Water Underneath: Groundwater

Initial Publication Date: May 30, 2013


A learning module for incorporation in to Earth science courses that exposes students to the influence of groundwater and on the surface of Mars.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • See how water movement underground produces surface expressions.
  • Simulate and observe catastrophic flow behavior.

Context for Use

This lab and associated discussion will likely take the entire class meeting to finish. Prior exposure to the concepts of the zone of saturation (saturated, water-filled pores), water table, and permeability is advisable although not necessary to be successful in the lab.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity

Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. We encourage instructors to have their own template for having students write-up the lab experiment (this makes it easier to grade and find the student answers).
  2. This experiment works well for small groups of students (3-4). For large classes >20 simply provide a demonstration and ask students for their hypothesis and what they believe will result from the experiment.
  3. Some researchers propose that many of the deep channels and canyons found on Mars might be the result of catastrophic flow from groundwater seepage.


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

References and Resources

Student Homework 1 Version on Catastrophic Flow: You may want to develop your own homework on Catastrophic Flow, and use a website like the one below to see if students can detect catastrophic flow on Mars.