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Platte Canyon High School
Bailey, Colorado

Earth Science Main Page


Earth Science Rationale   

Geology plays a unique and essential role in today's rapidly changing world. It is an integrated study of the Earth's history, composition, and structure. A knowledge of geology is important because most human activities are related to interaction with the planet Earth. Basic knowledge about the Earth, then, is the key to development of an informed citizenry. It offers experience in a diverse range of interrelated scientific disciplines, it is closely related to the student's natural surroundings, and offers students subject matter which has direct application to their lives and the world around them.

Earth Science Goals   

1. Understand the processes of scientific investigation and design, conduct, communicate about, and evaluate such investigations

2. Recognize and classify the common minerals and rocks by their observable physical and chemical characteristics

3. Discuss the origin of intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks and recognize land forms associated with each.

4. Understand the weathering processes involved in the transition from bedrock to soil and sediment.

5. Discuss the processes involved in the formation of sedimentary rocks and relate them to modern and ancient depositional environments

6. Understand the agents and processes of metamorphism and relate these to the various metamorphic rocks.

7. Analyze the causes and effects of earthquakes and relate seismology to the structure of the earth.

8. Classify folds, faults, and mountains, and discuss their origins.

9. Discuss the history of the Rocky Mountains, in particular within Colorado.

10. Describe the hydrological cycle and relate this concept to both surface and subsurface waters.

11. Discuss the mechanics of Earth's waters (e.g., running water, waves, tides, and currents, groundwater), mass-wasting, wind and glacial ice and relate these agents and processes to the origin of land forms.

12. Discuss the basic lines of evidence for continental drift, sea-floor spreading, and plate tectonics

13. Discuss the characteristics of plate boundaries and heat plumes, and their relationships to earthquakes, volcanic and mountain building activities.

14. Locate and identify geologic features using topographic and/or geologic maps

15. Recognize and appreciate the vastness of geologic time.

16. Understand the principles of stratigraphy and their application in the interpretation and reconstruction of the rock and fossil record.


Earth Science   


I. Introduction to Science and Geology

A. Define science, geology, and related scientific disciplines

B. Discuss and use various problem solving techniques, including the scientific method.

C. Distinguish between problems and exercises; scientific laws and theories

D. Explain the purpose of scientific models

E. Discuss and distinguish the factors involved in an experiment, the difference between observations and inferences, sources of error.

F. Discuss early geological applications to the scientific method

II. Matter and Minerals

A. Define, compare, and contrast atoms, elements, compounds, and mixtures

B. Identify the three major parts of the atom and understand how they relate to atomic number and atomic mass.

C. List the names and symbols of common elements.

D. Define chemical formula and subscripts.

E. Understand the concept of crystals and crystalline structure.

F. Distinguish chemical and physical properties of minerals.

G. Recognize and classify the common minerals by their observable physical and chemical characteristics.

III. Igneous Rocks and Volcanism

A. Define an igneous rock and relate it to the rock cycle.

B. Identify the common igneous rocks by their physical and chemical characteristics

C. Compare and contrast intrusive and extrusive rocks, their origin, occurrence, and geological significance.

D. Understand how magma forms, factors which affect its melting temperatures and composition, and how its formation and occurrence is related to plate tectonics.

E. Compare and contrast the different types of volcanoes, eruptive characteristics, and distribution.

F. Describe the various techniques and approaches scientist's use in studying, understanding, and predicting volcanic eruptions.

G. Discuss the effects of volcanism on humans and climate.

IV. Weathering and Soils

A. Compare and contrast physical and chemical weathering.

B. Explain the effects of weathering on rocks and man-made materials.

C. Describe the different forms of mechanical weathering and their relative importance in the breakdown of rocks.

D. Describe the different forms of chemical weathering, the chemistry and chemical reactions involved, and the products produced.

E. Recognize the role of climate on the weathering process

F. Define soil, its formation and classification

V. Sedimentary Rocks

A. Define a sedimentary rock and relate it to the rock cycle.

B. Identify the common sedimentary rocks by their physical and chemical characteristics

C. Compare and contrast detrital, chemical, and biochemical rocks, their origin, occurrence, and geological significance.

D. Understand the concept of lithification

E. Understand the concept of formation.

F. Explain the concepts of superposition, uniformitarianism, original horizontality and cross-cutting relations and their use in reconstructing geologic history.


