2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 5:00 PM


SMAGLIK, Suzanne M., Chemistry & Geology, Central Wyoming College, 2660 Peck Ave, Riverton, WY 82501 and MCALLISTER, Steve, Biology, Central Wyoming College, 2660 Peck Ave, Riverton, WY 82501, ssmaglik@cwc.edu

We are currently teaching Historical Geology as a team-led lab science course for non-majors. Two instructors, one geologist and one biologist, share the responsibility of providing an exciting learning experience. A textbook is used as reference material only, and a variety of assessments, including some student-designed, are used. Plate tectonics, climate change and organic evolution are integrated themes throughout the course. Instructors lead the first part of the course, teaching the principles of geologic time, Earth materials, life and organic evolution, stratigraphy, structure and plate tectonics. Some of this is done with the traditional lecture-lab format, but most is done using hands-on exercises, such as “Earth as a One-year Movie,” mineral exploration, M&M genetics and ocean discovery. The rest of the course is led by the students. The class is divided into three groups corresponding to the Phanerozoic eras. Each of these groups can divide the assigned tasks as they wish, by Period, event or topic. Each group must design and produce a time-line that emphasizes continent formation and position, major tectonic events, climate change, existent life and extinctions, and anthing else they think is interesting or relevent. These time-lines are used as tools in their presentations, which must include active-learning activities. Creating the time-lines generates a great deal of excitement in the learning process. The culmination of the course is an exercise titled “The Puzzle of North America.” After completing a jigsaw puzzle of the geology of the contiguous United States, questions are answered regarding the geologic and biologic histories of each physiographic province. While the students do not gain the detailed knowledge of American stratigraphy as in a traditional historical geology course, they grasp the daunting concepts of “deep” time and how the evolution of the life on Earth is intimately tied to climate and the evolution of the planet, and have fun doing so.