UofU-GEOG3600-090             On-line.

Use MODULES on Canvas as a pathway through the course.  



(version 1/9/2015 … expect minor changes through the semester)


Geography of Utah

A university-level course about Utah’s big bold physical geography and its fascinating human geography using 15 themes of physical, social and behavioral sciences.


UofU - Fulfills General Education Intellectual Explorations of Social/Behavioral Science.

UofU - Fulfills a requirement for Composite Social Science Teaching majors.



Genevieve Atwood, PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Geography.

Communicate: Through Canvas (because it maintains an easy-to-manage record of communications). Via phone for longer coachings (801-647-8155). It’s okay to call from 8AM to 8PM.

Email: only when Canvas isn’t working. Genevieve. Atwood AT

In person: If convenient, students are encouraged to arrange to come to my UofU office, OSH-172. Official office hours are Tuesdays, 3PM-4:30PM.


Course description from UofU course catalogue:

GEOG3600 Geography of Utah (3)

 Fulfills Social/Behavioral Science Intellectual Explorations.  

This course explores the human and physical phenomena that make Utah distinctive. Lectures and labs examine webs of relationships among Utah's people, places, and environments. Students use histories of Utah communities to examine influences of contrasting physical and social environments.




Empower through understanding. Let this course help you succeed at whatever goals you set for yourself. An understanding of where you are now, meaning, an understanding of the complex webs of physical and human geographies of Utah, intends to help you become the person you want to be. As western writers and your instructor, admonish: Know where you are… Know who you are.



1. Students will be able to analyze news articles, landscapes and discussions with friends using course concepts, specifically the 15 themes of Geography of Utah.

Those themes are:

(a) The five Great Themes of Geography: Location, Place, Interaction, Movement, and Regions;

(b) The five subsystems of Earth systems: Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Anthrosphere.

(c) Five disciplines of social and behavioral sciences: Anthropology, Demographics, Economics, Political Science, and Sociology; and


2. Students will be able to evaluate their own conclusions about diverse social and behavioral issues using evidence and in the context of knowledge.

Put differently, students will be skilled observers of Utah’s natural and social geographies, able to see and interpret evidence outdoors, with maps, and on the web.  They will be able to evaluate what they and others conclude in the context of generally accepted knowledge.  


3. Students will be able to describe to others the diversity of Utah’s physical and social landscapes and be able to consequences of constructs of place.

Specifically, students will be able to (a) observe, (b) compare and contrast, and (c) analyze geographies of Utah at national, state, and county scales using the 15 Themes of Geography of Utah. Students will be able to recognize contrasts of geography elsewhere as they travel or even on TV. They will be able to hypothesize how place impacts people, including themselves.



More about Canvas:

Expectations for Canvas communications: Through January 31, 2015, I’ll check Canvas every week day, so, my response to you should be within 24 hours. After that, allow a few days as I may be in the field.


Office hours: This is an on-line course. I’ll be consistently available 3PM-4:30PM Tuesdays at my office OSH-172. What is far more convenient for me and for most of you is to set an appointment. Use Canvas. I am delighted to meet about the course and how it fits into your future. Note how 3% of the course grade is communication with instructor, specifically, two phone calls, or one substantial office visit, or one of the field experiences.


Credit Hours: 3.


Dates to be aware of, specifically dates to drop, add, elect CR/NC, audit, withdraw, etc

UofU – Check academic calendar

Classes begin Monday January 12; Last day to add without a permission code is Monday January 19; Last day to drop (delete) classes is Wednesday January 21; Last day to add, elect CR/NC, or audit course is Monday January 26; Last day to withdraw from course is Friday March 6; Last day to reverse CR/NC option is Friday April 24.


Pre-requisites, none. The course thrives on diversity of students: Utahns and non-Utahns; majors and non-majors; undergraduates and practicing teachers; those who love the state, and many who will live most of their lives elsewhere. Geography of Utah is a stand-alone class for undergraduates, not a building block within a series of courses. Students with bright eyes and open minds from any academic background are encouraged to learn more about themselves by learning about Utah.



·        DRAFT web-text on line:

·        Required text: C.B. Craig and M.E. Carr, 2008, Utah Atlas: geography and history. Layton, UT, Gibbs Smith Publisher, 38 p.

  Texts that supplement.

·        Supplemental for physical geography: Hamblin, W. K. (2004). Beyond the Visible Landscape: Aerial Panoramas of Utah’s Geology. Provo, UT: BYU Geology, 300 p. Awesome photography, terrific explanations of physical geography.

