General Science 320: Earth Sciences
- On this page:
- Course Schedule
- Geological Column
- Email Participants
- Journal ideas
- Rock and Mineral
- Planetary Scavenger Hunt
- Project Ideas
- Lyell Focus Questions
- Hallam Focus Questions
- Web Links
(Links will be added to the above list when the pages become
Information and Description
Wood Science, Rm. 202 (cubicle in northwest
Wood Science Rm. 108
8 and 9 a.m.
Room 214: Lab days
Room 108: Class days
Mon & Wed, 11-noon
and before or after class, by chance or by
273-3989 (before 10 pm)
Virtual Office Hours by email, anytime! KVMagruder@mac.com
Friday evenings, 8 pm
GNSC 320 "Earth Sciences" is a junior level liberal arts course in
which students explore the phenomena associated with rocks, minerals,
fossils, and the Earth's present stratigraphical characteristics, and
examine the inferences that can be made from these about the Earth's
past. Meteorological phenomena, including weather patterns, storms
and clouds, and optical phenomena of the atmosphere are surveyed. The
Earth is placed in a planetary science context with an overview of
the features of the solar system. Emphasis throughout this liberal
arts course is given to foundations of knowledge and methods of
reasoning in the geosciences.
General Course Topics
See the Course schedule for details.
- Rocks and Minerals
- Present-day geological processes: Aqueous
- Present-day geological processes: Igneous
- Historical geology
- Geological Column
- Ice Ages
- Plate Tectonics
- Mass extinctions
- Clouds and the Atmosphere
- Storms and Weather Prediction
- Optical Phenomena of the Atmosphere
- Planetary Science:
- Various features of solar system objects are noted
whenever they are analogous to processes or phenomena on the
Earth (e.g., solar system volcanos are discussed along with
vulcanism on Earth).
- Students will complete a Planetary Scavenger Hunt web
- Other astronomy topics are covered in US
- Sky and Planetary Motions
- Star types
- Nebulae, Clusters, and other Deep Sky objects
- Cosmic Dimensions
- Cosmology, Big Bang
- Consider taking GNSC 250 Planetarium
Operations for constellation skylore!
Readings and Supplies
- John McPhee. The Control of Nature. New York:
Noonday Press; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989. ISBN:
- McPhee has more books (4) in the list of geologists' 20
favorite books than any other writer. This one will captivate
you and show you why geologists love geology. McPhee tells
three stories that masterfully illustrate the human
significance of present processes of geological change, and of
human attempts to control these processes. The first part deals
with the Louisiana contest between the Atchafalaya and the
Mississippi Rivers. Iceland's rugged volcanoes and the people
who live there are the focus of the second part. Finally, Los
Angeles' situation beneath the San Gabriel Mountains is
explored in the last part of the book.
- Stan Chernicoff, Essentials of Geology. Worth, 1997.
ISBN: 1-57259-109-9 (pbk).
- This beautifully-illustrated text provides an accessible
overview of geology. I think you'll be surprised: it is a
textbook you will actually enjoy reading.
- Ellen K. Peters, No Stone Unturned: Reasoning about Rocks
and Fossils. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1996. ISBN:
- Ms. Peters provides a refreshing emphasis on reasoning
methods and methodological problems in geology which
complements the factual orientation of the main text.
- Audubon Society Field Guide to Weather. Knopf, 1991.
- "This is the ultimate weather reference book. It's a
stunning collection of more than 200 pages that feature nearly
400 color plates.... You can match the sky to a color plate in
the book, look at the reference page, and learn all about the
cloud formation, including its significance in predicting
weather. If you buy but one weather book, let this be the one."
Ronald L. Wagner and Bill Adler, Jr., The Weather
Sourcebook, pp. 180-181. (If you buy a second weather book,
try The Weather Sourcebook !)
- Along with the rock and mineral collection, this field
guide provides the basis for the "lab" portion of the course.
