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GEOL-117 - Introduction to Physical Geology Lab

In this laboratory course, the student will utilize basic materials and tools of physical geology to identify common rocks and minerals. The student will also analyze and interpret geologic and topographic maps as well as aerial photographs. There will be two field trips -- one on a Saturday with all geology students, and one on your own.  (This course, together with GEOL-107, is a science core course. This course is a science elective and an Arts and Sciences elective.)

Credits                    1
Prerequisites         Pre-or Co-requisite: GEOL-107.  
                                If you have completed GEOL-107 or an equivalent course in a previous
                                semester, please call the Science/Technology chairperson or the Admissions
                                Office for a course waiver.

Instructor               Jennifer Kling

Mailing Address      Dept. of Science/Technology
                                Howard Community College
                                10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy
                                Columbia, MD 21044
Phone                      (443) 518-4827

Overall Course Objectives | Major Course Topics | Course Format | Course Requirements | Texts and Materials |Exams

Overall Course Objectives

Once you have completed this course you will be able to:

  • Perform simple physical and chemical tests to identify common mineral..
  • Identify hand samples of igneous rocks by their mineralogy and texture, and relate these rocks to magma composition, cooling rates, and their position on Bowen's Reaction Series.
  • Explain the distribution of basaltic, andesitic and rhyolitic volcanoes throughout the world and their relationship to plate tectonics.
  • Identify hand samples of sedimentary rocks by their texture and mineralogy and relate these rocks to their environment of deposition.
  • Define what is and is not a fossil and identify common index fossils for specific geologic eras.
  • Describe the process of metamorphism and identify hand samples of metamorphic rocks by their mineralogy and foliation.
  • Locate and identify features on topographic maps by latitude and longitude.
  • Contour a topographic map and construct a topographic profile.
  • Identify major landform features on topographic maps and aerial photos, and relate them to basic geologic processes of stream, groundwater, glacial, or marine erosion and deposition.
  • Interpret geologic maps and geologic cross-sections.
  • Construct block diagrams and models illustrating the basic types of faults, unconformities, and structural folds.
  • Identify rocks and geologic structures in our local area.

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Major Course Topics

  • Minerals: The Materials of Earth

  • Volcanism and Igneous Rocks

  • Sedimentary Rocks

  • Metamorphic Rocks

  • The Geology of Maryland

  • Interpreting a Topographic Map

  • Streams

  • Groundwater

  • Glaciers

  • Geologic Structures and Geologic Maps

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Course Format

  • Is not self-paced.

  • Does require on-campus meetings. There are 2 lab quizzes, and a final lab exam. The quizzes must be taken during the assigned time period (usually a 1 week period). (Note: GEOL-117 is not available for long distance learners; you MUST be able to take the lab quizzes at HCC).

  • Does not require real-time chats.

  • Communication in the course will take place through email.

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Course Requirements

  • Review the “What you should know before you register” section of the Distance Learning Homepage.

  • There are 8 labs, 2 lab quizzes, and a final lab exam. The quizzes must be taken during the assigned time period (usually a 1 week period). (Note: GEOL-117 is not available for long distance learners; you must be able to take the lab quizzes at HCC).

  • There are 2 required fieldtrips in this course. The instructor leads one field trip, to see rocks and structures of the Woodstock Dome, near Ellicott City. The instructor provides each student with a self-guided trip to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, which may be done any time before the end of the semester. If you cannot attend these two trips, other options for self-guided field trips may be approved. Budget your time to include any two of these trips.

  • All assignments must be completed on schedule or they will not be accepted; you must be able to allocate time each week (3 hours per week minimum) to complete these assignments.

  • You must be an independent learner, as you will be doing these assignments without direct instruction from me.

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Texts and Materials

Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

You will also be purchasing a rock and mineral kit for use at home and a topographic map.

Technical Requirements and Plug-Ins:

The following plug-ins are required for this course:

  • Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox
  • Microsoft Products


For purposes of verification and assessing learning outcomes, this course has 2 proctored lab quizzes which must be taken at the HCC Testing Center during an assigned period of time. The 2 lab quizzes will have a flexible window of time, usually a 1 week period, during which it needs to be taken rather than a single date and time. The final exam is a take-home.

If you have any questions or comments about this course, please send a message to:

Jennifer Kling,

Last updated on 17-Jun-13

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