Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
GS 106
Course Title:
Physical Science (Geology)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Covers minerals, rocks, volcanism, earthquakes, plate tectonics, erosion and deposition by wind, glaciers and streams, weathering, fossils and geologic history. Includes weekly lab. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 65 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The purpose of this course is to gain knowledge and appreciation of geology through lecture/discussion sessions and laboratory experiences. It is a one-term survey course that may be included as part of the years sequence in physical science for college transfer credit.  

The course will have as many of the following components as feasible:  lectures, discussions, lab activities, videos, slides, CDs, live television, field trips, and computer-aided instruction.  

The text and materials for the course have been chosen by the faculty, and viewpoints shall be that of the author(s). This includes the topics of relativity, the geologic time scale, evolution of the Earth and its atmosphere, the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe.  

Regarding the teaching of basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology Department stands by the following statements about what is science. 

  • Science is a fundamentally non-dogmatic and self-correcting investigatory process.  A scientific theory is neither a guess, dogma, nor myth.  The theories developed through scientific investigation are not decided in advance, but can be and often are modified and revised through observation and experimentation. 
  • €œCreation science,€ also known as scientific creationism, is not considered a 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). 
  • Geology instructors at Portland Community College will teach the generally accepted basic geologic principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution) not as absolute truth, but as the most widely accepted explanation for our observations of the world around us.  Instructors will not teach that €œcreation science€ is anything other than pseudoscience.  
  • Because "creation science", "scientific creationism", and "intelligent design" are essentially religious doctrines that are at odds with open scientific inquiry, the Geology/General Sciences SAC at Portland Community College stands with such organizations such as the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geological Institute in excluding these doctrines from our science curriculum.
  • Students are expected to be able to read and comprehend college-level science texts and perform basic mathematical operations to successfully complete this course.

Intended Outcomes for the course

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

  1. Use an understanding of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and surface processes to explain how the Earth€™s surface wears away and is renewed.
  2. Use an understanding of geologic dating methods and the interpretation of geologic deposits to explain how geologists reconstruct the history of the Earth.
  3. Access earth science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of geologic processes identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory based observations and measurements of earth materials and landscapes, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current models of geologic 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 geologic processes both to themselves and society as a whole, evaluate the efficacy of possible ethically robust responses to these risks, and effectively communicate the results of this analysis to their peers.
  6. Assess the contributions of geology to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of geology in its historical and cultural context.

Course Activities and Design

The laboratory is not separated from the lecture but will usually be correlated in such a way as to reinforce the materials being discussed in the lecture session. It is necessary for the student to successfully complete the laboratory section of the course in order to earn a grade for the course. Math will occasionally be used for solving simple ratio problems, as will be the use of maps and graphs.  

Outcome Assessment Strategies

The instructor will choose from the following methods of assessment:  exams, quizzes, lab exercises, written reports, oral presentations, group projects, class participation, homework assignments, and field trips. The instructor shall detail the methods being used to the students at the beginning of the course.  

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

(NOTE: the topics may be chosen in any order by the instructor)  

  • Explain rock and mineral classification and identification
  • Explain how these materials form and how they are related to each other
  • Describe the major types of landscapes that make up the earth€™s surface and how they are formed
  • Describe the earth€™s internal structure and the processes shaping it
  • Explain the relationship between the processes that shape landscapes and those that shape internal structure.
  • Explain the relationship between the processes that shape landscapes and structure and those that form crustal materials
  • Explain how geologic histories are constructed
  • Identify the major parts of and events in the geologic calendar
  • Discuss the personal and societal relevance of these topics

Topics to be covered include: 

Geologic materials 

  • Minerals €“ Properties, classification, and chemistry

  • Igneous rocks €“ Identification and classification

  • Magmas and magmatic cooling €“ Volcanism and intrusion

  • Sediments and weathering

  • Sedimentary rocks€“ Identification and classification

  • Lithification

  • Metamorphic rocks €“ Identification and classification

  • Metamorphism- settings and processes

Landscapes and landscaping processes 

  • Global topography and structure

  • Topographic and geologic maps

  • Mass wasting and related landscapes

  • Streams and related landscapes

  • Glacial systems and related landscapes

  • Groundwater systems and related landscapes

  • Crustal deformation and related structures (folds and faults)

  • Earthquakes and plate tectonics

Historical geology

  • Fossils and stratigraphy

  • Relative and absolute dating techniques

  • Geologic time scale; major events in Earth history