strong understanding of the shared roles of subsurface and surface processes as expressed in landforms
    • Understand the scope of geomorphology from landform to landscape to megageomorphology
    • Understand the relationships between natural processes and “hazards” 
  • World, Regional, and Local Examples as Illustrations of Plate Tectonics Theory: knowing a range of examples to apply and illustrate understanding
  • Development of skills in 3-dimenstional thinking and visualization from more 2-dimensional inputs
  • Development of ability to communicate understandings to peers (general public) as informed citizens
  • Textbook Materials

    Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

    Monroe, J. S. and Wicander, R., Physical Geology, Exploring the Earth, Brooks/Cole/Thompson Learning, latest edition.



    No prerequisite courses.


    No corequisite courses.


    No equivalent courses.

    Course Guidelines

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    Institution Transfer Details for GEOL 1120
    There are no applicable transfer credits for this course.

    Course Offerings

    Winter 2024