·        Supplemental for human geography / issues of social and behavioral sciences: On-line-Census Atlas of the United States, US Census Bureau,



Fifteen modules, each designed to be accomplished in a week, most consisting of (a) content; (b) content quizzes; (c) content inquiry – Utah in the News; (d) reality checks; and (d) progress on an atlas project for a specific locale.


(a) Content: Readings, On-line lectures, and Additional resources.

Expect two on-line lectures each week.


(b) Content quizzes: Students of Geography of Utah have diverse backgrounds. Some know Utah names and places and have been to them. Other students have just arrived in Utah. Content quizzes are meant to reinforce spatial literacy; and provide feedback on terms and concepts. Take six or more for full credit;  2-5 for partial credit.


(c) Inquiry quizzes – Utah in the news. By the end of Geography of Utah, students should be curious about why Utah is the way it is. Exams include exploration of Utah news stories. The weekly content inquiries provide opportunities to practice analysis of Utah in the News.


(d) Reality checks -- Students compare evidence they observe outside and knowledge they bring to the class with course concepts. Students discuss. By the end of Geography of Utah, students will seek out observations of Utah diverse cultural and physical landscapes.  


(e) The atlas project -- The atlas project is the cornerstone for the course. Students transfer state-wide content to a more detailed scale, a significant challenge in geography. The audience for a student’s atlas is a hypothetical teacher eager to have useful information to share with students.


Exams expect knowledge of information (a) from the required text: Craig and Carr, 2008, Utah Atlas, (b) from the DRAFT web-text Geography of Utah found at , (c) from on-line lectures, but not explicitly from (d) additional resources, although, of course, they would help.




Geography of Utah asks students to explore Utah from 15 perspectives, the 15 Themes of Geography of Utah (listed above). When a student can explore the spatial diversity of expressions of these themes across the state and articulate the importance of webs of relationships among them, the student has succeeded in Geog2600. 


Geography of Utah explores intellectual aspects of social and behavioral sciences: (a) the first part of the course explores five great themes of geography (a social and behavioral science) and applies them to Utah, (b) the second part of the course examines the five subsystems of Earth systems and how each relates to Utah’s human geography, and (c) the third part of the course explores five social and behavioral issues that impact Utahns and our great state. Most assignments are evaluated using rubrics for general education objectives including critical thinking, inquiry, and information literacy. These rubrics are posted under Canvas, see Files.


The Atlas project is the course cornerstone. Students choose a county in Utah, but not Salt Lake County. Then, week after week, students apply lecture content to that county. Each chapter of an atlas presents evidence, observations, discussion of learning-module concepts, and a section on importance.  For example, the fifth chapter of the atlas concerns water, Utah’s hydrosphere. Student atlas-project chapters will (a) introduce the theme;  (b) present evidence (a couple maps or images that show aspects of water in “their” county; (c) list several  observations about spatial patterns of water in Utah and their county based on the evidence presented; (d) discuss big concepts about water in Utah from the web-text and lecture, and (e) evaluate the impact of water on other aspects of the county’s geography.  


The Atlas project is a learning tool for spatial literacy as well as knowledge content. Scale maters. The atlas project requires students to shift scale from state-wide to a more detailed scale. Students have the option at the end of the semester to give permission for the instructor to post their atlas project to the UofU website (eQuella) for access by students and teachers as well as other interested persons. This is optional and carries no extra credit for posting… although sharing the atlas is a form of service-learning and looks great on a resume. See Canvas, Files for a few examples of past-years’ atlases. 



Schedule.  SPRING 2015

Follow Canvas MODULES for the plan for the week, list of assignments, and links.



Part I – The Five Great Themes of Geography and Utah Geography.



COURSE OVERVIEW: Students will be able to give examples of aspects of Utah’s human and physical geography. They will choose “their county” and school.

LOCATION: Students will be able to write ways location from the equator and from oceans affects places in Utah.


PLACE: When Brigham Young entered Salt Lake Valley he did not say “this is the location.” The power of place is the intersection of geography and the humanities.

LANDMARKS: Physical and cultural landmarks. Pathways to a sense of place.


INTERACTION and MIGRATION: By week 3 of the course, students will be able to complete an Atlas chapter in less than 4 hours using systematic analysis and skills of geographers. They will recognize that geography is far more than place names and capitols.



MIDTERM. Available February 5 – 7 (Thursday through Saturday).


Part II – Five subsystems of physical geography (Earth systems) and Utah Geography


REGIONS and INTRODUCTION to physical geography: Utah has remarkable physical geography. Think… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! 5 ecoregions; 4 climate regions; 3 physiographic provinces; 2 major hydrologic regions; and 1 great state with 29 counties. Within each are contrasts.  


