Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 45-1
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


MARKLEY, Michelle, Geology & Geography, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075

“History of Earth” serves geology, environmental studies and other liberal arts majors at Mount Holyoke College. This course grew out of a department-wide initiative to design a suite of intermediate-level undergraduate geology and geography courses that would constitute an integrative curriculum in earth, human, and environmental sciences. Like most historical geology courses, History of Earth is a march through time, and each week includes 2-5 student oral presentations on new research relevant to the geologic period(s) covered that week. Each oral presentation reviews a paper published in Science, Nature, or Geology within the past year. These presentations serve to keep the content of the course fresh, to build student skills and confidence in formal oral presentations, and to introduce students to a wide array of subdisciplines and methodologies. The presentations also serve as springboards for writing assignments. Each student writes three brief (3-5 page long) scientific proposals, and each proposal uses one or more of the oral presentations (i.e. papers) as an inspiration or starting point. The style of argumentation required for a scientific proposal is unfamiliar to the typical undergraduate. A good proposal comprises three structural elements: (1) context: a brief review of the paper that is the springboard for the proposal, with the focused purpose of explaining why the published research is compelling and what unanswered questions it raises; (2) hypotheses: a clear statement of 2 - 3 scientific hypotheses that are testable and address some of these unanswered questions; and (3) proposed research: a detailed explanation of specific research to test the hypotheses (field data? computer models? laboratory experiments? modern analogs? why?). Many students find that these speaking and writing experiences help them critically assess the material in the textbook, engage more meaningfully with the published scientific literature, and prepare for senior research projects.