Approved by Faculty Senate

The purpose of the Natural Science requirement in the University Studies program is to provide students with the tools to understand and be able to apply the methods by which scientific inquiry increases our understanding of the natural world.

GEOS 100 is an introductory 3-credit general-education course offered in mega-section lecture format. The course addresses the major themes and outcomes of the Natural Science category non-laboratory option).

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

  1. understand how scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences;
  2. Students are given ample opportunity to understand how scientists approach and solve problems relevant to physical and historical geology, with a focus on Minnesota’s rocks and waters. Students are taught the scientific method, and are asked each day to apply that method to understanding problems at the introductory level in the geosciences. They are also taught the unique methods employed in interpreting and solving geologic problems. This is accomplished by studying how geologists have made and continue to make observations and collect data related to understanding the evolution of the geology of a particular area (Minnesota). We then use these observations to pose questions regarding Minnesota geology. These questions in turn suggest multiple-working hypotheses or explanations that are tested by continuing to gather more observations and data, and retaining those explanations that are most consistent with the observations.


  3. apply those methods to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences;
  4. Throughout the semester, students are presented with realistic problems in Minnesota’s geology. Students are challenged to apply concepts learned in class to solve these problems and make predictions about the processes that have formed the rocks and the landscape of this region. Problem-solving activities range from short, in-class questions, to problem-sets assigned as homework, especially on the course web page. The problems are necessarily simplified when compared to those that face practicing geologists today, because this is an introductory general-education course with no prerequisites (particularly in mathematics and the allied sciences). However, given the level of the course, they are realistic problems that raise students’ awareness of issues relevant to the discipline. Students are additionally asked to solve problems on exams.

  5. use inductive reasoning, mathematics, or statistics to solve problems in natural science;
  6. Students are given problems in this course that require them to work with simple mathematical relations. Such applications will be especially emphasized during our study of rates of weathering and erosion of Minnesota’s bedrock, and equilibrium in river flow.

    In addition to mathematical reasoning, students are asked to make almost daily use of inductive reasoning to solve realistic geologic problems related to Minnesota geology. After learning about geologic concepts and the way the earth works, students are presented with real data and observations from Minnesota’s bedrock and landscapes, often times from the web. They are then asked to think through solutions based on these observations and processes.

  7. engage in independent and collaborative learning;
  8. Students in Minnesota’s Rocks and Waters will use both independent thinking and collaborative learning to understand how geologic processes affect Minnesota’s bedrock and landscapes at the present time, and in turn, back through geologic time. Collaborative learning will take place in the, even though the lecture is delivered to a mega-section. Students will break out into small groups to address problem solving in all the major topical areas of the course. However, the ultimate responsibility for reaching scientific conclusions from observations and data analysis lies, however, with the individual student. Independent learning is ensured by assigned activities and in-class exams. In addition, the course web page provides daily lessons for each student to complete prior to class. These lessons illustrate the sorts of thinking that students are expected to achieve related to the topic at hand.


  9. identify, find, and use the tools of information science as it relates to natural science;
  10. Students in Minnesota’s Rocks and Waters will identify, find, and use the tools of information science relating to our study of the geologic evolution of the state. Individual and group assignments are made that require students to use the web and library databases to research selected problems and to prepare short written reports on the results of their work. These reports will be submitted to the instructor via e-mail. The course web page provides students with tools to search the web for pertinent information on all aspects of the course.

  11. critically evaluate both source and content of scientific information; and
  12. Students in this course are presented large amount of information on Minnesota’s geology. Some of these data are potentially conflicting. Students must sort through the information, and by applying the scientific method, come to a reasonable interpretation of the data. One good example is conflicting views regarding interpretation of the oldest parts of Minnesota’s rock record in the Canadian Shield of the northern part of the state. Conflicting data are evaluated to give students a better sense of how scientific data are processed.

  13. recognize and correct scientific misconceptions.


One of the main goals of this course is to help students recognize and correct the misconceptions they hold regarding geology and the evolution of Minnesota’s rocks and landscapes. Misconceptions addressed range from misunderstanding of the ways in which glaciers transport and deposit sediment, to the role of plate tectonics in the development of the Precambrian bedrock of Minnesota. Discrepant demonstrations or explanations are used whenever possible to force students to recognize and confront their misconceptions; these are followed by class activities designed to help students overcome and replace these misconceptions with accurate representations of scientific concepts.


