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Using Lava Flows & Volcanic Structures on Mars to Introduce the Concept of Relative Dating in Introductory Courses

Audeliz Matias
,
Skidmore College

Summary

To compare bodies of rocks in the same region and determine the sequence of events that led to the formation of these rocks, geologists use a few simple rules of observation to help determine the relative ages of the rocks. In order to do this, geologists depend on two-dimensional, vertical diagrams called cross sections. Before teaching the students to interpret these diagrams, this exercise uses THEMIS images to practice understanding relative dating in one-dimension.

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Context

Audience

Introductory Geology Class

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should understand:

How the activity is situated in the course

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity will help students to visualize the existing rock sequence into distinctive units that can be associated with geologic process and specific events by using images containing lava flows.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity will enable students:

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills developed in this activity include

Description of the activity/assignment

Geology is historical. The rocks at any one place are rarely if ever the same age. Interpreting Earth's history is a two-step process: first, interpreting each individual rock, and second, interpreting the sequence of deformational events through which the rocks have formed. Doing this requires that the students apply all the skills and knowledge they have learned about rocks and geologic process by integrating them with new skills. A student's initial challenge in interpreting cross-sections and determining the relative ages of rocks is to visualize the existing rock sequence into distinctive units that can be associated with geologic process and specific events. Thus, this exercise focus on guiding the students to observe important, basic concepts used in relative dating on a one-dimensional setting by using images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) onboard the Mars Odyssey mission.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Assessment could include

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