Author:
Rondi Davies
Subject:
Geology, Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Full Course, Lesson, Lesson Plan, Textbook
Level:
Community College / Lower Division
Tags:
5E Learning, 5E learning, 5e-learning, American Museum of Natural History, Climate Change, Community College, Earth Science, Earthquakes, Fire Island, Fordham Gneiss, Fordham gneiss, Geography of New York, Geology, Glacial Landforms, Hall of Planet Earth, Hurricane Sandy, Igneous Rocks, Interpretation, Inwood Marble, Inwood marble, Long Island, Manhattan Schist, Manhattan schist, Metamorphic Rocks, Mineral Resources, Non-major Students, Observation, Place-based, Plate Tectonics, Sedimentary Rocks, american-museum-of-natural-history, climate change, climate-change, community college, community-college, earth science, earth-science, earthquakes, fire-island, fordham-gneiss, geography of New York, geography-of-new-york, geology, glacial landforms, glacial-landforms, hall-of-planet-earth, hurricane-sandy, igneous rocks, igneous-rocks, interpretation, inwood-marble, long-island, manhattan-schist, metamorphic rocks, metamorphic-rocks, mineral resources, mineral-resources, non-major students, non-major-students, observation, place-based, plate tectonics, plate-tectonics, sedimentary rocks, sedimentary-rocks
License:
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
Language:
English

Course Alignments

Geology Online Lab Activities for Community College Students

Geology Online Lab Activities for Community College Students

Overview

The online geology lab for community college students was developed during two years of forced online synchronous learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This open educational resource is a cohesive laboratory manual intended for two-year, non-major college students from the New York area.

Each lab is accompanied by a Teacher’s Guide and an online answer sheet (formatted for the Blackboard learning management system). A multiple-choice format is used for many questions, making the labs easy to grade.

All Materials: Geology Online Lab Activities for Community College Students © 2022 by Rondi Davies is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

This section contains all materials for the entire lab activity manual. In the following sections you will find the 12 stand alone labs with teachers guide's and online worksheets formatted for Blackboard.

The online geology lab for community college students was developed by Dr. Rondi Davies, a faculty member at Queensborough Community College, City University New York, during two years of forced online synchronous learning brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. This open educational resource collects many of Dr. Davies’ favorite open-access materials and supplements them with her own work within a single, cohesive laboratory manual intended for two-year, non-major college students from the New York area.

Dr. Davies wanted to develop labs that were fun, engaging, and that excited students about the subject, were relevant to their lives, helped them to grow as scientists, and even opened their minds to the possibility of a career in STEM and the geosciences. Strategies adopted to achieve these goals include collecting and interpreting data to simulate the scientific process and develop student confidence and self-efficacy, sketching, role-playing as a scientist, and reasoning by analogy to help students feel appreciated and valued.

To enhance relevance and meaning-making, the labs are grounded in the geologic history of New York. Each lab is structured to meet students at their level of knowledge and build on what they know. They follow a 5E instructional approach (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate; Bybee et al., 2006), which is based in educational theory about how students learn and fosters conceptual change. The labs also use anchoring phenomena and modeling to engage students and show their learning.

Each of the twelve labs was designed to be covered in a three-hour class within a 15-week semester. The introductory lab is about observation and interpretation and how the process of science is much like solving a mystery. Mineral resources, plate tectonics, and igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks provide much of the foundational material. This is followed by more exploratory labs on earthquakes, the glacial and geological history of New York, and climate change. The final lab, an in-person or online field trip guide to the Hall of Planet Earth at the American Museum of Natural History, draws on all the topics covered in previous labs.

Each lab is accompanied by a Teacher’s Guide and an online answer sheet (formatted for the Blackboard learning management system). A multiple-choice format is used for many questions, making the labs easy to grade.

The materials were developed, tested, and refined over two years of synchronous remote learning between 2019 and 2021. Although developed for online learning, they can easily be utilized for in-person classes.