Minnesota's Rocks and Waters - Syllabus

Dr. James H. Meyers - PA 114-H extension 5266 geology/mrw/index.html


Course Description and Purpose

Introduction to Minnesota's geological history focusing on such topics as: Minnesota's rock record and history, fossils, mining, soils, lakes, rivers, and ground water. Lecture; no laboratory


Minnesota’s Rocks and Waters is a three-credit mega-section introductory –level course that satisfies the university studies requirement in the natural sciences. Students in this course will explore the bedrock and landscapes of Minnesota in order to understand

1. The way external and internal geologic processes work

2. The way geologic processes have operated through time to create the bedrock and landscapes of Minnesota

Each student will gain an understanding and awareness of the complexity and inter-relatedness of geologic processes, and how these processes have created the geology of Minnesota.



University Studies Outcomes

The purpose of the Natural Science requirement in the University Studies program is to provide students with the tools to understand and be able to apply the methods by which scientific inquiry increases our understanding of the natural world.

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

a. understand how scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences;

b. apply those methods to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences;

c. use inductive reasoning, mathematics, or statistics to solve problems in natural science;

d. engage in independent and collaborative learning;

e. identify, find, and use the tools of information science as it relates to natural science;

f. critically evaluate both source and content of scientific information; and

g. recognize and correct scientific misconceptions.

Course activities described throughout the remainder of this syllabus will be coded to the above list of outcomes by the corresponding letter. These outcomes will be integrated throughout course content—each new topic will be presented in a manner in which the student will be able to understand and apply the methods by which scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences, using inductive reasoning or mathematics (outcomes a-c). Common scientific misconceptions will be identified at the start of each topic, and class material will be directed toward correcting those misconceptions (outcome g). You will be asked to work collaboratively on certain in-class activities and independently on homework and exams (outcome d). In-class and homework assignments will require that you work with the internet, course web site, and other sources to critically evaluate scientific information as it relates to Minnesota’s geology (outcomes e, f).


Logistics and Policies

This course is designed to stimulate and challenge your thinking (outcomes a, b, c, f, g). There are no prerequisites for this course. If you can balance your checkbook, you can do all the math that will be required (outcome c). You are expected to understand and apply fundamental concepts (outcomes a, b, c, e, f, g), rather than to simply memorize information, on exams. You should strive to achieve as complete and sound a scientific interpretation as possible, by trying to integrate information across discrete chapters of the text.

Because scientific understanding does not usually progress in a vacuum—it is through discussions and arguments with colleagues that most advances stem—you are encouraged to work in groups and to discuss your ideas and to work through confusing concepts with your classmates. One of the best ways to study and understand and learn is to form a small study group—quiz one another. Make up questions that you think will be on the exam, and be certain you can answer them. If you can accurately explain a concept to your peers, then you can feel comfortable that you understand it. If you’re confused in doing this, you’re likely to be confused about the material. (outcome d)

Class attendance is essential for success, as exams will emphasize lecture material. You are responsible for knowing what is covered and assigned in class regardless of whether or not you are present. Because fundamental information on geologic processes and materials is not in our textbook, but rather must be accessed on the web, these topics will be dealt most effectively during lectures. Lecture will also involve careful explanations of text and web material. Careful note-taking is essential for your success in this course.

Assignments will not be accepted on papers torn out of notebooks; all assignments must be neat, legible, and on paper with clean edges. I will not regurgitate a lecture during office hours simply because you chose not to attend class. Videos shown in class will not be made available outside of class. Attendance and participation will affect the outcome of your final grade.
Cheating of any kind will result in a score of zero for that exam or assignment (which cannot be dropped in the computation of your final grade), and you will be reported to university authorities. If you discuss an assignment with someone else, you are both expected to write up your answers individually and in your own words. It is a violation of academic honesty (in other words, cheating) to turn in answers copied from another students paper, even if you worked together to achieve the answer!


