Science - 2017-18

ES.7 a - Geologic Processes

The student will investigate and understand geologic processes including plate tectonics. Key concepts include
a) geologic processes and their resulting features.

Bloom's Levels:  Analyze; understand

Adopted: 2010


  • Earth's surface is built up and worn down by natural processes, such as rock formation, erosion, and weathering.

  • I can determine how steep the walk is from my school to Downtown Lynchburg.


  • Virginia has a billion-year-long tectonic and geologic history.
  • Virginia has five physiographic provinces produced by past episodes of tectonic activity and continuous geologic activity.
  • Each province has unique physical characteristics resulting from its geologic past.
  • Geologic processes produce characteristic structures and features.
  • The five physiographic provinces of Virginia are Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau. 
  • The Coastal Plain is a flat area composed of young, unconsolidated sediments underlain by older crystalline basement rocks. These layers of sediment were produced by erosion of the Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont and then deposited on the Coastal Plain when sea levels were higher in the past. 
  • The Piedmont is an area of rolling hills underlain by mostly ancient igneous and metamorphic rocks. The igneous rocks are the roots of volcanoes formed during an ancient episode of subduction that occurred before the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. 
  • The Blue Ridge is a high ridge separating the Piedmont from the Valley and Ridge Province. The billion-year-old igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Blue Ridge are the oldest in the state. 
  • The Valley and Ridge province is an area with long parallel ridges and valleys underlain by ancient folded and faulted sedimentary rocks. The folding and faulting of the sedimentary rocks occurred during a collision between Africa and North America. The collision, which occurred in the late Paleozoic era, produced the Appalachian Mountains. 
  • The Appalachian Plateau has rugged, irregular topography and is underlain by ancient, flat-lying sedimentary rocks. The area is actually a series of plateaus separated by faults and erosional down-cut valleys. Most of Virginia’s coal resources are found in the plateau province.
  • Earth consists of a solid, mostly iron inner core; a liquid, mostly iron outer core; a crystalline but largely plastic mantle; and a rocky, brittle crust. 
  • Earth’s lithosphere is divided into plates that are in motion with respect to one another. The lithosphere is composed of the crust and upper portion of the mantle. There are two different types of lithospheres — oceanic and continental — that have very different physical and mineralogic characteristics. The ocean lithosphere is relatively thin, young, and dense. The continental lithosphere is relatively thick, old, and less dense. 
  • Weathering, erosion, and deposition are interrelated processes. Weathering is the process by which rocks are broken down chemically and physically by the action of water, air, and organisms. Erosion is the process by which Earth materials are physically incorporated by moving water, ice, or wind for transportation. Deposition is the process by which Earth materials carried by wind, water, or ice settle out and are left in a location when energy levels decrease. The size of the material deposited is proportional to the available energy of the medium of transport. 
  • A volcano is an opening where magma erupts onto Earth’s surface. Most volcanic activity is associated with subduction, rifting, or seafloor spreading. Hot spot volcanic activity, such as volcanic islands, is exceptional in that it is not related to plate boundaries but derived from a deep, localized heat source. 


In order to meet this standard, it is expected that students will

a)  label on a map the physiographic provinces of Virginia.

     comprehend the topographic, rock-type and geologic-structural characteristics of each physiographic province of Virginia.

     analyze the geologic history of Virginia in terms of the structures, rock types, and topography represented in the five physiographic provinces. 

     compare and contrast various types of volcanism and geothermal activity (i.e., Hawaii, Iceland, Mount St. Helens, Catoctin Greenstone, Tambora, the Deccan Traps, and Yellowstone).


A horizon, abrasion, B horizon, burrowing animals, C horizon, carbonic acid, chemical weathering, cone of depression, creep, deflation, erosion, ice wedging, ground water, horizon, humus, leaching, mass movement or mass wasting, mechanical or physical weathering, mud flow, oxidation, permeability, porosity, rock fall, rock slide, root pry, run-off, saltation, sinkhole, slump, soil, stalactite, stalagmite, water table, weathering, zone of aeration, zone of saturation

aftershock, earthquake, elastic rebound, seismic energy, epicenter, fault, focus, footwall, foreshock, hanging wall, intensity, liquefaction, magnitude, modified Mercalli scale, normal fault, p waves (primary), reverse fault, Richter scale, s waves (secondary), seismo-, seismograph, seismologist, seismology, shear force, surface waves, time travel graph, tsunami

active, andesitic magma, basaltic magma, caldera, cinder cone volcano, composite volcano, dormant, explosive eruption, extinct, granitic magma, hot spot, lahar, lava, magma chamber, magma, Mauna Loa, Mt. St. Helens, pipe, plume, pyroclastic flow, quiet eruption, shield volcano, tephra, viscosity, volcano

Updated: Nov 28, 2017