Course Number:
G 201
Transcript Title:
Physical Geology
Aug 11, 2022
Jul 11, 2023
Total Credits:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture / Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement:
Satisfies General Education requirement:
Grading Options
A-F, P/NP, Audit
Default Grading Options
Repeats available for credit:

MTH 95 or equivalent placement

Prerequisite / Concurrent

WR 121 or WR 121Z

Course Description

Introduces physical geology which deals with minerals, rocks, internal structure of the earth and plate tectonics. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisite: MTH 95 or equivalent placement. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121 or WR 121Z. Audit available.

Course Outcomes

A student who successfully completes this course should be able to:

  1. Use an understanding of rock and mineral characterization and classification to infer the geologic processes which formed individual rock and mineral specimens.
  2. Analyze the development, scope, and limitations of plate tectonics and utilize plate tectonics to explain the Earth’s earthquake and volcanic activity as well as the occurrence of common rocks, minerals, and economic deposits.
  3. Access earth science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of solid earth processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory based observations and measurements of rocks and minerals and/or Earth’s internal process, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current models of solid earth processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  5. Use scientifically valid modes of inquiry, individually and collaboratively, to critically evaluate the hazards and risks posed by volcanoes and earthquakes both to themselves and society as a whole, evaluate the efficacy of possible ethically robust responses to these hazards and risks, and effectively communicate the results of this analysis to their peers.
  6. Assess the contributions of physical geology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of physical geology in its historical and cultural context.

Alignment with Institutional Learning Outcomes

1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)
2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)
3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)
Not Addressed
4. Use an understanding of cultural differences to constructively address issues that arise in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)
5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

To establish an intentional learning environment, Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) require a clear definition of instructional strategies, evidence of recurrent instruction, and employment of several assessment modes.

Major Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed recurrently in the curriculum, regularly enough to establish a thorough understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a thorough understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Minor Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed adequately in the curriculum, establishing fundamental understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a fundamental understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Suggested Outcome Assessment Strategies

At the beginning of the course, the instructor will detail the methods used to evaluate student progress and the criteria for assigning a course grade. The methods may include one or more of the following tools: examinations, quizzes, homework assignments, laboratory write-ups, research papers, small group problem solving of questions arising from application of course concepts and concerns to actual experience, oral presentations, or maintenance of a personal work journal.

Course Activities and Design

The determination of teaching strategies used in the delivery of outcomes is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: lecture, small group/forum discussion, flipped classroom, dyads, oral presentation, role play, simulation scenarios, group projects, service learning projects, hands-on lab, peer review/workshops, cooperative learning (jigsaw, fishbowl), inquiry based instruction, differentiated instruction (learning centers), graphic organizers, etc.

Course Content

  1. Distinguish between rocks and minerals.
  2. Describe the major types of materials that make up the Earth's crust and explain how each material relates to the rock cycle.
  3. Describe and use the properties involved in mineral identification.
  4. Classify commonly occurring minerals.
  5. Classify commonly occurring igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
  6. Develop an understanding of the origin, activity, structure, and kinds of volcanoes.
  7. Describe the relationship of volcanoes and earthquakes to plate tectonics.
  8. Understand how earthquakes are generated.
  9. Use three earthquake records to locate the epicenter of an earthquake.
  10. Describe how earthquakes can be used to study the interior of the Earth.
  11. Discuss the evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics.
  12. Examine weathering and the formation of soils (this topic may be covered in either G201 or G202 at the discretion of the instructor).
  13. Develop an understanding of the kinds and origins or geologic structures (this topic may be covered in either G201 or G202 at the discretion of the instructor).
  14. Examine the role of plate tectonics in shaping the surface of the Earth.
  15. Describe the structure and composition of the interior of the Earth.

