Weathering and Soils

Initial Publication Date: May 30, 2013


This module is aimed at helping students understand the patterns and drivers of weathering and the formation of soils on Earth and Mars.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • Differentiate, in photos, between mechanical and chemical weathering processes on Mars & Earth
  • Discern, in hand sample, weathered vs. non/lesser weathered material
  • Recognize and discern a soil and define soil-forming factors
  • Critique the presence of "soil" observations on Mars

Context for Use

It is advisable that students are familiar with basic lithology and mineralogy to be successful in these activities and homework sets.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Depending on class size, samples for every student would be advisable to proceed with In-Class Activity 1. With classes size >20 or more students, simply provide a demonstration and have students record the methods and outcomes of what they are observing
  • For In-Class Activity 1 conduct the exercise in a lab environment and/or outside


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

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Weathering and Soils (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 5.7MB Feb2 14)
  2. This NASA webpage has a search function for many images related to weathering.

    e.g., the word "soil" will pull up images of both Earth and Mars
  3. Mars "blueberries" spherules NASA announcement: