Physical Geography

I.     Course Prefix/Number: EAS 121

       Course Name: Physical Geography

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course examines characteristics, formation, and distribution of physical environments; including landforms, weather, climate, vegetation, and soils.  Interactions between the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, the atmosphere, and humans are emphasized.

Credit cannot be received in both EAS 121 and EAS 100.

IV.   Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this course, a student should be able to broadly understand the role that geologic and climatic factors play in influencing the lives and works of man.  More specifically, a student should be able to:

  1. Explain how solar energy drives weather.
  2. Summarize the water cycle and cloud formation.
  3. Identify cloud and precipitation types.
  4. Name characteristics of air masses and pressure systems and the weather they produce.
  5. List water resources and their significance to humans.
  6. Differentiate between weather and climate.
  7. Map climatic and vegetation distribution on earth.
  8. Outline the formation and types of soils, rocks, and minerals.
  9. Describe surface and shoreline processes and identify the features they create.
  10. Summarize oceanic circulations, currents, and waves.
  11. State the Theory of Plate Tectonics and resultant features and hazards that occur at plate boundaries.
  12. Compare and contrast map projections and appropriate uses.
  13. Work effectively with people of diverse backgrounds, both individually and in groups.
  14. Communicate effectively in writing or speech.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  • Introduction to Physical Geography
  • Solar Energy and the Atmosphere
  • Atmospheric Energy and Global Temperatures
  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulations
  • Atmospheric Water and Weather
  • Water Resources
  • Climate Systems and Climate Change
  • The Dynamic Planet
  • Tectonics, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes
  • Weathering, Karst Landscapes, and Mass Movements
  • River Systems and Landforms
  • The Oceans, Coastal Systems, and Wind Processes
  • Glacial and Periglacial Landscapes
  • The Geography of Soils
  • Ecosystems
  • Terrestrial Biomes
  • Human Environment Interaction

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Instructional methods may include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Assigned readings
  • Lecture
  • Discussion
  • Field trips
  • Lab exercises
  • Case studies
  • Field demonstrations
  • Video clips
  • Web activities and links
  • Debates
  • Application assignments

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Required course practices are to be established by the instructor.  Completion of lab exercises is required. Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.


IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Textbook:  Elemental Geosystems, Christopherson, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Evaluation of student learning is established by the instructor and may include, but is not limited to:

  • Quizzes
  • Exams
  • Research Papers
  • Class Participation
  • Laboratory Reports
  • Oral Presentations
  • Application Assignments
  • Field Journals

XI.   Other Course Information

Attendance and other policies are established by individual instructors.

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.