Topics to be covered include:

  1. Minerals
    1. Chemistry and bonding
    2. Structure of atoms
    3. Identification (color, luster, streak, hardness, cleavage, fracture, other features)
    4. Terrestrial abundances of elements
  2. Igneous Rocks
    1. Formation and crystallization of magma (partial melting, Bowen’s reaction series)
    2. Classification (texture and chemistry)
    3. Intrusive rock structures (neck, dike, sill, batholith)
    4. Relationship to plate tectonics
  3. Volcanoes and Volcanism
    1. Relationship between magma chemistry and gas content and type of eruption
    2. Eruptive styles (effusive vs. pyroclastic)
    3. Volcanic Features associated with basaltic volcanism (shield volcano, cinder cone, columnar jointing, fire fountaining, lava channels/tubes, pillow lavas)
    4. Volcanic Features associated with andesitic/rhyolitic volcanism (composite cones/stratovolcanoes, calderas, domes)
    5. Volcanic hazards (lahars, gas emissions)
  4. Weathering (may be taught in G202 instead)
    1. Mechanical weathering (frost wedging, abrasion, exfoliation)
    2. Chemical weathering (dissolution/solution, oxidation, hydration)
    3. Factors that affect weathering rates
    4. Products of weathering (sand, clay, iron oxides/hydroxides)
    5. Soil structure
    6. Types of soils (pedocals, pedalfers, laterites)
  5. Sedimentary Rocks
    1. Sediment transport and texture (grain size and shape)
    2. Sedimentary structures (bedding (planar, graded, cross), mudcracks)
    3. Lithification (compaction and cementation)
    4. Classification of sediments (clastic/detrital: clay, silt, mud, sand, gravel vs. chemical)
    5. Classification of sedimentary rocks (clastic/detrital: shale, mudstone, siltstone, sandstone, arkose, greywacke, breccia, conglomerate vs. chemical: limestone, chert, coal, evaporates)
    6. Introduction to sedimentary depositional environments (may be left out)
  6. Metamorphic Rocks
    1. Conditions promoting metamorphism (heat, pressure, fluids)
    2. Types of metamorphism (contact, regional)
    3. Causes of foliation
    4. Common metamorphic rocks (slate, phyllite, schist, gneiss, marble, quartzite, hornfels)
    5. Relationship to plate tectonics
  7. Structural Geology (may be taught in G202 instead)
    1. Stress and strain
    2. Folds (syncline, anticline, dome, basin)
    3. Faults (normal, reverse, strike-slip)
    4. Strike and dip
    5. Mountain building and relation to stress
    6. Relationship to plate tectonics
  8. Earthquakes
    1. Epicenter vs. focus
    2. Seismic waves (P, S, surface)
    3. Magnitude scales vs. Intensity scale
    4. Locating an earthquake epicenter
    5. Earthquake hazards
    6. Relationship to plate tectonics
  9. Earth’s Interior
    1. Chemical layers of Earth (crust, mantle core) vs. Mechanical layers (lithosphere, asthenosphere, lower mantle/mesosphere, outer core, inner core)
    2. Using seismic waves to explore Earth’s interior
  10. Plate Tectonics
    1. Alfred Wegener and evidence for continental drift
    2. Magnetic reversals and sea-floor spreading
    3. Using hot spots to determine plate motions
    4. Rifting and the origin of ocean basins
    5. Features associated with each type of plate boundary (divergent, convergent, transform)
    6. Ophiolites
    7. Subduction and related volcanism
    8. Continental collisions and relationship to mountain building
    9. Convection as a driving force of plate tectonics

Department Notes

Physical Geology G201 is intended for both geology majors and nonmajors, and is the first term of a year of beginning college geology. Physical Geology is concerned with earth materials and geologic processes acting on the earth. G201 deals mainly with rocks and minerals, and introduces students to internally-driven geologic processes. This course can be used to partly fulfill graduation requirements for the Associate Degree, and has been approved for block transfer. The text and materials have been chosen by the faculty and the emphasis of the course will be the viewpoint of the author(s). This includes the concepts of geologic time and the evolution of the Earth.

Columbia Gorge Community College Science Department stands by the following statement about regarding science instruction:

Science is a fundamentally nondogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process. Theories (such as biological evolution and geologic time scale) are developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance. As such, scientific theories can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation. “Creation science", “Intelligent design” or similar beliefs are not considered legitimate science, but a form of religious advocacy. This position is established by legal precedence (Webster v. New Lenox School District #122, 917 F. 2d 1004).

The Science Department at Columbia Gorge Community College therefore stands with organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers in opposing the inclusion of pseudo-sciences in our science curricula except to reference and/or clarify its invalidity.

Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations in order to successfully complete this course.