Geology is not offered as a subject by the Department of Education and Science, so we follow the syllabus of the Trinity College Dublin Matriculation Examination. This exam can only be taken at the equivalent of Higher Level, and points gained can be used towards entry into Trinity College, and into non-NUI universities, including most of those overseas.
What is Geology?
Geology (or 'Earth Science') is the scientific study of planet Earth. It involves trying to work out the events occurring over the past 4,600 million years ' largely from looking at clues contained in the rocks and fossils laid down through time. Different areas of Geology involve aspects of Chemistry (e.g. igneous rocks), Physics (e.g. structural geology) and Biology (e.g. palaeontology), but Geology is very much an old-established science in its own right.
Traditional geological jobs have been in the oil industry, mining and quarrying, engineering, water supplies, academic jobs (e.g. applied to archaeology), and in Geological Survey departments around the world. Geology is a science subject taught at Trinity, UCD, Cork and Galway universities, as well as most of the major UK and American universities.
Subject Organisation within the College
In Forms V and VI pupils can take Geology as a 'Q Set' option. In effect this means a 2 year course involving just 2 lessons per week (1 x double period). The subject is examined in the Easter holiday of VIth Form (i.e. before the Leaving Certificate proper), in a three hour exam held in Trinity College. Over the past five years 80% of SCC candidates have achieved an A or B grade in the exam.
Details of Geology Course
Form V Michaelmas Term
1. The Structure of Planet Earth (i) Cross-section diagram 'non-homogeneous, concentrically layered structure' (ii) Evidence: a) Seismology (Earthquakes) b) Obducted mantle rocks c) Meteorite studies d) Earth's magnetism e) Density and gravity studies f) Vulcanology (no detail) g) Direct sampling (the Moho Project)
2. The Earth in Space (i) The universe, our galaxy and the Solar System (ii) The Big Bang and an expanding universe (iii) Origin of Planet Earth
3. Geological Time (i) The Stratigraphic Column/Geological Timescale (ii) Principles of stratigraphic correlation: a) Law of superposition and cross-cutting relationships b) Way-up structures c) Unconformities d) Biostratigraphy e) Petrology and Geophysics in identifying marker horizons (iii) Radiometric dating
Form V Hilary Term
4. Plate Tectonics
(i) Outline of theory and the nature of plates (oceanic and continental crust), and plate margins
a) Volcanoes b) Rift valleys c) Granite emplacement d) Regional metamorphism and fold mountain belts
(ii) History of and evidence for theory
Form V Trinity Term
5. Minerals (i) Definition and Physical Properties (ii) Specific characteristics of 20 selected minerals
Form VI Michaelmas Term
6. Igneous Rocks (i) The rock cycle (ii) Definition and Classification (iii) Petrological details for selected rocks (iv) Igneous intrusions
7. Weathering (i) Physical, Chemical and Biological (ii) Relationship to climate and rock type
8. Sedimentary Rocks (i) Definition and Classification (ii) Limestones (iii) Petrological details for selected rocks (iv) Generalised sedimentary facies (v) Environmental indicators
9. Metamorphic rocks (i) Definition and Classification (ii) Metamorphic facies (iii) Petrological details for selected rocks
10. Structural Geology (i) Folding (ii) Faulting (iii) Associated features
Form VI Hilary Term
(i) Modes of fossilisation and preservation potential (ii) Selected groups: a) trilobites b) graptolites c) brachiopods d) bivalves e) cephalopods f) corals g) crinoids e) gastropods
(iii) Human evolution
(iv) The origin of life
12. Fossil fuels
13. Stratigraphy of Ireland
Geology is taught in a laboratory which houses an extensive rock, mineral and fossil collection. There are digital projection facilities, a geology library and a collection of relevant DVDs. Lesson notes can be downloaded from the SCC Science Department website www.sccscience.com, which also carries items of geological interest on its dynamic 'blog' (the Frog Blog).
Dr Tom DeBrit, BSc, PhD, HDipEd (Geology)