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CCOG for G 201 Winter 2024

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Course Number:
G 201
Course Title:
Earth Materials and Tectonics
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:

Course Description

Introduces physical geology which deals with minerals, rocks, internal structure of the earth, and plate tectonics. Prerequisites: (WR 115 and RD 115) or IRW 115 and (MTH 95 or MTH 98) or equivalent placement. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Earth Materials and Tectonics (G 201) is intended for both geology majors and nonmajors, and is one term of a three course group of foundational college geology courses. G 201 introduces students to rocks and minerals as well as internally-driven geologic processes including earthquakes, volcanoes and plate tectonics.

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.
  • 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 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 the geologic processes which formed individual rock and mineral specimens using an understanding of rock and mineral characterization and classification.
  2. Explain the geographic distribution of Earth’s earthquake and volcanic activity using an understanding of plate tectonics. 
  3. Relate the occurrence of common rocks, minerals, and economic deposits to their plate tectonic setting. 
  4. Evaluate a solid earth processes-related problem or issue impacting our community or the environment using scientific reasoning based on field and/or laboratory and/or remote measurements and observations. 
  5. 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.

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

Course Activities and Design

The material in this course will be presented in a  lecture/discussion 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. 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