VI. Metamorphic Rocks

A. Define a metamorphic rock and relate it to the rock cycle

B. Explain the factors controlling the physical and chemical characteristics of metamorphic rocks

C. Identify the common metamorphic rocks by their physical and chemical characteristics.

D. Compare and contrast foliated and non-foliated

E. Compare and contrast contact and regional metamorphism

F. Relate metamorphism to the concept of plate tectonics


VII. Earthquakes and Earth's Interior

A. Make calculations using seismic information to locate an earthquake epicenter

B. Compare and contrast the different types of seismic waves, their physical characteristics, rates of propagation, effects, and detection.

C. Understand the principle of and be able to construct a seismograph

D. Explain the causes for earthquakes

E. Compare and contrast the different scales used to measure seismic intensity.

F. Discuss the distribution of earthquakes and their relationship to plate tectonics.

G. Describe the effects of earthquakes on humans and techniques used by seismologists in understanding, studying, predicting, and potentially controlling earthquakes.

H. Explain the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis.

I. Show how seismic data is used to infer the interior structure, physical characteristics, and composition of the earth's interior.

VIII. Rock Deformation and Mountain Building

A. List and define the tectonic forces associated with rock deformation

B. Define and compare the types of faulting of rocks

C. Define and compare the types of folding of rocks

D. Measure and state the dip and strike of a rock layer

E. Identify subsurface structures from surface geologic maps

F. Interpret the geologic history of an area based on geologic maps and stratigraphic data

G. Name and define the types of rock contacts and their significance in the interpretation of the rock record.

H. Explain the distribution and age of the major mountain belts in the world in relation to the theory of plate tectonics

I. Describe the evolution of a mountain belt, with emphasis on the Rocky Mountains

J. Discuss orogeny

IX. Ground Water

A. Compare and contrast permeability and porosity and its effect of groundwater movement and flow.

B. Define a water table, describe subsurface expressions, and relationships to artesian wells and springs.

C. Understand and discuss the pollution of ground water by man and possible remedies.

D. Describe the effects of ground-water action

E. Explain the occurrence and source of underground hot-water (geysers, hot springs).

F. Discuss man's attempt to utilize and exploit geothermal energy

X. Streams

A. Compare and contrast channel flow and sheet flow

B. Discuss flooding, causes, effects, prediction, and prevention.

C. Describe factors affecting stream erosion and deposition

D. List and describe stream depositional features, such as bars, fans, and deltas

E. Discuss valley development and the types and effects of erosion on this process.

F. List and describe stream erosional features, such as terraces


XI. Glaciers

A. Discuss the origin and classification of glaciers

B. List and describe the various types of glaciers along with their physical characteristics and structures.

C. Explain how a glacier moves and its effect on the earth's surface, both past and present.

D. Discuss the theory of glacial ages, their history, cause, and demise.

E. Name and explain the formation of a variety of glacial features, such as cirques, horns, aretes, moraines, kettles, and eskers.

XII. Deserts and Wind Action

A. Discuss the origin, classification, and distribution of deserts

B. List and explain the various characteristics of deserts.

C. Explain the role of wind erosion and transportation on the formation of desert landforms.

D. List and describe the different types of sand dunes, their formation, and significance.

E. Define deflation and its significance.

XIII. Oceans and Shorelines

A. Draw a diagram of a transverse wave and explain its major features

B. Define frequency and explain the relationship between frequency and wavelength

C. Explain how velocity of a wave relates to the temperature and the medium through which it travels.

D. Define reflection, refraction, and diffraction of waves

E. Describe surf and how its formation relates to wave height and topography

F. Define a beach, formation, physical characteristics,

G. Define and describe currents, their cause and distribution.

H. Relate the effects of various currents to coastal and ocean bottom topography

I. Explain coastal features based on effects of waves, tides, and currents

J. Discuss man's influence of coastlines

XIV. Plate Tectonics

A. Describe and compare the theories of continental drift, sea-floor spreading, and plate tectonics.

B. Explain paleomagnetism

C. Describe convection and its relationship to sea-floor spreading

D. Discuss magnetic reversals and explain their use in demonstrating and dating plate movement.

E. Name and describe the different plate boundaries and their effect on surface features.

XV. Geologic Time

A. Recognize and appreciate the vastness of geologic time.

B. Discuss the principles used in the interpretation of relative age

C. Explain the concept of correlation and the techniques used by scientists in correlating rock units.

D. Define isotope, radioactive decay, and discuss the techniques of radiometric dating.

E. Calculate the age of an object using the concepts of radiometric dating.

XVI. Historical Geology

A. Define a fossil.

B. Describe the factors influencing the preservation of plants and animals as fossils.

C. Explain the use of fossils in correlation and environmental interpretation of rocks.

D. List the major subdivisions of geologic time and explain how they were derived.

E. Describe the changes plants and animals have undergone through geologic time.