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

Paper No. 38
Presentation Time: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM


LINDSAY, Thomas C., Geology, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, SHAW, Barbara J., Biology, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207 and CUMMINGS, Michael L., Geology Department, Portland State Univ, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207, tcl@pdx.edu

“Life of the Past” is the survey of life on Earth based on the fossil record. The objective of this course is to invite the students into a discussion of the evolution of life on Earth via natural selection based upon physical evidence. It emphasizes the physical processes of the planet and the biological evolution of life. The varied time-oriented biological and physical evidence discussed emphasize the observable, predictable and testable nature of science. This course is taken by non-major students at Portland State University. These students include science, social science, and arts and letters majors. This course is offered during the regular 10 week school terms, but during the summer is condensed into a four-week format. The summer course allows for the inclusion of two field trips, comprising 25% of the course credit. These trips include a one-day visit to Western Oregon where Miocene marine sedimentary and volcanic rocks are observed, and a two-day visit to Eastern Oregon where Cretaceous through Oligocene environments are studied. Each of these trips provide opportunities to observe and discuss these time periods as well as see and collect examples of organisms that lived in these areas at those times. The students become engaged with the environments. Personal observations, sketching, image collecting are strongly encouraged, with interpretation being the intrinsic motivation. The geologic and biologic processes observed are discussed among the class during the experiences. These experiences clearly represent some of the numerous lines of evidence that the Earth and life has changed and continues to do so throughout time. Ongoing evolution of the physical and biological arenas is concluded to be the best scientific explanations for these changes. Assessment of the changes in students' cognition of time and change is determined through the administration of a rigorous pre- and post-test instrument which has been successfully applied by other researchers as measures of students' ability to reconstruct geologic structures and systems that have developed over time. Results show that students' cognition significantly improved in understanding concepts of change. Their ability to model multi-dimensional processes was markedly enhanced.