Geology of the National Parks

Welcome to Unit 1 - Science!


Did you complete the Course Orientation?

Before you dive in to Unit 1, make sure you have completed the Course Orientation.

Woman diving into pool

... when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.
–Isaac Asimov,The Relativity of Wrong, Kensington Books, New York, 1996, p 226. (Note that the Earth bulges a little around the equator in response to the planet’s rotation, but the Earth is still much closer to being spherical than to being flat!)

Before delving too much into the world of geology (broadly, the study of the Earth), this first unit will focus on a larger question that is a more fundamental issue for most people; namely, what is science? Why pay for it? Why do it? Why trust it? Why learn it? Why bother?

Unit 1, SCIENCE!!, will introduce you to this issue, and help you develop the perspectives to answer these questions. This unit will also introduce you, very briefly, to the field of geology, giving you an overview of what it's about, why it's important, and how it benefits people. And finally, Unit 1 is our entry point to the magnificent environmental legacy that is our National Parks--a system of parks and monuments that lets us enjoy today, and preserve for the future, so many of our society's geological, biological, cultural, and historical records and artifacts.

What to do for Unit 1?

You will have one week to complete Unit 1. See the course calendar in Canvas for specific due dates.

As you work your way through these online materials for Unit 1, you will encounter a video lecture, additional reading assignments, a practice quiz, a "RockOn" quiz, and a "StudentsSpeak" Survey. The chart below provides an overview of the requirements for this unit.

Overview of Unit 1 requirements

Read/view all of the instructional materials

This web site No, but you will be tested on all of the materials.
Begin Exercise #1: Scientific Literature Canvas Yes, this is the first of 6 Exercises and is worth 5% of your total grade.
Take the Unit 1 "RockOn" quiz Canvas Yes, this is the first of 12 end of unit RockOn quizzes and is worth 4.5% of your total grade.
Complete the "StudentsSpeak #2" survey Canvas Yes, this is the second of 12 weekly surveys and is worth 1% of your total grade.

So, What is Science?

Science is the most successful way humans have developed to learn how things work, and to use that knowledge to do and predict things.

Science is not a magic bullet to ultimate truth; science is humans keeping track of what works, and what doesn't, and trying not to fool themselves in the process. The "scientific method" is just common sense, dressed up with fancy words and expensive machines. Science doesn't tell us what we should do or why we're here, but it makes us a lot healthier and more comfortable while we try to figure out those really big issues.


If you have any questions, please feel free to email "All Teachers" and "All Teaching Assistants" through Canvas.

Keep Reading!

On the following pages, you will find all of the information you need to successfully complete Unit 1 - including the online textbook, a video lecture, a supplemental enrichment article and two supplemental Virtual Trips (vTrips).

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Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignment and instructor feedback, and earn academic credit. Information about registering for this course is available from the Office of the University Registrar.