Mars for Earthlings > Lesson Modules > Active Interior and Crustal Change

Active Interior and Crustal Change


Students will become familiar with the theory of plate tectonics on Earth and evaluate the possibility of plate tectonics on Mars using the evidence (continental puzzle, faunal correlation, magnetic reversals etc.) utilized on Earth to support plate tectonic theory.

Learning Goals

  1. Identify Earth's geographic and magnetic North and explain the reasoning for their positions.
  2. Evaluate the use of magnetic reversals on Mars as a means to prove/disprove plate tectonic activity on Mars
  3. Compare and contrast Valles Marineris and Earth's Grand Canyon
  4. Find and analyze data using Google Earth and Google Mars software.

Context for Use

Students need a background in basic rock classification in order to be successful in this exercise as well as a general knowledge of the geography of Mars. Make sure students are familiar with navigation in Google Earth and Google Mars software. They should be able to access imagery and use the layers in the programs. Before assigning Homework 1 provide some instruction on faulting and fault types.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. If appropriate use the JPL Valles Marineris "fly-by" to introduce Valles Marineris to your class (see References and Resources)
  2. For In-Class Activity 1 you may provide copies to each student for them to fill-in and follow along or simply run through the exercise with the students. We maintain student attention better if students have their own copy and are required to turn in the activity for class participation points.


Methods of assessment are within each individual In-Class Activity and Homework.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Lesson 09: Instructor Version (pptx) (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.3MB May16 13)
  2. General Grand Canyon info:
  3. Valles Mariners animated "fly-by" courtesy of JPL:
  4. Earth's Magnetic Field reference:
  5. NASA Geomagnetism reference:
  6. Connerney, J., 2005. Tectonic implications of Mars crustal magnetism. PNAS 102(42): 14970–14975;
  7. Fault Classification reference: