Earth and Mars Core Sampling

Carlota T Marin
Turtle Mountain Community College
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The activity focuses on sedimentology and core sampling here on Earth and makes comparisons with core samples from Mars to determine the composition of the material underneath the surface.

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Undergraduate, education majors with emphasis on earth science/geology component; in the fall of 2008 the course will be open to anyone in the college who wants to take a geoscience class.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

computer skills, observational skills, critical thinking skills, writing skills, and manipulative skills (data gathering and interpretation)

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity can come after we cover weathering, erosion, sedimentary rocks, deformation and mineral resources. The activity can stand alone or be part of a more comprehensive package where major concepts are covered and reinforced with hands on activities.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will describe different types of sediments and how they are studied. Sand, silt, clay and gravel samples will be provided.
Students will interpret the geologic history from the deposition pattern of sediment layers, using different core samples
This lesson focuses on different kinds of sediments. The students will begin by learning how to "look" at sediments and classify them. (I provide sands from different locations around the world, silt and clays from glacial tilts and areas along the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota.) They will also learn how about how sediment layers are examined and collected in cores. The activities provide students with opportunities to gain a better understanding of the core sampling process and how the layers of sediments are studied to reveal information about Earth's history. The activity is then tied to the ocean drilling program to provide them with a global perspective on ocean drilling and the search for hydrocarbons.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Formulation of hypothesis: how did the sediments get there? What caused them to be compacted? What mechanisms contributed to the final product (core sampling)? Students also perform a critical evaluation of the core sample and understand the processes of collecting core samples. Lastly, students learn about the connection between the core samples from Earth and Mars.

Other skills goals for this activity

To prepare for this activity, students research the processes of core sampling and their implications on geology and the ocean drilling program.

Description of the activity/assignment

In this activity students manipulate materials in order to better understand the concepts of core sampling using candy bars and straws. They work individually and then in groups in order to compare their results. Next they research the websites (more info) or to find more information about missions to Mars and what we have gathered from sampling rocks on Mars. They also will search the website for examples of core sampling used by geologists when drilling or digging (engineering and geology).

Determining whether students have met the goals

By providing them with some core samples from other areas and asking them to compare the core samples just studied and see if there is a relationship in the process of core formation (sedimentation).

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