Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Course Content and Outcomes Guide for GS 108 Effective Spring 2021

Course Number:
GS 108
Course Title:
Physical Science (Oceanography)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Explores the chemical, biological, physical, and geological nature of the oceans. Includes a weekly lab. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and (MTH 58 or MTH 65) or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The purpose of this course is to gain knowledge and appreciation of oceanography. This one-term survey course can be used to partially fulfill General Education/Discipline Studies graduation requirements for the Associate Degrees and has been approved for block transfer. 

The faculty has chosen the text and lab materials and the viewpoints shall be that of the author(s). This includes the topics of relativity, the geologic time scale, and the evolution of the Earth, solar system, and the galaxy and universe.

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

Field Based Learning Statement

Earth and space sciences are based on observations, measurements and samples collected in the field. Field-based learning is recommended by numerous professional Geology organizations, including the American Geological Institute and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Field-based learning improves both metacognition and spatial/visualization abilities while helping to transfer basic concepts to long-term memory by engaging multiple senses at the same time. Spatial thinking is critical to success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines. Field work may include:

  • Developing skills in site characterization
  • Application of key terms and concepts
  • Measurement and data collection
  • Interpretation of data and observations, and fitting them to a larger context

Field work may be physically challenging and may require overland travel on foot or other means to field sites, carrying equipment and supplies, and making measurements in unusual or awkward positions for a length of time.  Field work may include inherent risks (uneven terrain, variable weather, insects, environmental irritants, travel stress, etc.). Field work can be adapted to individual abilities.

Creation Science Statement

Regarding the teaching of basic scientific principles (such as geologic time and the theory of evolution), the Portland Community College Geology/General Science Subject Area Committee 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. 
  • “Creation 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/General Science 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 “creation 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.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Use an understanding of waves, tides, and coastal processes to explain the development and functioning of beaches, shorelines, and estuaries.
  2. Use an understanding of ocean structure and processes to explain the spatial and temporal distribution of biological productivity in the world ocean.
  3. Access ocean science information from a variety of sources, evaluate the quality of this information, and compare this information with current models of ocean processes, identifying areas of congruence and discrepancy.
  4. Make field and laboratory-based observations and measurements of ocean materials and marine processes, use scientific reasoning to interpret these observations and measurements, and compare the results with current models of ocean 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 ocean 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 oceanography to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of oceanography in its historical and cultural context.

Course Activities and Design

The material in this course will be presented in a lecture/discussion format accompanied by laboratory exercises. Other educationally sound methods may be employed such as guest lectures, field trips, research papers, presentations and small group work.  

Outcome Assessment Strategies

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

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

(note: topics may be selected in any order by each instructor)  

  • Explain the nature and history of oceanography as a science
  • Discuss the structure and evolution of the earth’s ocean basins and coastlines.
  • Discuss the mechanics of waves, currents, and tides
  • Describe the major chemical and physical properties of seawater and the interaction of these properties.
  • Discuss marine biology in terms of habitats and zones, life in the oceans.
  • Discuss how humans impact the marine environment in terms of resources from the sea and marine pollution.
  • Other topics as desired by the instructor.

Topics to be covered include: 

Oceanography as a science 

  • The scientific method as it applies to oceanography
  • Major divisions of oceanography
  • Brief history of oceanography

Marine geology 

  • Major seafloor features and bathymetric mapping
  • The earth’s internal structure and structure of oceanic crust
  • Surficial processes related to the oceans – Mass wasting, stream flow, groundwater, glaciers, wind, waves, and ocean currents
  • Tectonic processes related to the oceans – Volcanism, crustal deformation, and plate tectonics.
  • Major rock types
  • Seafloor sediment – Classification, formation, and distribution

Physical oceanography 

  • Seawater - Physical properties, measurement, and geography
  • Surface and deep ocean currents – Mechanics, measurement, and geography
  • Waves – Basics physics and types
  • Tides – Mechanics, measurement, and prediction

Marine biology

  • Marine organisms and adaptation
  • Marine organisms and ecological relationships – Food webs, energy flow, and populations
  • Marine environments – Types, physical conditions, inhabitants and adaptations, ecological relationships.
  • Human impact – The impact of resource extraction from and contamination of marine environments.