GEOSPHERE: Students will be able to analyze how geology largely determines Utah’s topography, scenery, natural resources and natural hazards. This affects society from county politics to local industry, such as coal from Carbon County and tourism in Kane County.


HYDROSPHERE: the uneven distribution of water in Utah is further complicated by water law. Students will be able to find and analyze plans for water development for different areas of the state.  


ATMOSPHERE and BIOSPHERE: Subsystems of Earth systems are intimately linked with feedback loops. Students will be able to give evidence of changed climate of the Ice Ages and consider evidence and consequences of future climate changes.


The ANTHROSPHERE (human footprint) and ANTHROPOLOGY: Students will be able to integrate what they know of physical geography with patterns of lifestyle of Utah’s early peoples and with success and failure of pioneer communities.


SPRING  BREAK –      UofU=March 15 -22.


REVIEW with connections to themes of geography

MIDTERM – Part II. Available March 26-28 (Thursday through Saturday).


Part III – Five Issues of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Utah Geography


OVERVIEW of social and behavioral sciences and data sources for Utah.  

DEMOGRAPHICS: Dr Perlich explores Utah’s changing demographics and how demographics determine destiny.


POLITICAL SCIENCE: Indeed all politics is local but don’t forget national and regional.

SOCIOLOGY: Institutions and groups… includes religions


ECONOMICS and ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT in areas of Utah. Overview lecture and a review by Robert Springmeyer of present climate for economic development.


THEORY and geography of Utah. Sense of Place. Determinism. Students will be able to discuss impacts of place, clarify definitions and explore nuances. They will be able to discuss, with respect, regional contrasts within Utah, their origins and consequences.



THEORY and geography of Utah. Nature and Construct.  Perceptions of Utah, past present and explorations of future. How are such views established, what may be trends of the next 50 years. Utah as religious haven. Utah as Nation’s playground.

Cut off for late assignments, May 1.

Final exam

Final exam online – Available May 4 – 6 (Monday through Wednesday)



Expected Time Commitment:

Nine hours per week for a 3-credit hour class, according to university, school, and department policy. On-line course content (web-text reading and for-some-topics lectures) takes about 2 hours per week and additional readings another hour.

·        Atlas chapters can take too much time. Become organized they will take about 3 hours each to research and to write. If your atlas chapters are taking more than 5 hours and are frustrating, call your instructor as you may not have downloaded the template or instructions intended to make writing chapters straightforward and a learning experience. Reminder, the purpose of the atlas chapters is for students to apply web-text content to a county and, in the process, learn the content. When a student can explain the spatial diversity of a geographic attribute for a county, the student has mastered that content for the course.

·        Reality checks should take an hour except for the one more-time-consuming self-guided field excursion. Their purpose is to connect web-text content with students’ personal experiences and to encourage student-to-student sharing of geographic insights.

·        Content quizzes should take less than a half hour even for students unfamiliar with Utah place names such as counties, major roads, and cities.

·        Utah in the News – Inquiries should take about a half hour to read and digest sufficiently to pose a geographic inquiry, meaning, these assignments do not require research into the topic, simply expressions of curiosity and higher-order inquiry, such as, what cultural geographic considerations are legislators considering as they evaluate places to move Utah’s prison.

·        Learning from others consists of assignments immediately before exams. These assignments should take about an hour each and are an excellent way to prepare for exams.

·        Interact with instructor early in the semester to earn full credit and, even more importantly, to understand course expectations with respect to three learning objectives of the course: critical thinking, inquiry, and analysis.


Evaluation methods: The grade for the course is calculated based on the following table. Late assignments generally are accepted for partial credit until a cut-off of mid-terms or final exam. Final grades are not on a curve except to adjust upward. Note: it is possible to earn an A in Geography of Utah without completing quizzes or meeting by phone or in person with the instructor. It is not possible to earn an A without completing substantial portions of the Atlas project, completing reality checks, or exams.


Atlas Chapters = 40% (10 chapters @ 4%each)

Atlas in its entirety = 3%

Reality checks and discussion submittals = 24% (10 @ 2%; 1 @ 4%)

Content quizzes = 3% (6 @ 0.5%)

Utah in the News inquiries = 3% (12 inquiries each at 0.25%)

Interact with instructor 3% (in person or by phone)

Learn from each other’s atlases: 5% (5 @ 1%)

Exams = 19% (two midterms and one final @ 5%, 6%, and 8%)

TOTAL = 100 total.

