Plate Tectonics and People

Capstone Project Assignment

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My philosophy for this course

I chose to call this course "Plate Tectonics and People" because I wanted to emphasize the human element of science of the solid Earth. Whenever possible, I tried to incorporate a multidisciplinary study as part of the reading assignment for a particular lesson so that you could appreciate the degree of interconnectivity among different scientific subfields. I also used publicly available datasets because I hoped that, if you found any of the analyses interesting, you could easily co-opt them for your own use. If the only thing you take away from this course is a feeling of empowerment concerning your ability to go out, find an available dataset on the Web, and teach students to make some interesting observations from it, then I'll call that a success! The "teaching and learning" discussions were intended to get you to think about how you might use some of this material if you wanted to turn around and teach it.

My guess is that you can take bits and pieces of this course and transform them into a lesson for your own use. Now is the time to prove it!

Activity: Capstone Project

In this activity, you will design a lesson for an audience of your choosing based on one of the topics we covered in this course.


  1. Figure out what you want to teach.
  2. Write up your lesson plan, including the following:
  • A brief overview of what will be taught and why--this should be 100-150 words explaining your topic choice, how it fits into your curriculum. If you do not currently have your own classroom, think hypothetically.
  • A brief statement about your intended audience: What grade level? What background knowledge do you assume they have already? This includes science knowledge and other quantitative skills.
  • A set of learning objectives. (What will your students know or be able to do at the end of your lesson?)
  • A description of your plan: How will you present the material? What will the students do? How long will it take? I want you to write the content of your actual lesson in this section! That means if you are going to prepare some powerpoints or notes from a textbook, I want to see them. I want the bibliographic information from all your references, and/or the link to any Web site you use. The key here is to build a lesson with enough detail so that another teacher could pick it up and teach from it without having to guess your intentions at any point.
  • A list of necessary materials.
  • A list of deliverables: What will the students turn in? How will you know if they learned what you wanted them to learn? Your lesson plan must include at least one quantitative activity for the students, e.g. they have to make a map, a table, a plot--something that uses data. It can be data they collect themselves, or that they retrieve from somewhere else, but they have to manipulate it or interpret it in a meaningful way. Your lesson plan must also include follow-up questions that the students have to answer along with a key that contains your answers to those questions. This helps me to grasp the level of thinking you expect from your students.
  • An evaluation rubric (such that another teacher could assess the students in the manner that you intended).
  1. Save an electronic version of your activity as either a Microsoft Word, Macintosh Pages or PDF file in the following format:

    L8_capstone_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or your file extension).

    For example, former Cardinals pitcher and hall of famer Bruce Sutter would name his file "L8_capstone_hbs42_sutter.doc"

Submitting your work

Upload your capstone project file to the Capstone Project assignment in Canvas by the due date indicated on the first page of this lesson.

Grading rubric

Note on Grading: I am interested in the scientific accuracy of the topic you choose to teach. I am not going to base my grade on whether you have constructed a lesson plan in some special way (as long as all the components listed above are there). My assumption is that those of you who are teachers already know how to write a lesson plan. For those of you who are not teachers, I am not going to instruct you on correct lesson-plan making here. However, I am a scientist, so if facts are not right, or could use clarification, I can assist with that.

  • An "A" capstone project is complete, clear, and organized. It contains all the components listed above. The science is accurate. I can follow your instructions and get the results you expected me to get. The questions you made up are well-designed and would elicit the appropriate amount of thinking and interpretation on the part of the intended audience. Your project shows independent thinking.
  • A "B" capstone project is like that of an "A" project, except that its directions may not be clear enough for me to follow without having to guess a little bit about your exact intentions. A "B" write-up is complete and contains all the components listed above.
  • A "C" capstone project may have clarity problems, causing me to guess about how to follow your instructions. A "C" write-up may also be incomplete with some of the assignment components missing. The science may not be accurate.
  • A "D" capstone project has such badly written directions that I can't even begin to guess how to follow them. A "D" write-up may be significantly incomplete and it may contain gross factual errors.