Learn about rocks and minerals, geology, what affects the earths climate and oceans. Understand the world around us.

Course Code: BEN204
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Study Geology, Meteorology and other aspects of Earth Science from Home.

Develop your knowledge of the physical characteristics and dynamics of the earth, oceans and global atmosphere.


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Structure and Forces
    • the solid earth and its structure
    • plate tectonics
    • plate boundaries
    • earthquakes
    • volcanoes
  2. Rocks and Minerals
    • mineral properties and groups
    • rock formation, texture and features
  3. Surface Changes
    • forces causing surface changes
    • streams
    • ground water and land subsidence
    • soil
  4. The Oceans
    • seawater
    • ocean currents
    • waves and tides
    • the ocean floor and shorelines
    • the marine food chain
  5. Air and Water
    • the hydrological cycle
    • the atmosphere
    • solar radiation and the greenhouse effect
    • weather
    • severe weather
  6. The Greenhouse Effect
    • global warming and climate change
    • the ozone layer and ozone destruction
  7. Global Weather Patterns
    • climate
    • climate classification
  8. Geological Time
    • geological time
    • the geological time scale
    • relative dating
    • radiometric dating
  9. Modern Environmental Issues
    • the balance of nature
    • major current environmental concerns


  • Describe the major structural elements of Earth and the major internal forces which affect them.
  • Classify rocks and minerals according to their characteristics and formation.
  • Explain external processes that that cause topographic and soil changes on the earth’s surface.
  • Describe the oceans of the earth and their role in global processes.
  • Describe the earth’s atmosphere and the forces which create weather.
  • Describe some well known effects of particular atmospheric conditions like the Greenhouse effect.
  • Identify global weather patterns and their relationship to different climates.
  • Describe the way in which the earth’s surface has changed over time.
  • Identify environmental issues which are of current significance.

What You Will Do

  • Research how a mountain/mountain range in or near your region was formed.
  • Explain plate tectonics.
  • Collect and classify rock samples as either sedimentary rock, igneous rock, or metamorphic rock.
  • Describe four ways that weathering breaks down rocks to help form soil.
  • Explain how the speed of a stream affects the shape of the landscape.
  • Name the three main layers of the ocean, describe the characteristics and ocean life in each.
  • Keep a record of atmospheric and weather changes in your environment.
  • Explain the highs and lows associated with air pressure, and how they affect weather.
  • Create a questionnaire to determine understanding of the Greenhouse Effect or the Ozone layer.
  • Explain why your region has its overall climate.
  • Research what life forms (plant and animal) inhabited your region before the formation of humans.
  • Identify the rules and laws used to date fossils.
  • Research an environmental problem in your area, and discuss possible solutions.

What are Rocks and Minerals?

A mineral is defined as any naturally occurring inorganic (non-biological) solid that has an orderly crystalline structure and a well-defined chemical composition. Hence, it must occur naturally, a synthetic diamond is not considered a mineral. It must be solid, hence Ice is a mineral but water is not. It should have a repetitive atomic structure and the chemical make up of the mineral is consistent (although it may vary a little between samples). There is one exception where minerals may be of organic (biological) origin. This is where marine animals excrete calcium carbonate (calcite) making shells and coral reefs.
A rock is an aggregate of mainly minerals and mineral like matter as some rocks are of organic origin such as coal. Some rocks can be composed of just one mineral, while others may contain many minerals, but these last ones are the most common.In an aggregate, the materials retain their own properties; for this reason, rocks can usually be identified by the minerals that they contain, and the properties of rocks are determined by those minerals.
Before learning further about rocks and minerals it is important to understand something about the building blocks that make rocks and minerals up.
  • Atoms – An atom is the smallest indivisible unit of matter. An atom consists of a nucleus with a negative electric charge with electrons (these have a positive charge) in orbit around the nucleus.
  • Element – An element is a pure substance that cannot be broken down into other substances. You will be familiar with many elements such as Copper, Aluminium and Oxygen. Basically an element is made up of atoms of the same type. For example: Oxygen is made up only of oxygen atoms.
  • Compound – A compound is a combination of two or more elements. For example: water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen. The manner in which atoms bond (join together) determines what type of compound is formed.
There are three main types of chemical bonding:
  • Ionic Bonding: This is simply where one atom donates at electron(s) to another atom.
  • Covalent Bonding: In covalent bonding the atoms share the electron(s). 
  • Metallic Bonding: electrons are shared in a lattice It is important to understand this because the many of the properties of minerals and rocks are determined by their chemical structure. 
Minerals are solids formed by inorganic (non-biological) processes. They each have an exact crystalline structure and the mineral’s chemical structure may be exact or inexact. Each mineral belongs to a crystal structure group and these are classified according to how the atoms of the minerals are arranged. Naturally occurring elements are also considered minerals. Mineral are easily recognised by their unique physical properties. Examples of the properties to look for when identifying minerals are:
Crystal form - (the shape resulting from the orderly arrangement of atoms). This is also known as habit. Most minerals will have only one shape or habit, some do have two or more known crystal shapes. Some minerals however, do not form crystals but still have a shape that can be used for identification. They may grow in all directions equally or their shape may be determined by suppression in one or more areas;
Lustre – the quality of light reflected from the surface. Lustre might be metallic (look like metal), however most minerals have a non-metallic lustre and can be described as either glassy, silky (feel like satin), dull (sometimes called earthy), greasy (feel as though they are coated in oil) etc;
Colour – while being the most obvious property of a mineral, is of limited usefulness in identification. This is due to two reasons; impurities will change the colour of a mineral tinting it black, pink, yellow etc.; some minerals can also have a range of hues occurring within the same sample;
Light Transmission – if a mineral does not transmit light it is said to be opaque; if the mineral transmits light (but not an image) it is described as translucent. If light and an image is visible it is transparent;
Streak – the colour of a streak drawn when the mineral is rubbed across unglazed porcelain. It is much more reliable than colour, for it does not vary nearly as much, even when the colour of the mineral is variable between samples. This property is useful for determining between metallic and non-metallic lustres. A metallic lustre will show a dark, thick streak, while non-metallic minerals will have a light coloured streak. Be aware that if a mineral is harder than the streak plate (the porcelain) it will not leave a streak;
Hardness – resistance to abrasion or scratching. Rub the mineral against a mineral of known hardness to determine it position on the Mohs hardness scale, rub it against something of known hardness. A piece of glass has a hardness of 5.5, and a fingernail has a hardness of 2.5.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Biologist, Aquaculture expert.
Barbara has a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Aquaculture Engineering.
Over the past decade, Barbara has worked in Hawaii, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, and is now settled in Australia. She has co authored severa

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