Lunar and Planetary Institute

Floods and Flows: Exploring Mars Geology on Earth  July 13-19, 2008


Possible Lesson Framework of Related Activities for High School Classrooms
Created by 2008 Field Trip Participants

Stream Tables

Basic instructions:

More detailed instructions and design:

More elaborate using granulated plastic rather than sand:

Simulating the Development of Water-Carved Features on Mars
Mars Exploration Curriculum.  A series of classroom activity modules that help students to learn about the martian environment, examine the formation of features on Mars, and explore the possibility of water and great floods on the surface of Mars. 

The Great Martian Floods & The Pathfinder Landing Site can be found at this site. Note that some of the Pathfinder information is dated, but the premise is solid.

Teacher Handbook

Image Set for "The Great Martian Floods and Pathfinder Landing Site"

Floods Activity 1: How Does Flowing Water Shape a Planet's Surface?

Floods Activity 2: Can You Make Teardrop Shapes Similar to Those on Mars?

Floods Activity 3: What is Chaotic Terrain?

Floods Activity 4: The Scabland Mystery Story

Floods Activity 5: Creating a Large-Scale Model of Catastrophic Flooding

Floods Activity 6: What Can Sand Indicate About How and Where Water Flowed?

Floods Activity 7: Case Study: Were There Catastrophic Floods on Mars?

Floods Activity 8: Preparing for the Mission

Comparing the Surface and Interior of Mars and Earth
Explore! Mars – Inside and Out is a hands-on, standards based activity module from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in which students ages 8-13 examine the surface features of Mars and Earth and infer what they tell us about the interiors of the two planets.   

Setting the Scene
Setting the Scene, a 60 to 90 minute activity, engages students in an investigative journey of Mars' surface features by comparing and contrasting them with surface features on Earth. Teams of "planetary investigators" examine images of volcanos, channels, and craters on Earth and Mars. The activity can be divided into two sessions.

Carving Channels
Carving Channels is a 20 to 30 minute activity in which students create channel features with flowing water. Their observations of the ways in which flowing water alters the surrounding terrain will be used as clues to draw conclusions about Mars’ geologic past.

Volcanos - Go with the Flow
Volcanos - Go with the Flow is a 30 to 45 minute activity in which teams of students create volcanos like those they have examined on Earth and Mars. Using baking soda, vinegar, and Play-Doh, they model volcanic eruptions and older students map the lava flows. The students explore how volcanos grow, how later lava flows overlap earlier ones, and how earlier flows influence the paths of subsequent flows. They determine a volcano's history of eruptions based on the layering of different flows, and reflect on what the presence of volcanos means about a planet's interior.

See also: Making and Mapping a Volcano
Similar to Go with the Flow, but a more extensive classroom investigation.  After having vinegar/baking soda eruptions, students use Play-Doh to mark where the lava flowed.  In teams they examine the stratigraphy and map the flows.

Crater Creations
In the 30 to 45 minute Crater Creations activity, teams of students experiment to create impact craters and examine the associated features. The students observe images of Martian craters and explore how the mass, velocity, and angle of impactors affects the size and shape of the crater.

Mars: The Feature Story
In this 15 to 20 minute activity, students, ages 10 to 13, apply their understanding of planetary features to a topographic (elevation) map of Mars. Acting as planetary scientists, they observe patterns, identify features, discuss how they formed, and determine a relative history of planetary events.

Summit Up - Comparing Volcanos on Mars and Earth
Summit Up is a 20 minute activity in which students make paper models to scale of the tallest volcanic mountains on Earth and Mars and discover a big difference between volcanos on these two planets.

Puzzling Patterns - Where Does Volcanism Occur?
Students compare volcano maps of Earth and Mars and identify patterns, similarities, and differences in this 30 minute activity.

The Icing on the Plate - Why are the Volcanos on Mars so Tall?
The Icing on the Plate is a 20 to 30 minute activity in which students create models with cake icing to compare the volcanos formed on planets with stationary surfaces and planets with moving plates. Students will gain an understanding of why volcanos on Mars are so large compared to those on Earth, and what the patterns of Earth’s volcanos tell us.

Recipe for a Planet
Recipe for a Planet is a 45 minute activity in which students build edible models of Earth and Mars to compare their sizes and illustrate their internal layers.

Differentiation Demonstration
In this 10 minute demonstration or 30 minute activity, students observe a demonstration of planetary differentiation, the organization of planetary interiors into layers of different densities, to illustrate why Mars and other planets have cores, mantles, and outer crusts.

Cooling Planets
Cooling Planets is an optional 10 to 15 minute discussion in which older students, ages 10 to 13, discover, through inquiry-based dialogue, which planet is hotter on the interior - Mars or Earth! The students consider the effect of size (volume) on the cooling rate of objects and, based on extrapolations, interpret the cooling histories of the inner, rocky planets of our solar system.

Mind Over Mars
In this 30 to 45 minute game, teams of students use their knowledge of Mars to create question cards for a board game that will assess and reinforce their understanding of what they have learned. This activity can be used as a wrap-up for Geologic Scene Investigator Part 1 or Part 2, or as a wrap-up for the entire investigation.

Volcano Activities

Cake Batter Lava Activity
Students use cake batter to understand how different lavas flow and the structures that are created.

Gelatin Volcanos Activity
Jell-O is used to explore how lava flows in a volcano.

Making and Mapping a Volcano Activity

After having vinegar/baking soda eruptions, students use Play-Doh to mark where the lava flowed.  In teams they examine the stratigraphy and map the flows.

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