Headlands - Sources and Standards

All the models - chocolate pillow basalt and cookie chert – were introduced to me by Eric Muller of the Exploratorium Teachers’ Institute. For detailed information about the chocolate pillow basalt demonstration, see his write up “Chocolate Lava” on his website.

The best overview of the geology of the San Francisco Headlands region is available in the book: The Geology and Natural History of the San Francisco Bay Area: A Field-Trip Guidebook, edited by Philip W. Stoffer and Leslie C. Gordon, published by USGS. The information you want is found in the third field trip, “Geology of the Golden Gate Headlands”, stop #2, 3, and 4. The entire guide with other excellent field trips throughout the Bay Area may be downloaded from. The USGS provides an online photographic tour of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, including a great geologic map of the Marin Headlands.

Two excellent books describing the geologic history of California are:

  • California Geology, by Deborah Harden, 2003, Prentice Hal
  • Assembling California, by John McPhee, 1994, Farrar Straus Giroux

Some good websites for additional information about the history of California include:

  • The National Parks Service website has a great image of North America showing the various geological regions with a brief description of their formation.
  • This USGS bulletin carefully describes many important characteristics of the geology of the Bay Area.

Grade 6
Plate Tectonics and Earth's Structure
Plate tectonics accounts for important features of Earth's surface and major geologic events. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a    Students know evidence of plate tectonics is derived from the fit of the continents; the location of earthquakes, volcanoes, and midocean ridges; and the distribution of fossils, rock types, and ancient climatic zones.
e     Students know major geologic events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountain building, result from plate motions.
f     Students know how to explain major features of California geology (including mountains, faults, volcanoes) in terms of plate tectonics.

Shaping Earth's Surface
Topography is reshaped by the weathering of rock and soil and by the transportation and deposition of sediment. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a     Students know water running downhill is the dominant process in shaping the landscape, including California's landscape.
b     Students know rivers and streams are dynamic systems that erode, transport sediment, change course, and flood their banks in natural and recurring patterns.
Investigation and Experimentation
Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
e     Recognize whether evidence is consistent with a proposed explanation.
f     Read a topographic map and a geologic map for evidence provided on the maps and construct and interpret a simple scale map.
g     Interpret events by sequence and time from natural phenomena (e.g., the relative ages of rocks and intrusions).

Grade 7
Earth and Life History (Earth Sciences)
Evidence from rocks allows us to understand the evolution of life on Earth. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a     Students know Earth processes today are similar to those that occurred in the past and slow geologic processes have large cumulative effects over long periods of time.
c     Students know that the rock cycle includes the formation of new sediment and rocks and that rocks are often found in layers, with the oldest generally on the bottom.