Exceptional contribution to course dynamics (calculated at term’s end) -- up to 2%.




University of Utah, Department of Geography, and class policies with respect to student and faculty responsibilities. Reference: University Policy 6-400-Sec.VII.

Please review: “Academic Misconduct including cheating, misrepresenting one’s work, and plagiarism:

Note: Plagiarism detection service software may be used to check homework assignments.

·        Geography of Utah’s Atlas Project: The course web-text at includes maps that may be used by students in their atlas chapters with attribution to the primary source.  Collaboration is encouraged; however student Atlas projects are individual work. When in doubt whether to attribute sources or how to acknowledge collaboration, communicate with instructor. As a general guideline, quotations of more than five consecutive words should acknowledge source. Diagrams and maps should indicate primary source, meaning, indicate map-authorship (if possible) not simply the URL where found on the web.


Generalized Faculty-Student responsibilities

The Student Code in the Student Handbook describes students’ rights and responsibilities

( The Faculty Rules and Regulations ( describe faculty responsibilities. Students are responsible for reading, understanding, and abiding by the Code.  Students have the right to an educational climate conducive to conducive to thinking and learning. When behavior is disruptive to education such as disrespectful, expect Canvas-mail warnings, progressing to dismissal from class, and, possibly, a failing grade. Students have the right to appeal to the Student Behavior Committee. (See Respect, below).


Americans with Disabilities Act: The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities.  Students who need accommodations should give reasonable prior notice of their needs to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD).  CDS will work with the student and instructor arrange for accommodations. Written information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.


Wellness Statement: Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, etc., can interfere with a student’s ability to succeed and thrive at a university. For helpful resources UofU students contact the Center of Student Wellness 801-581-7776.


Respect: Geography of Utah includes class discussions. Students should be considerate and respectful of others perspectives as they express opinions. Please be open with the instructor if you feel class / on-line sessions or management has been inappropriate. Some of the subject matter in this course includes topics that some students may find controversial or offensive. Please review the syllabus carefully to see whether this course, Geography of Utah, is one that you are committed to taking. If you have concerns, please discuss them with the instructor at earliest convenience.  


Problems, absences, and other concerns:

Paperwork and assignments are generally the responsibility of the student. Students with problems keeping up with assignments should communicate. Assignments require relatively straight-forward application of concepts from readings and online presentations. It is difficult to fail this course if one has completed the assignments.



(1)   Knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world –


(a)    Atlas project, (b) Reality checks and interactions with classmates.

On-line presentations explore Utah’s human geographies, such as, Dr Pamela Perlich lecture on Utah’s changed and changing demographics, and Atwood’s lecture on relationships of Utah’s early peoples to physical geography, specifically topography (geosphere), water availability (hydrosphere), food (biosphere), and sustainability (anthrosphere). Each chapter of the Atlas project concluding section, Importance, draws connections among The 15 Themes of Geography. Reality checks ask students to compare their knowledge and personal experience with course concepts.


By the end of the course, students are able to articulate causal connections among the 15 themes of Geography of Utah as part of their Atlas chapters.

As part of reality checks, students are able to provide focused feedback to each other on connections they see. For example, they go outside and neighborhood interactions among human and physical geographies. They are able to explain patterns of urbanization using terms of social and physical sciences.


(2)   Intellectual and practical skills, specifically, inquiry and analysis


(a)    Inquiry quiz; (b) Atlas project; and (b) Discussions associated with reality checks.

(a)    Inquiry quizzes ask students to pose a few questions about a story of Utah in the News. By the end of the course, students will be able to formulate higher order “why” questions exploring underlying processes and relationships among the 15 themes of Geography of Utah.

(b)   Each chapter of the student’s atlas begins with an introduction/purpose paragraph that presents the inquiry explored in the chapter, followed by systematic analysis. Analysis includes (i) evidence, (ii) observations, (iii) discussion using big concepts of the lecture, and (iv) exploration of importance

(c)    Reality checks include student-to-student collegial coaching via discussion. Three reality checks explore what is meant by inquiry, analysis, and critical thinking. By explaining these concepts to each other, students will be able to respond to exam questions demonstrating inquiry and analysis as per this course.


Inquiry: Higher-order in contrast to lower-order inquiry is presented in a rubric (Canvas, see Files) used to grade inquiry quizzes and other submissions. Students’ final Atlas project will convey respectful curiosity about the county they studied.

Analysis: Evidence of analysis includes curiosity, wonder, and skepticism as well as the ability to follow the five-step template for Atlas chapters. Students’ will be able to write exam responses using the five-step systematic analysis of Atlas chapters. Specific to geographic analysis, students will be able to shift scales of analysis, such as, from state-wide to county, to local.