1. How do scientists study Earth? Observing and interpreting phenomena are the foundation of the endeavor of science.

Purpose

The main goal of this lab is to become familiar with the idea that geology is something tangible and that it affects the world around you. You should be inspired to ask questions about how geologic processes shaped the world and make observations to answer those questions. You will explore the concepts that geology is a historical science; that scientific endeavor, like geology, is based on incomplete evidence; and that scientific endeavor is uncertain because it is a human activity and thus filled with biases.

 

Learning objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Discuss how geology is a lot like detective work.
  2. Explain the difference between observation and interpretation.
  3. Explain how an interpretation in geology (and crime) requires ordering a sequence of events.
  4. Explain how science explanations are less certain when they are based on indirect information.
  5. Discuss how in science there is not an exact answer, rather a best answer.

 

2. Mineral resources and how we use them. What’s inside my cellphone?

Introduction

Minerals are the building blocks of rocks and the Earth. To understand rocks we need to become familiar with minerals and their properties. Minerals are also important because they are used in almost everything around us including electronics, ceramics, construction materials, and jewelry.

 

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to explore what a mineral is, how the properties and abundance of these natural resources are harnessed for uses in our everyday lives, and how they are a finite resource having formed in the Earth over long periods of time.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Define minerals and mineral resources.
  2. Give examples of mineral resources and products that contain them.
  3. Summarize the properties that make minerals useful.
  4. Explain why minerals are a finite resource.

3. What are the different types of plate boundaries? How was Marie Tharp instrumental in the discovery of plate tectonics?

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to discover the types of plate boundaries through observing, describing, and classifying data.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Observe patterns that occur at Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries.
  2. Draw the features that form at plate boundaries.
  3. Explain how earth scientists classify plate boundaries.
  4. Explain that plate boundaries are where the Earth is dynamic; this is where most earthquakes and volcanoes occur.

4. How do we classify igneous rocks, and where do they form? How are the crystalline rocks of the Palisades and the bear den different?

Introduction

Igneous rock (from the Latin word ignis for fire) is one of the three main types of rocks (the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rocks). Igneous rocks form when molten magma inside the Earth, near active plate boundaries or hotspots, rises towards the surface and cools. Mineral crystals and, sometimes, glass solidify from the magma to form a rock.

 

Purpose

In the following exercises you will become familiar with the compositions and cooling histories of igneous rocks. You will learn how to identify common igneous rocks based on color and texture, determine the mineral make-up of common igneous rocks, and determine the relationships between igneous rock compositions and tectonic setting.

 

Learning objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Explain how igneous rocks form underground and above ground.
  2. Explain how to determine the cooling history of igneous rocks based on rock texture.
  3. Explain how to determine the composition of igneous rocks based on rock color.
  4. Explain how igneous rocks of the same composition but different cooling histories have different textures but the same distribution of minerals.
  5. Explain the relationship between igneous rock composition and tectonic setting.

5. What do sedimentary rocks tell us about the past? What were the conditions like when the sedimentary rocks of the Feltville formation were deposited?

Introduction

Any rock at the Earth’s surface is being slowly changed by the processes of weathering. This produces new materials called sediments. A sediment consists of loose grains of broken-down rock, shells, or plant debris. Sedimentary rocks form either when sediments are compacted and cemented together, or when dissolved minerals precipitate or solidify from water solutions near Earth’s surface. Sedimentary rocks record past environments and past lifeforms in the fossil record. By matching modern environments where a distinct type of sediment is forming today to sedimentary rocks with similar characteristics, we can learn about past environments on Earth.

 

Purpose

In the following exercises you will learn how to identify and classify common sedimentary rocks based on their textures and properties, determine the depositional histories of common sedimentary rocks, and determine the relationships between sedimentary rock types and past environments.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Classify sedimentary rocks based on their characteristics (grain size, grain shape, grain sorting, and composition) and determine their depositional environments.
  2. Explain the different environments in which sedimentary rocks form.

6. How can we read metamorphic rocks? How did the Manhattan schist form?

Purpose

In the following exercises you will become familiar with textures, compositions, and grades of common metamorphic rocks. You will learn how to identify metamorphic rocks and understand the processes that form them.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Explain how parent rocks (protoliths) are changed by metamorphism.
  2. Explain the difference between foliated and non-foliated metamorphic rock textures.
  3. Explain how metamorphic rock textures can lead to determining the rock’s composition, grade, and name.