Guidelines for surviving a large lecture class at WSU: Here is some advice and some observations about how to achieve at your highest academic level in a large-enrollment course.


Arrive on time! The first five minutes of class are often the most important part of the entire lecture. I usually use them to discuss how the day’s topics fit into the broader goals of the course, and where the course is headed in the next few lectures. Important logistical information like homework assignments and items that will and won’t be on exams, are often discussed here as well. Everyone is unavoidably late now and then, but my experience is that most students who consistently arrive a few minutes late for the lecture also receive a poor final grade in the course.


Assignments- The course outline summarizes readings in the textbook and on the web. Assignments should be read before coming to class, so that more effective listening, individual and group participation, and note-taking can take place. Following class, notes should be reviewed together with careful re-reading of the assignments. If this is done on a regular basis, performance will be enhanced. Classroom sessions will be more meaningful and discussion will be possible. Assignments will not generally be announced. You are responsible for following the course outline.


Course Web Page- Consult the course web page daily. There you will find class announcements, assignments, links to web sites that provide additional study materials related to all aspects of the course, links to self-testing, and daily lessons for you to complete that illustrate the kinds of reasoning you are expected to achieve. Remember that your textbook does not provide information on geologic processes and geologic materials (rocks and minerals). The course web page has links to readings on these topics that should be completed faithfully and in a regular fashion. The web page also has lecture outlines and an outline of material in an out-of-print text on Minnesota geology. It is important that you read and study all of these materials to ensure success in the course.


Use email often if you have access to it. Get access to it if you don’t have it yet. Electronic mail has become the basic means of communication among scientists. You’ll find that I answer most email messages and queries within minutes. Don’t hesitate to ask questions this way. My email address is:


Study for the exams mainly from your lecture notes. The lectures, course web page, and book all cover somewhat different topics, at different levels of detail. It would be silly if it were otherwise: why do the same thing three times? My lectures excerpt that portion of the book and web readings that I feel is most important for the course. The main purpose of the book and web readings is to allow you to hear things in a different voice, quietly, at your own pace, to help you figure out puzzling things from the classes. You will receive a handout that provides suggestions for good note-taking in this course.


Consultation - I will be available for consultation throughout the semester and you are urged to keep in touch, especially if you are having difficulty. Office hours are posted on my door (PA 114-H). If these hours are in conflict with your schedule, please make other arrangements with me. My telephone extension is 5266 and e-mail is


Testing and Grading


Three regular examinations will be given. Each exam will be announced one week in advance. The format of the exams will be entirely multiple choice. Bring a scantron, pencil and good eraser to each exam. A final examination will be given during the final examination period. The final will emphasize the last segment of the course. However, approximately 1/3 to 1/4 of this exam will also include material from the earlier portions of the course.

Exams will emphasize material discussed in lecture sessions, together with activity-oriented exercises, and will draw upon the texts as supplemental material. Your regular attendance is therefore essential, and careful note-taking is required for success in this course.


Exams are announced well in advance and students are obliged to take exams at the scheduled times. The obvious reason for the exam policy is fairness to the entire class. If you do not think you can abide by this policy, you should drop the course as soon as possible.

If you miss an exam, you are expected to take a make-up. Note that a penalty of 10% of the maximum points attainable per late day will be deducted from the score of those who miss an exam because of an unexcused absence. Examples of unexcused absences include but are not limited to: attendance at weddings, convenient rides home, oversleeping, and unpreparedness. Examples of excusable absences include verifiable illness and family emergency. For excused absences, prior notice must be given by contacting the instructor before the scheduled time of the examination. And written documentation verifying the necessity for the absence must be presented to the instructor before taking the makeup exam. For excused absences, you must take the test the following weekday of the emergency day, or the deduction penalty goes into effect. If you are in doubt of the status of a pending absence, discuss the matter with the instructor prior to the examination date. In the event that a snow-day falls on the same date as a scheduled exam, the exam will be given during the next class meeting following the snow day, so come prepared.

Dishonesty on an exam constitutes forfeiture of the exam grade. During testing times, students are expected to sit as far from neighbors as possible and to keep their answers secure. Different versions of each exam will be distributed throughout the class to provide greater assurance of honest assessment.


