The Great Desert: Geology and Life on Mars and in the Southwest
A Training Workshop with Field Studies for Teachers, 6th–12th Grades · July 13–19, 2003

Mars today is a windy desert, scarred by impact craters, volcanos, ancient river channels, and fault lines. Mars appears lifeless, but who knows what hides beneath its dry surface? These Martian features have Earthly analogs in the deserts and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico — come explore these Mars analogs, and learn classroom exercises to bring Mars to 'life' for your students!
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Sponsored by
The University of New Mexico
The Lunar and Planetary Institute
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA Office of Space Science (Broker/Facilitator)
New Mexico Museum of Natural History
Sandia National Laboratories

"The Great Desert" training workshop for science teachers, focused on the geology and biology of Mars through analogies on Earth. Field studies included the Grand Canyon, the Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater Volcano, the Jemez Caldera volcano and its hot springs, and faults of the Rio Grande Rift. At the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque), classroom learning complemented the field studies, and included up-to-the-minute results from spacecraft exploration of Mars. Tested classroom activities will help illustrate the field studies, and are to be shared with your students, school, and district. The field and classroom work was augmented by extensive background materials, activity plans, and references.


"The Great Desert" was designed for 6th–12th grade science teachers (especially of Earth Science, Biology, and Space Science). Also attending were teachers from science centers and private companies.

"The Great Desert" was organized and produced by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico. The workshop was taught by geologists, planetary scientists, and astrobiologists from the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the University of New Mexico, NASA Ames Research Center, Arizona State and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The scientists participated throughout the workshop, in the field, in the lab, and in the classroom. Interactions between the teachers and presenters was close throughout the workshop -- one-on-one and in small groups. All questions were answered, at least with an "I don't know that."

The presenters have have taught similar workshops over several years. Please explore the Internet site of last year's workshop (Yellowstone National Park and Montana State University) to see what we offered! Our training experience also includes a workshop at Washington's Channeled Scablands as an analogue for Martian flood channels; and two workshops through the Cascade volcanos and Oregon lava fields to explore planetary volcanism. Feedback on these workshops has been enthusiastic, and most teachers report that their curricula are invigorated, and energized with many ideas, samples (manipulatives), and images.

Where and When?

"The Great Desert" started from Albuquerque, NM early on Sunday July 13, Our first destination was the Grand Canyon, where we spent two nights at a park lodge. Returning to Albuquerque, we stayed in the UNM dorms, and spent two days in classroom / lab work. Friday, we took a day trip from Albuquerque through the Valles Caldera volcano. The workshop finished in late afternoon of July 19, 2003.


The registration fee for "The Great Desert" was $600 per person — which included travel during the Workshop, lodging (double occupancy), two meals per day, and teaching materials. Financial assistance was provided by several state Space Grant consortia, the Sandia National Laboratories for teachers from the Albuquerque area, and the NASA OSS Broker/Facilitator program for Native American teachers. .

Sixty five contact hours of continuing education were awarded, and graduate academic credit was available as a Geology course through the University of New Mexico.

Allan Treiman, Ph.D.
Workshop Coordinator
Lunar and Planetary Institute


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Copyright Allan Treiman, LPI.
Updated 09/05/03.
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