CCOG for G 147 Summer 2024

Course Number:
G 147
Course Title:
Geology of the National Parks of the United States
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Explores the geology found in the United States' national park system. Examines basic geologic processes which created park landscapes, and the role of society in creation, maintenance and enjoyment of the national park system. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Geology of the National Parks (G 147) is a one-term introductory course that covers basic concepts of geology while exploring the landscapes and geologic histories of our national parks.

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.

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. Explain how the geologic features of the national parks in the United States formed using an understanding of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and surface processes.
  2. Explain how scientists reconstruct the geologic history of various national parks in the United States using an understanding of geologic dating methods and the interpretation of geologic deposits.
  3. Evaluate an issue or problem impacting the national parks in the United States and their environment using scientific reasoning based on field and/or laboratory and/or remote measurements and observations.   
  4. Examine the role of United States' national park geology using the evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the creation and management of the United State's national park system in its historical and cultural context.

Quantitative Reasoning

Students completing an associate degree at Portland Community College will be able to analyze questions or problems that impact the community and/or environment using quantitative information.

General education philosophy statement

Geology and General Science Courses develop students’ understanding of their natural environment by introducing students to Earth, its processes, and its place in the larger scale of our solar system, galaxy, and the universe. Students learn how: • Earth is related to other terrestrial planets, • Plate tectonics drives volcanism and seismicity, • Surfaces and atmospheres evolve through time, setting the stage for the origin of life as well as mass extinctions, • Earth’s climate has changed via natural astronomical cycles interacting with the earth system’s (atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere) in the past and is changing presently due to anthropogenic causes. Students gain an appreciation for geologic time and the rate of Earth processes and learn the methods used by scientists to observe and study our planet and the universe beyond. Students are introduced to the foundational concepts of how to apply quantitative and qualitative reasoning skills to solve Earth and Space science problems, and they gain an appreciation for the processes that operate at these spatio-temporal scales. Students learn how internal and surficial Earth processes impact society giving them the context to better understand natural hazards, energy and resource distribution, and impact of humans on our habitat to participate in societal discussions and decisions about these topics in a responsible manner.

Aspirational Goals

Students who successfully complete this course should be able to:

1) Appreciate the history and geology of the national parks and their contribution to our evolving understanding of global change and sustainability while placing the development of the national park system in its historical and cultural context.
2) Become an Earth science literate citizen.
An Earth-science-literate citizen:
- understands the fundamental concepts of Earth’s many systems
- knows how to find and assess scientifically credible information about Earth
- communicates about Earth science in a meaningful way
- is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding Earth and its resources
(Supporting concepts can be found at Earth Science Literacy Initiative).

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

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 Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  1. Understand and use methods of scientific inquiry.
  2. Examine plate tectonics as an overarching theory of geology, connecting the interior of the Earth to surface features.
  3. Describe the major types of materials that make up the Earth's crust and explain how each material relates to the rock cycle.
  4. Interpret the origins of geologic features in America's national parks in terms of the interplay between tectonic, volcanic, and erosional processes.
  5. Relate the landscapes found in national parks to erosion and deposition by water, wind, ice and mass movements.
  6. Examine the geologic impacts of past and future climate, sea level and groundwater changes on national parks.
  7. Apply the principles used in radiometric and relative dating to the geologic history of the national parks.
  8. Outline the major events that have shaped North America's geologic history and describe parklands where features related to these events could be observed;
  9. Discuss the interaction of humanity with the national park system

Topics to be covered include:

Introduction to Course:
    Introduction to the National Park System
    Nature of scientific inquiry
    Minerals, rocks, and the rock cycle
    Concept of geologic time
Plate Tectonic Theory
    Connection to Interior - heat loss
    Divergent Boundary, continental rifting, and creation of passive margin
    Convergent Boundary, subduction zones, collisional mountain building, accreted terrains
    Transform Boundary
    Hot Spots, oceanic, continental
Building North America
Reworking by wind, water, ice - depth of coverage at instructor's discretion
    Mass wasting
 Interaction of parks with humanity
    Tourism - connection with individual students - toll of tourists on parks - finding balance
    Resource use - water depletion/contamination, mining, other resources