(3)    Critical thinking.

Strategies: (a) Atlas project; and (b) discussions associated with reality checks.

Rubrics for Atlas chapters include evaluation of critical thinking, specifically, how the student uses examples, explores definitions, discusses nuances, or digs deeper into concepts (see Canvas, Files).  Two reality checks ask students to recognize outward signs of critical thinking in others’ work, such as, how a colleague has thought critically about Utah’s demographics, behaviors, society and institutions.


Students’ will be able to observe patterns in their evidence and analyze contrasts. They will be able to apply and restate big concepts of content to their atlas chapters. They will be able to use Utah examples in their exams when explaining terms. For example, the second midterm exam might ask how and why the transportation patterns (theme of movement) of Summit and Tooele Counties differ. By the second midterm, students will be able demonstrate critical thinking by explicitly exploring big concepts of the theme of movement, such as push-pull factors to migration. Evidence of critical thinking might include discussion of the specific location of transportation corridors with respect barriers such as mountain ranges and lakes, or pull-factors such as demographics and natural resources.


(4)   Personal and social responsibility, specifically, civic knowledge and engagement.


(a) Atlas project; (c) Reality checks.

Students gain a heart-beat understanding of the Wallace Stegner / Wendell Berry admonition: “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are” as they learn a great deal about the human and physical geographies of a county in Utah. Students are able to present evidence and discuss in the context of big concepts from lectures. For example, they are able to discuss with respect and insights Utah’s social institutions, drivers of politics, and geographic patterns of religion. Students are able to explore theory such as geographic determinism for regions as well as individuals. They examine the influence of place on their careers and perspectives.

By the end of the course, students are able to present a credible picture of a community that is not their own using insights to the 15 themes of Geography of Utah. They are able to respectfully inquire how behavioral patterns have evolved.

The students’ Atlas projects are genuine service projects should students choose post them to the UofU projects website (eQuella) or have it sent to the principal of a school they have studied. The primary purpose of the Atlas project is pedagogical, for students to learn the geography of Utah by explaining it at a detailed scale. However, in that process, students are able to empathize with that county, a community other that their own.


By the end of Part II of the course, students are able to write about physical geography, human geography, contemporary conditions and demographic trends in their Atlas project using information that would be of interest to a school teacher in that county. Students are able to explore hypotheses concerning economic trends, for example to examine poverty and demographic patterns. Students will be able to demonstrate civic engagement by raising issues of social inequality; or expressing skepticism concerning methods for evaluating quality of life. Some students will express civic commitment, for example, on a Reality Check to state what should be done to improve air quality. But how does an instructor measure empowerment and the ability of students to make a difference to society? It is hoped that by taking Geography of Utah, students will have developed life-long skills, knowledge, and commitment to be agents of positive change in their communities. Only time will tell.


(5)   Integrative learning, including synthesis and advanced accomplishment across general and specialized studies.


(a) On-line presentations; (b) Atlas project; (c) Exams, and (d) Reality Checks.

Lecture materials present information about the 15 themes of Geography of Utah at a state-wide scale. Lecture materials include examination of current events (Utah in the News) and events of Utah history (for example, why some pioneer communities failed). These examinations integrate concepts of human and physical geography. The Atlas project challenges students, week after week, to integrate at least a few of the 15 themes of Geography of Utah as they explore the impact of one theme, such as geology and geologic resources, or on another theme such as economics, or politics. Exams test synthesis and accomplishment. For example, by Part III of the course, students presented with a map showing distributions of Utah’s hospitals will be able to (a) describe spatial relationships (b) express curiosity about the non-random patterns. They will be able to articulate general concepts that explain relationships. Most students will be able to integrate knowledge of social and natural conditions and relate hospitals to (a) Utah’s urban centers, and those centers to (b) Utah’s water resources, and those water resources to (c) Utah’s topography.


By the end of the course, students’ written work will include evidence, observations, and ideas from perspectives of several of the 15 Themes of Geography of Utah. Students will be able to present evidence at different scales (local, state-wide, and/or national). Students will be able to articulate relationships and explore causality. For example, students will be able to integrate their knowledge of topography, water, climate, and biota to explore patterns of life styles of some of Utah’s early peoples


NOTE: This syllabus is not a binding contract:

It will be modified by the instructor with reasonable notice to participants via Canvas announcements. The Canvas web-site under FILES has a file with FAQ (frequently… and infrequently… asked questions).