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Following lecture presentation of classification schemes and environments of formation for non-siliciclastic rocks, students perform a sequence of two activities (one in the lab, one in the field) designed to guide them from theoretical understanding to practical application. In the lab component, students are presented with twenty hand samples and twenty rock names and/or descriptions. Their task is to examine the samples, match the descriptions with the proper rocks, and propose a likely environment of formation for each sample. Included among the samples in the lab component are carbonates and cherts similar to those encountered in the field component, which examines a local outcrop exposing four successive carbonate formations in the Middle Paleozoic Helderberg Group. In the field component, students are first asked to differentiate between successive formations using lithology, sedimentary structures, and fossil assemblages. They then determine the probable sedimentary environment for each formation, and interpret the facies succession preserved in the outcrop to reconstruct a small portion of local geologic history. In both field and lab components, students are encouraged to work in small groups to develop their initial responses without instructor input. This arrangement ultimately improves both student understanding of the material and confidence in their own interpretations.
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