Homework and in-class assignments: work will be assigned at various times through the quarter; these assignments will be worth a portion of your final grade. Due dates for homework assignments will be announced in class at the time they are assigned. Missing class is NOT an excuse for turning in late assignments. Late assignments will NOT be accepted. Opportunities to earn extra-credit points will be announced randomly in class. These opportunities will only be available to those students who are present in class (if you miss class, you miss your chance).


No student will pass the course without completing all exams and achieving a passing average. .



Exam 1 15%

Exam 2 20%

Exam 3 25%

Exam 4 30%

Assignments 10%

Grading scale:

A 80%-

B 70-79%

C 60-69%

D 50-59%

E <50%


Course Outline


A. Course mechanics

B. Minnesota's place in geologic history *1-15 (15-18)

C. Physiographic regions and general geology of Minnesota 1-15 (15-18)

II.Introduction to earth's dynamic systems with Minnesota examples (3-13)

A. Earth processes and materials

B. Hydrologic systems

C. Tectonic systems

III.Minerals, rocks and the rock cycle (3-13)

IV.Geologic time (3-13)

A. Relative time and the geologic column

B. Absolute time and the geologic time scale

V.Minnesota during Precambrian time 18-19

A. Archean 54-64, 70-72, 121-123 (21-33)

1. Canadian shield

2. Early crustal rocks and the Morton gneiss

3. Sedimentary sequences, granite intrusions and Precambrian mountain ranges - prepare geologic map and use cross section

B. Early Proterozoic 27-29, 46-53, 65-69, 170-171 (34-45)

1. Sandy beaches and iron formations

2. More ancient mountain ranges

C. Late Proterozoic 20-26, 30-41, 46-53, 115-117, 198-201 (46-61)

1. Precambrian beaches - the Sioux Quartzite and Pipestone Nat'l Mon.

2. Rifting of North America and deposition of sediment - organic shales

3. Formation of oceanic crust - Duluth Gabbro and basalts at Taylors

Falls and elsewhere

D. Precambrian mineral deposits (124-149)

VI.Minnesota during Phanerozoic time

A. Paleozoic stable continents, interior basins, and rising sea levels 76-107, 198-201, 208-209 (62-86)

1. Cambro-Ordovician sandstones and limestones

2. Cambro-Ordovician fossils

B. Mesozoic foreland basin, marine flooding, and marine life 124-126(86-95)

C. Cenozoic(96-121)

1. The great Ice Age 50-55, 112-114, 118-120, 127-169, 172-207. 212-214 (161-163; 199-203;211-213; 225-227;233-234)

a. Glaciers and glaciation

b. Glacial chronology

c. Minnesota's glacial lobes and physiography

d. Glacial Lake Warren and the Red River Valley

e. Torrents of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, drainage

changes and river terraces 118-120

2. Holocene

a. Weathering, mass wasting, streams and stream erosion

b. Stream erosion and the landscape 50-55, 98-101

c. Drainage systems of Minnesota 73-75, 85-87, 98-101, 155-157

d. Ground water in SE Minnesota 102-107 (156-157)

e. Great Lakes beaches and shorelines 42-45

f. Bogs and wetlands 158-161, 212-214

D. Nonmetallic mineral and rock resources (150-156)

VII.Regional geology of Minnesota

A. Northeastern MN 16-75 (160-197) (Note: assignments in the two texts may not coincide completely with the same regions, because the different authors divide the state into geological regions a bit differently.)

B. Northwestern MN 172-193 (198-209)

C. Central MN 127-171 (210-221)

D. Southwestern MN 108-126 (222-231)

E. Southeastern MN 76-107 (232-243)

*Numbers before the parentheses and in boldface type refer to pages in our paperback textbook, "Minnesota Underfoot". Numbers in parentheses refer to "Minnesota's Geology" (out of print, 1982, Ojakangas and Matsch, UMN Press). Instructor will post summaries of readings and modified figures from this out-of-print text on the web, for students to access with password.


Sansone, C.J., 1983, Minnesota Underfoot: Voyageur Press, Stillwater, MN, 224 p.