2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


KORTZ, Karen M., Physics Department, Community College of Rhode Island, 1762 Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI 02865, kkortz@ccri.edu

The majority of students taking Introduction to Physical Geology and Introduction to Oceanography at the Community College of Rhode Island take the course to satisfy the lab science requirement. In both courses, the planets are discussed to reinforce and highlight topics throughout the semester. Short interactive exercises are embedded in the lectures to give the students opportunity for inquiry-based learning and to assess students' understanding of material. For example, the distribution, morphology, and composition of volcanoes on Mars and Venus are compared to hotspot and subduction-zone volcanoes on Earth. In a different exercise, we explore the effects of the lack of oceans on Venus and Venus' resulting high atmospheric content of carbon dioxide and extremely high temperatures. Other examples of exercises and discussions about the planets include observation of surface features on the Earth-like planets and the resulting interpretations that can be made, meteorites and the interior of the Earth, and hydrothermal vents on Earth and Europa. Since the exercises take less than 15 minutes of class time, they are easy to incorporate into existing courses without dramatically changing them. The details of these and other planetary examples are included on the poster.

At the end of each semester, I surveyed the students (51 in geology and 26 in oceanography) to find out their perspective on the inclusion of planetary topics in the course. The survey shows that students enjoy planetary topics (91% enjoy learning about other planets), and 74% of the students feel that learning about the planets enhances their understanding of geology or oceanography on Earth. Few students (14%) believe that planetary topics should not be included in the course. Moreover, based on exit course evaluations, students feel that the embedded exercises are a benefit. This study shows that it is easy to incorporate planetary information in an Earth science course, and students respond favorably to its inclusion.