Teach the Earth > Undergraduate Research > 2014 Workshop > Activities > Semester Long Martian Research Project

Semester Long Martian Research Project

Erin Kraal,
Author Profile

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 8, 2014


These project materials scaffold students through a semester-long, original research project. This specific project was developed using the online planetary science database JMARS. Weekly assignments guide introductory students through developing, researching, and presenting original research.



Introductory planetary science course that includes science majors, education majors, and some general education students. The course has 2 hours per week of lecture to cover the formation and evolution of the planets in our solar system. It also has a 2 hour per week lab in an astronomy computer lab.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The activity assumes basic knowledge of the microsoft suite (excel and powerpoint) and basic library skills. All other skills are integrated into the labs, research project assignments, or class lectures.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a semester long project that replaced the 15 two hour 'mini labs' previously in the course. The project comprised half of the allocated course time and half of the allocated course grade.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The download and analysis of large planetary science data sets using online remote sensing tools.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Formulate an original hypothesis, test and analyze that hypothesis through data collection, present the results in a poster.

Other skills goals for this activity

Oral presentation, using scientific literature.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student Handout including all Assignments (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 191kB Aug8 14)
Instructor Assessment Rubrics (Acrobat (PDF) 96kB Aug8 14)

Teaching Notes and Tips


Assessment rubrics are included in the materials above and were distributed to students with the assignment.

References and Resources