Since there are no scheduled labs, watching the weather and
organizing a rock collection are essential outside of class
- There's a lot to do for this class! And there's a lot
of reading! Why is this so?
- This is a junior level course for liberal arts majors, so
expect the same workload and time commitment as you might
experience with other junior level courses.
- However, unlike many science classes, we do not have
scheduled laboratory periods--and geological fieldwork
can't be done in a laboratory anyway. To some extent you
will compensate for this lack vicariously, by reading of other
people's experiences. The detailed experiences reported by
McPhee, Peters, and Chernicoff are critical to the course, so
make time for them before the class periods for which they are
- You will soon see that geology has a unique character as a
historical science focussing upon particular
geographical places, and a host of specific experiences in a
variety of singular localities. More than a testable abstract
knowledge of general principles, to understand geology you will
need a large repertoire of memories in the field. In our case,
this field experience must be gained vicariously from the
books, web assignments, class slides and other visuals, videos,
journal assignments, rock collecting, etc.
- Protractor with pivot arm (a goniometer for measuring
crystal angles). This is the same protractor used as a skywatching
"quadrant" in US 311 Nat
- An Email address and regular access to the World Wide
- Earth Sciences Field Pack. A lab fee will be charged to your
university account for the following materials, to be distributed
- 48 rock and mineral specimens, unlabelled
- Magnifying glass
- Ceramic streak plate
- HCl test bottle
- Hardness testing materials: iron nail, glass plate, copper
We are reluctant to assess a lab fee for students who already
must buy expensive geology and meteorology textbooks. One might
even ask, "Since there is no lab section for this course why
should there be a lab fee?" However, given the absence of a
laboratory section, field experience with the characteristics
of rocks and minerals becomes even more essential for a
junior-level science course. The lab fee is necessary to
reimburse the Division for the expenses incurred by ordering
specimens and supplies. Unlike other lab courses for which
there are lab fees, these supplies become your own property.
They will enable you to become familiar with the properties of
various rocks and minerals, performing simple tests upon their
specimens as would a geologist in the field. These supplies are
non-consumable, and should be useful in your future classroom,
if you are one of the education students enrolled in the
course, once they are organized into a permanent collection in
conjunction with course activities. (Guidelines
for mineral and rock collections.)
Recommended Supplementary Resources
- Ronald Wagner and Bill Adler, Jr. The Weather
Sourcebook. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot
Press; Adler and Robin Books, Inc., 1994. ISBN: 1-56440-384-X
- Aviation Weather. Prepared for pilots by the US
government, this is an inexpensive, comprehensive, and first-rate
survey of practical meteorology.
- Geological map of Oklahoma (available from the OU
Geosciences Center in Norman).
- Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (any).
- Field Guide to Fossils (any).
- World Atlas with physical maps of all continents and
- Texts used for this course in previous years:
- Anthony Hallam. Great Geological Controversies, 2d
ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN: 0-19-858219-6
(pbk.). See focus questions for
each chapter in Hallam.
- Charles Lyell. Principles of Geology. Vol. 1. 1830;
rpt. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990. ISBN:
0-226-49794-1 (pbk.). See outline
of Lyell for focus questions.
Note: Lyell's book ranks 1st and Hallam's 9th in a recent
survey of geologists' favorite books by D. M. Triplehorn and J.
H. Triplehorn, as reported in the Journal of Geological
Education (1993, 41: 260-261). Incredibly, John McPhee had
four books in the top ten, including The Control of
- Completion of all requirements is necessary for a passing
grade. Grades will be calculated on a percentage basis (no curve),
Click on each of the above for an explanation.
- Quizzes, Reading
- The first and most important requirement is to come to as
many class periods as possible.
- We cover a lot of "ground" (pardon the pun) so commit
yourself never to skip. Come even if you are not
- If you must be absent, arrange for a student partner to
collect any handouts and relay notes to you prior to the
next class. Making up missed material is your own
- The second requirement is to prepare for class periods by
reading the assigned texts and completing homework assignments.
