NSCI 101 sec. 1: Evolution of Earth Systems

Cascadia Community College – Spring 2009

Mondays and Wednesdays 11:00-1:05

Room CC1 351


Ccc logo

Instructor:  John VanLeer

Office: CC1 145

Phone: 425.352.8157

E-mail: jvanleer@cascadia.edu

Office hours: M & W 1:30-2:00, by email, or appt.




Course Description:  This course is a multidisciplinary exploration of Earth’s past, present and future.  Students will examine theories that explain the origin of the universe, solar system and Earth and will gain insight on the process of generating and challenging scientific knowledge.  The potential for human-induced change is also explored.


Course Overview:  Evolution of Earth Systems is an introductory college level science course designed to introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of the Earth Sciences, strengthen their knowledge of scientific methods and processes, and develop critical thinking skills necessary for understanding the nature of science.  Students will voyage from the beginning of time and travel through the origins of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems.  They will explore theories on the formation of the Earth, as well as the evolution of the land, atmosphere, oceans, and life.  As they discover the function and nature of these features, they will further explore the interactions between them and behavior of the planet as a complex system.  Finally, human influences on the Earth System will be explored. 



Students should expect to immerse themselves in activities and inquiries which will allow them to gather scientific information directly related to the topics of study.  They will read, write, and speak regularly.  They will work individually and collaboratively.  Students will become enlightened in all aspects of the environment in which they live.  Students will develop a sense of pride in their new understanding and a feeling of community with all members of the class.  That combination of intellectual pride and community will make Evolution of Earth Systems both an enjoyable and memorable component of a lifetime of learning.


Text and Materials (Required):


containing notes, drawings, reflections, data, etc.






Learning Outcomes:  As you are probably already aware, all of Cascadia’s courses are designed with four governing outcomes:  Learn Actively; Think Critically, Creatively, and Reflectively; Communicate with Clarity and Originality; and Interact in Diverse and Complex Environments.  These outcomes are woven throughout Evolution of Earth Systems, and are offered in the following statements.  Students will:



Text Box: Academic Success:  The best way to succeed in this class is to attend every class and participate with vigor.  The material presented in class is the best example of what will be tested.  The assigned reading does not cover every concept you are expected to learn.  Conversely, the text contains significant amounts of information that will not be tested.  In addition, details about assignments and assessments are provided in class.  Participation is the best way to get interested and stay motivated.  If you’re not having fun, you’re probably not learning as much as you should be.  Talk to the instructor.  See him during or after class, or use his office hours.  Whatever you do, be in charge of your learning – make it happen.














Classroom Dignity:  A classroom must be a safe and comfortable place for students to learn.  As a result, the instructor and the students must respect each other’s individual differences whether they be cultural, racial, sexual, intellectual, physical, or of any other type.  The atmosphere of this class will be a warm and inviting one for everyone.  No behavior that interferes with the learning of any person or persons will be tolerated at any level.


Assessments and Grading:  Students will be assessed in a variety of ways.  These will include reflection papers, scientific inquiries, a final project and presentation, quizzes, and mid-term and final exams.  They are outlined below.  Additional information will be made available in the future.


All assignments will be graded on a scale of 0 – 100%.  However, they will be weighted individually for calculation of the final grade.



All products will be posted in your portfolio.  They will be checked, in class, on the Tuesday of the third, fifth, and seventh weeks.  They will be formally assessed near the end of the quarter.






Cascadia’s grading policy is detailed in the college catalog.  This equates to a 100 point scale as follows:



100% - 96% = 4.0

83% = 2.8

71% = 1.6

95% - 94% = 3.9

82% = 2.7

70% = 1.5

93%  = 3.8

81% = 2.6

69% - 68% = 1.4

92% = 3.7

80% = 2.5

67% - 66% = 1.3

91% = 3.6

79% = 2.4

65% = 1.2

90% = 3.5

78% = 2.3

64% = 1.1

89% = 3.4

77% = 2.2

63% = 1.0

88% = 3.3

76% = 2.1

62% = 0.9

87% = 3.2

75% = 2.0

61% = 0.8

86% = 3.1

74% = 1.9

60% = 0.7

85% = 3.0

73% = 1.8

<60% = 0

84% = 2.9

72% = 1.7




Special Circumstances:  While 100% attendance is expected, it is not always possible.  If you know in advance you will be missing a class, it is best to let the instructor know beforehand, as well as speak to a classmate who can get you a copy of notes, etc.  If you miss a day during which an exam or presentation is scheduled, contact the instructor before the class or as soon as possible after the class begins.  A simple e-mail or voicemail explaining the circumstances is acceptable.  Failing to contact the instructor before the next scheduled class may result in receiving a zero for the missed activity.


Academic Honesty:  Cascadia Community College’s Academic Honest policy can be found the college catalog and student handbook.  It deals with plagiarism, cheating, and other violations of integrity.  Read it.  Please be aware that any infraction will be dealt with quickly and aggressively.  At no time during this course will it be permissible to turn in a writing assignment that is identical to another student’s.  All writing and most other work must be uniquely your own.  Exceptions will be specifically expressed by the instructor.


Inclement Weather:  In the event that extreme weather necessitates the closing of the college, information can be found at schoolreport.org.  Cascadia’s main number will also provide a recorded message when the switchboard is closed.


Students with Disabilities:  If you have or suspect you have a disability and need an accommodation please contact Disability Support Services please through the front office in Kodiak Corner at 352-8383 to make an appointment.  Services and accommodations through DSS are not retroactive.





Schedule of Topics and Assignments:





Reading / Assessment


31 Mar


Instructor Provided


1 Apr

Formation of the Universe

Instructor Provided


6 Apr

Stars and Galaxies

Instructor Provided


8 Apr

Our solar system

Chapter 10


13 Apr

Life and Oxygen

Chapter 11


15 Apr

Atmospheric Structure & Circulation

Chapter 3 (pp.44-46) / Quiz 1


20 Apr

Ozone depletion

Chapter 17 / Refl. 1


22 Apr

Atmospheric Circulation, part 1

Chapter 4


27 Apr

Atmospheric Circulation, part 2

Chapter 4 / Quiz 2


29 Apr

Ocean Dynamics

Chapter 5


4 May

Mid-Term Exam



6 May

El Niño Southern Oscillation, part 1

Chapter 15 (pp.306-316)


11 May

El Niño Southern Oscillation, part 2

Chapter 15 (pp.306-316)


13 May

The Solid Earth & Plate tectonics

Chapter 7


18 May

Carbon Cycle

Chapter 8 / Refl. 2


20 May

Global Change

Chapter 2 /  Quiz 3


25 May

Memorial Day – No class



27 May

Greenhouse Effect

Chapter 3


1 June

Global Climate Change

Chapter 16


3 June

Global Climate Change

Chapter 16 / Portfolios due


8 June

Final Exam



10 June

Final Project

Final projects due


Note:  This schedule is subject to change and additions.  Only an overview is provided here.


Panorama earth

An artistic panorama of Earth system visuals.  Courtesy of NASA.