7. How do scientists measure earthquakes? Where and how often do earthquakes occur?

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to become familiar with what an earthquake is, what causes earthquakes to occur, the types of waves generated by earthquakes, and how the waves are measured and used to locate an earthquake epicenter. In addition, earthquake probability and hazard and recent earthquake occurrences are explored.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Explain how earthquakes occur.
  2. List the types of waves generated during an earthquake.
  3. Explain how to measure the distance to the epicenter of an earthquake using a seismogram.
  4. Explain how seismic wave amplitude relates to earthquake size and proximity.
  5. Explain how the probability of an earthquake relates to the recurrence of earthquakes over time and informs the development of earthquake hazard maps.
  6. Explain that earthquakes are happening all the time and are monitored with seismic networks.

8. How do we measure geological time? How have geologists determined the ages of the sedimentary and igneous rocks of the Newark Basin?

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to understand the vast scale of geological time, the two ways geological time is measured (relative and absolute dating), and how geologists apply the principles of relative and absolute dating to determine the age of rocks.

 

Learning Objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Explain the geological timescale and how the different units are defined based on the history of life.
  2. Apply the principles of relative dating to determine an order of events for rock formation.
  3. Use a model to explain how radioactive decay is a random process.
  4. Apply relative and absolute dating methods to determine the age of rocks.

 

9. Glacial Landforms of New York How have glaciers changed New York?

 

This is a two-part lab.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Observe changes in glaciers and landscapes.
  2. Sketch a glacial landscape.
  3. Measure glacier advance and retreat.
  4. Graph glacial retreat data and make an interpretation.
  5. Explain how a glacial landform is created.
  6. Sketch glacial features.
  7. Create a group analogy for a glacial feature.
  8. Identify and interpret evidence for glacial activity at locations in New York State.
  9. Connect glacial evidence to past climate.
  10. Write a detailed report as a lead scientist.
  11. Describe and sketch glacial landforms.
  12. Describe and sketch glacial formations and processes.

10. Geography and Landforms of New York How did Long Island get its shape?

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to become familiar with the geographical locations of the boroughs of New York City and counties of Long Island and the landform characteristics of the provinces of New York State. The lab focuses on the landforms of Long Island, which formed by glacier advance and retreat and coastal processes.

 

Learning objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Identify the boroughs of New York City and the counties of Long Island on a map.
  2. Explain how glacial and sedimentary processes formed Long Island, NY.
  3. Map rock types of Long Island onto a map and draw a topographic profile.
  4. Define latitude and longitude and read coordinates from an online map.
  5. Describe erosion and depositional features that created the landform of Long Island, NY.

11.1 How is climate changing? How is sea level rise impacting New York City?

Purpose

The purpose of this lab is to become familiar with data used to determine changes in climate, both present and past, and what these changes mean for the future. Students will observe and interpret images and graphs depicting current and past climate data and find evidence for rapid changes to climate today resulting from human activities.

 

Learning objectives

After doing this lab you will be able to:

  1. Discuss sea level changes in New York.
  2. Explain that gravity satellite data is recording a decline in ice cover over Greenland and the implications for sea level rise.
  3. Explain how atmospheric carbon dioxide or CO2 and temperature are interconnected; increases in CO2 over time lead to increases in temperature.
  4. Explain how climate warming and cooling is a natural process.
  5. Explain that the rates of warming today are rapid and accelerating compared to the past.
  6. Explain that humans are the cause for warming today.

11.2 How is climate changing? Climate change science videos

Watch the four climate change videos and answer the following questions.

12.1 AMNH Hall of Planet Earth Field Trip

Address: Central Park West at 79th St, New York, NY 10024

Opening hours: 10 AM to 5:45 PM Wednesday to Sunday

Subways: B or C to 81Street Station

At the museum: Upon entry, pick up a floor plan, and head to the Hall of Planet Earth on the First Floor.

There is an in-person and online version of this lab. The questions are different for each modality.