38:169/170 How Earth Works

There are two versions of the course called “How Earth Works” that are taught concurrently. One is called How Earth Works: Fundamentals of Physical Geography (course number 38:169) and the other is How Earth Works: Applied Physical Geography (course number 38:170). This is the website for BOTH versions of this course.

Students in both courses will attend the same in-person lectures and will write the same term tests and final exam. The big difference between the two versions of this course is that the applied course 38:170 has a required laboratory component, whereas the 38:169 version of the course has a required multi-part project instead. The significance of this is that the lab version of the course (38:170) is the one that is required as a prerequisite if you plan to take any additional upper level geography courses in the future. So, it is important that you are registered in the 38:170 version of the course if this is the case. If you are unsure whether or not you plan to take more geography courses down the road it is highly recommended that you consider taking the lab version of the course instead, provided you are able to fit one of the three lab sections into your schedule. The lab sections are offered either Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday afternoon from 1:40 – 4:30 pm.

In addition to the course website, I will use Microsoft Teams to manage both versions of the course. This includes distributing lecture notes prior to class, posting and receiving assignments, giving tests, and responding to questions outside of class time.  I will provide you with an access code and instructions on how to join our HEW Team. 

Instructors:  Lecture, Dr. Dion J. Wiseman – 38:170 Laboratory, Ms. Wenonah van Heyst
Office: Brodie Room 4-07
Office Hrs: Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 11 – 12 PM; or by Appointment
Phone: 727-9774
Email: wiseman@brandonu.ca

Required Text:

Arbogast, Ford, and Dagesse. Discovering Physical Geography, 1st Canadian Edition. John Wiley and Sons, 2018. Available through the BU bookstore as either a loose-leaf text or in electronic format. Another option is to rent the textbook for just the semester; more information is available here.

Course Description

Physical Geography is the study of the physical components and processes operating within Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. This course will introduce basic geographic concepts and examine a variety of these systems in a spatial context. Topics discussed include coordinate systems, maps, and map projections; GIS, remote sensing, and GPS technology; solar energy and radiation balances; weather and climate; volcanism, earthquakes, and plate tectonics; weathering and mass movements; fluvial, eolian, coastal, and glacial land forms and processes; and soils.

Tentative Course Outline

Topic  Description Chapter(s)
1 Introduction, Earth Four Spheres, and the Systems Approach 1
2 Basic Concepts, Location, and Geospatial Technologies 2
3 Earth Sun Relations and the Reasons for the Seasons 3
Test I Friday, October 7th
4 Solar Energy and the Global Energy Balance 4
5 Structure of the Atmosphere and Temperature Controls 5
6 Atmospheric Pressure and Global Circulation Patterns 6
Test II Friday, November 4th
7 Water in the Atmosphere, at Earth’s Surface, and Subsurface 7 (to pg. 148) & 15
8 Earth’s Internal Structure, Tectonics, and Volcanism 12 & 13
9 Weathering and Mass Movements 14
10 Fluvial Processes and Landforms 16
11 Glacial Processes and Landforms 17
Final Saturday, December 10th,  9 AM

Grading Scheme


(No Lab)



Letter Grades

Test I & Quizzes 25%* Test I & Quizzes 20%* > 90% A+ 70 – 72% B-
Test II & Quizzes 25%* Test II & Quizzes 20%* 85 – 89% A 67 – 69% C+
Final and Quizzes 25%* Final & Quizzes 20%* 80 – 84% A- 63 – 66% C
†Discovery Asgmt. 25% ‡Laboratory 40% 77 – 79% B+ 60 – 62% C-
Total 100% Total 100% 73 – 76% B 50 – 59% D
◊ Optional Extra Credit: Book Review 5%  OR  Why Geography Matters 2% < 50% F

* Variably weighted, best exam vs. worst exam +/- 5 percent.

38:169 Discovering Physical Geography Assignment:

This is a required assignment in the 169 version of the course in which you will create a series of Wikipedia style entries describing the physical geography of a Place of your choice.

38:170 Laboratory:

The laboratory is required of the 170 version of the course. Lab sections are scheduled on M, T, and W afternoons. There are 9 lab assignments worth 23% and two lab quizzes worth 17%.

Optional Extra Credit Assignments:

A book review OR short essay on “Why Geography Matters” may be submitted at any time before the last day of class for extra credit.

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