- Brief quizzes will be given at the beginning of
almost every class. Alternatively, short study questions --
"Reading Reflections" -- will be collected.
- Reading Reflections and other homework assignments will
be distributed in advance, either at the previous class
period or via "daily web guides."
- Quizzes and Reading Reflections may not be made up if
you are late or absent, nor if you were absent for the
previous class period.
- The semester's lowest quiz grade (e.g., a zero from a
day when you were absent) automatically will be
- Required Daily Web Guides will be posted for each
class period. These guides will include updated reading
assignments, reading reflections, quiz suggestions, and
other matter important for the next class. If web access is
painfully inconvenient for you, organize a small group of
fellow students and rotate responsibility for obtaining
these guides. Web guides will be available from the
course schedule; click on the link for
any particular day.
For class on this day...
Daily web guide will be posted no later
Tuesday 9 a.m.
Thursday 9 a.m.
- Homework assignments other than Reading Reflections will
be collected with journals.
- Journals and Homework,
- You will learn to keep a geological and meteorological
- Keep your journal in a three-ring binder so that the
pages for each week may be taken out every Friday to turn
in, and then be returned to their proper place in the
notebook the following Monday.
- Staple journal pages securely and make sure every page
has your name on it.
- Journals are due at my office (Rm 202 cubicle) by 4:59
p.m. every other Friday (see Course
Schedule). Beware: building doors are usually locked at
5 p.m. Put journals in a special tray provided. If not
turned in at this time or before, that Friday's journal may
not be made up.
- Bring your journal notebook to each class period.
- The entire notebook will be turned in the last week of
class (to be returned before the final examination).
- Each journal will include homework assigned during that
time period (other than Reading Reflections collected in
class as quizzes).
- A paper on John McPhee's The Control of Nature
counts equal to one journal and will be graded
- A "Planetary Scavenger Hunt," due the last week of
class, counts equal to one journal and will be graded
- Attendance at one of the weekly Friday night Planetarium
presentations of the Mars
Show counts as one journal and will be graded
separately. Complete the Mars
focus and discussion questions worksheet and turn it in
the week after viewing the show. Write the date you attended
the Mars Show on your worksheet, and staple the worksheet to
- One semester project may be completed outside of class
time to substitute for one journal.
- An ideal project is a weekend field trip to areas of
geological interest in the state (Robbers' Cave;
Alabaster Caverns; Sand Dunes state park; etc.).
- Each project must be individually approved by me
in advance. Projects submitted with unapproved topics
will not be graded.
- Project suggestions
- Meteorological Observations
- Geology Reflections
- One geological reflection is required with each
- "Reflections" should be a minimum of one carefully
- Reflections may focus on observed phenomena, or
constitute mini-essays on relevant themes. These might
include prose entries on such topics as: noticable signs of
urban geology; geologically-significant aspects of
agriculture; experiences at museums or on nature hikes;
cultural or philosophical discussions of books or films,
- Suggestions for writing geology
- Rock Collection, 20%
48 unlabelled rock and mineral specimens will be provided to each
student to organize into a permanent student collection. Each
collection provides a nucleus for a lifetime of rock collecting,
and should be useful in the future classrooms of education majors.
Collections will be inspected and graded in two stages during the
semester (see Course Schedule).
- Final examination, 10%
The final examination is required of all students. It will consist
primarily of selected quiz questions plus brief essay questions
pertaining to the semester activities and course readings. Study
questions for the essays will be distributed in advance.
Baptist University is committed to providing equal access to
University programs and services for all students. Under University
policy and federal and state laws, students with documented
disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations to ensure the
student has an equal opportunity to perform in class. If any member
of the class has such a disability and needs special accommodations,
please report to Mr. Bobby Canty in the Student Services Center,
GC 101, as soon as possible to discuss possible accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations may be arranged after verification of your
situation. Do not hesitate to contact me if any assistance is needed
in this process.
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