Water World: Large Waterbodies

Initial Publication Date: October 23, 2012


It is hypothesized that an ocean might have existed on Mars. Students will learn what sedimentary structures and landforms in ancient, Earth, marine environments look like and the processes that formed them. From this Earth-analog approach students will observe Mars imagery and determine whether or not a Mars ocean might have existed in the distant past.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:
  • Identify spits on Mars and Earth and understand their formation.
  • Recognize and identify carbonate rocks and the reasons for a lack of carbonates on Mars.
  • Critically analyze press releases of Mars discoveries and determine what, if any, other data is needed to make the scientific findings valid.

Context for Use

This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory earth science course and/or planetary science course.  The In-Class Activities can be easily adapted for homework when desired. 

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  • In-Class Activity 2: for classes >20 students pass around several specimens of carbonate rocks and/or use an overhead microscope system for the classroom so students can observe the texture and make observations about the carbonate rocks without a hand specimen.
  • Homework 1: You may need to exchange the press release articles for more current articles depending on the year in which you use this material.
  • You will often integrate the Explanation and Exploration sections of the In-Class Activities. Interact with the students as they "explore" and help them define terms/principles.


Each In-Class Activity and/or Homework has its own measure of Assessment.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Water World (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 17.4MB Oct23 12)
  2. Spit Formation in the UK and longshore drift: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe9YBuK_qEo&feature=endscreen&NR=1
  3. Lake Bonneville video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SJDOluY4OI
  4. NASA Video "Keeping up with Carbon": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgEZpX3n5mo
  5. Beachy Head geology: http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/beachy_head_fossils.htm