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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Craig Zumbrunnen
GEOG 205
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Physical Sciences and the Environment

Major atmospheric, hydrologic, and geomorphic processes used to interpret the character, distribution, and human significance of different natural and human-altered environments. Includes laboratory exercises for science and non-science majors, geography majors and nonmajors.

Class description

Students can expect to learn about several selected aspects and processes of the physical environment and selected examples of human-environmental interaction. Emphasis will be placed upon the processes which account for the spatial patterns and geomorphic forms of the various elements which constitute the earth's physical environment, especially elements from the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithospere. In this respect, the first half of the course will focus upon climatic elements, processes and geographical patterns; while the second half will deal with geomorphic agents, processes, landforms and their geographical distribution. Students can expect to learn about graph making and graph interpretation, weather map reading and interpretation, the scientific method, systems theory applied to physical geography, various forms of measuring and expressing a variety of environmental parameters, such as insolation, temperature, heat transfers, atmospheric moisture, atmospheric pressure, winds, wave cyclones, topographic map reading and map interpretation, plate tectonic history of the earth, geomorphic processes and landforms associated with continental drift, volcanic and tectonic activity, weathering and mass wasting, fluvial processes, wind and wave action, glaciation, and theories of global change.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The general methods of instruction will consist primarily of lecturing and break-outs into small groups for working on practical lab exercises. The recitation/labs times will be inserted at appropriate times and will be used both to reinforce the lecture material and to present new and/or additional material. They will, however, be used primarily for introducing and working on practical lab exercises. Map reading and interpretation will be stressed during the second half of the term during these lab periods. Some video and lots of visuals and slides will be used to illustrate the lectures. Student questions will be encouraged.

Recommended preparation

The course does not have any formal prerequisites. Accordingly, to be successful in the course students will be expected to attend all daily "command performances" in Room 205 Smith Hall (provided, of course, that your physical, mental, and psychic health permits such attendance) and to keep up with the reading assignments and assigned lab exercises. You will be "evaluated" upon your problem solving ability, class (lab) participation, and your understanding of concepts and relationships; however, emphasis will be placed on the latter. Although the jargon and technical terms of the fields of physical geography (see pages 502-524 of REQUIRED TEXT) are extensive, in this course they will be considered as simply a "short-hand" means of communication rather than as a reservoir of potential examination questions concerning definitions of terms.

Class assignments and grading

In addition to two multiple-choice exams based on the lecture material and reading assignments there will be some graded lab exercises, some of which will be done in class and some of which will be assigned as homework. If such assignments are turned in after a clearly stated "due date" they will at most be allowed partial credit.

The mid-term will constitute 25% (30 points) of your grade, the final exam 50% (60 points) and the remaining 25% (30 points) will be determined on lab exercise work and class participation (Total of 120 points possible).

The two lecture exams will consist primarily of "objective" multiple-choice questions designed (hopefully with more than modest success) to test your grasp of some of the basic principles and concepts presented in the course, and MORE IMPORTANTLY your ability to RELATE OR APPLY these concepts and principles in given or hypothetical situations. An understanding of many interrelationships amongst various elements of the physical environment is critical in studying the complex systems of the earth-atmosphere system. Many of our present environmental problems have resulted because such relationships were not understood adequately if at all. You will be given a copy of your answer sheet and an exam copy will be place on an overhead projector for an exam review / feedback immediately following the exam session. We hope that you will find such a feedback session to be useful and educational.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Craig Zumbrunnen
Date: 03/24/2011