How to Build a Continent: An Introduction to Geology


Our planet’s surface is shaped by opposed forces. New crust is continuously being formed at spreading centers like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, while old crust is sliding back down into the mantle at subduction zones to be recycled. The processes that build land up are opposed by processes that tear it down. Rocks can tell us stories about the history of a place, if we know how to read them.

In this course, students will gain a basic understanding of the processes that, working together, produce the landscape features all around us. These include rock formation, weathering and erosion, and tectonics.

Science is about process more than content. Students will identify patterns in nature through the use of geospatial visualization software, kitchen experiments, and web-based resources. They will pose their own questions and develop procedures for answering them. If it’s possible to do so safely, students will also study local rock outcrops and collect local rock samples.

Live Classes: Mondays, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, from the week of January 9th to the week of May 12th

Student Expectations: Students will complete labs and activities. Afterward, they will describe their observations, any patterns they noticed, and any questions they want to investigate further. These descriptions can be made in whatever medium the student is most comfortable working, whether writing, audio recording, or video recording.

Student Support: The instructor is available via email.

Materials/Supplies: Students will be using GeoMapApp, a free piece of software used in both geoscience research and geoscience education. This can be downloaded for Unix/Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems at Students will need to have installed this software before the first class. In addition, students will conduct some kitchen experiments using commonly obtainable materials such as jars/bottles, local soil, pebbles or gravel, and epsom salt (magnesium sulfate).


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