Building Blocks: Matter and Minerals

Initial Publication Date: April 2, 2013


This learning module and related laboratory exercise exposes students to the make-up of minerals on both Earth and Mars, as well as encourage students to determine what minerals imply an aqueous environment of formation.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • Observe different rock-forming minerals and hypothesize their relationship to water
  • Use CRISM and HiRISE images to identify regions on Mars where aqueous conditions might have been present.

Context for Use

This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory earth science course and/or planetary science course. Provide students with an introduction to the atom and the periodic table to provide context and a resource to understand mineral formation.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. For In-Class Activity 1 either (a) print off colored copies for students, (b) have samples in hand specimen of each mineral for students to observe, or (c) use the image file to show students the minerals.
  2. For a large class size >20 where you would like to use hand-specimens, have a scope attached to your projector so students may observe "up-close".
  3. Become familiar with JMARS software prior to class (loaded on whatever machine you will be using for presentation), especially with viewing CRISM and HiRISE image stamps to discern mineralogy on Mars.
  4. Students should have a working understanding of how to navigate and use JMARS prior to completing Homework 1.


  • Assessment is imbedded within each In-Class Activity.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Matter and Minerals (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 24.4MB Apr11 13)
  2. CRISM webpage:
  3. HiRISE webpage: