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Part IB Earth Sciences A

Course content and themes

The IB Earth Sciences A course concentrates on the Earth processes that form and deform sedimentary rocks. The course covers the description and diagnosis of sedimentary rocks and of their physical, chemical and biological components. The relevant processes fall into two groups:

  • processes ultimately driven by the external energy source of the sun. These are the Earth surface processes of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. They are covered in the course sections on the hydrosphere, sedimentology and palaeontology.
  • processes mainly driven by the internal energy source of the Earth's heat, that is those of the lithosphere, asthenosphere, and deeper. The IB Earth Sciences B course deals with igneous and metamorphic processes. The Earth Sciences A course covers tectonic and structural processes, particularly as they affect the formation and deformation of sedimentary rocks and basins.

Whereas, the IA Earth Sciences course took a holistic view of the Earth, the IB Earth Sciences A course is necessarily more reductionist, tackling the fundamentals of each topic. This approach gives you the rigorous grounding that you need to continue to Part II Earth Sciences or to complement other subjects that you study within NST. However, to help maintain the coherence of the course, it has two ongoing themes in addition to the inter-relationships of its primary subject matter:

  • Development of skills relevant to field work will be emphasized. This theme is in preparation for the Easter field trip and particularly of the independent project that many of you will do next summer.
  • The regional geology of southwest England will be referred to where appropriate. Lecture or practical examples from this area will link directly to next Easter’s field trip.

You will notice some differences in presentation and style of the IB courses as compared with IA Earth Sciences. These differences reflect the transition from closely guided work in IA to the more independent learning required of you in Part II. The course will increasingly highlight scientific debates, yet to be resolved, rather than attempt to give a simplified, if neat, explanation. You will need to read around the course more to understand these debates. Some reading of primary literature in journals will be necessary when you research your mapping project.