The MARGINS Mini-Lessons Project

Explore the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Collection

We are pleased to announce the availability of 15 data-rich class exercises (mini-lessons) that explore tectonic, structural, geochemical, and sedimentary processes along continental margins. Designed for upper-level undergraduate courses, the exercises use cutting edge science and data resulting from MARGINS and GeoPRISMS research to teach about chemical cycling in subduction zones (SubFac), seismogenic zone processes at subduction zones (SEIZE), rift structure and evolution (RCL), and sediment cycling from “source to sink” at continental margins (S2S). Representative mini-lessons include:

baja_californiaRupturing Continental Lithosphere | RCL

Bathymetry of Rifted Margins
Exploring Styles of Extension in the Gulf of California Role of Sedimentation in Rifting
Role of Plate Motion Obliquity in Rifting

thrust_fault_fold.v2Seismogenic Zone Experiment | SEIZE

Accretionary vs. Erosive Subduction Margins
The Spectrum of Fault Slip
The Plate Boundary Fault of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake

mississippi_deltaSource to Sink Lessons | S2S

From Source to Sink: How Sediment Reflects the Journey from the Mountains to the Sea Sediment Dispersal and Continental Margin Stratigraphy
Contemporary Climate Oscillations: ENSO and a case study of the Huanghe River
Holocene Optimum: A Time of Massively Increased

Sediment Discharge for Asian Rivers Sediments and Carbon Burial on the Continental Margins

serpentinite.v3Subduction Factory Lessons | SubFac

Subduction Zone Metamorphism
Slab Temperatures Control Melting in Subduction Zones, What Controls Slab Temperature?
Central American Arc Volcanoes, Petrology, and Geochemistry

These lessons and more information about the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project can be found at: We also invite additional contributions to this collection as new scientific observations and data become available through ongoing continental margin studies. For more information about adding to the collection, please contact Juli Morgan at morganj (at)

The mini-lessons were developed by an interdisciplinary team of about 20 scientists and educators, who participated in a three year curriculum development project funded by an NSF DUE grant. Many thanks to all of the following contributors: Julia Morgan (GeoPRISMS, Rice University), Andrew Goodliffe (University of Alabama), Jeff Marshall (Cal Poly Pomona), Ellen Iverson (SERC, Carleton College), Cathy Manduca (SERC, Carleton College), Jenn Beck (EvalArts Consulting), Robert Stern (Univ. of Texas Dallas), Ben Edwards (Dickinson College), Sarah Penniston-Dorland (Univ. of Maryland), Chris Kincaid (Univ. of Rhode Island), Casey Moore (UC Santa Cruz), Jeff Marshall (Cal Poly Pomona), Eliza Richardson (Penn State University), David Pearson (Idaho State University), Scott Bennett (USGS Golden, CO), Rebecca Dorsey (Univ. of Oregon), Andrew Goodliffe (Univ. of Alabama), Jack Loveless (Smith College), Lisa Lamb (Univ. of St. Thomas), Sue Cashman (Humboldt State University), Steve Kuehl (Virginia Inst. Marine Science), Lonnie Leithold (North Carolina State University), Kathleen Surpless (Trinity University), Adam Hoffman (Univ. of Dubuque), August Costa (GeoPRISMS, Rice University), Kristin O’Connell (SERC, Carleton College).

[archive] Mini-lessons are modular learning materials that repurpose the data resources, visualizations, and other information sources developed through MARGINS, GeoPRISMS and related research for use in examining fundamental earth processes in undergraduate classrooms from a multidisciplinary perspective. Mini-lessons are based on best practices in geoscience pedagogy and in the construction of digital educational products. The original collection of mini-lessons was developed by the MARGINS program with support from an NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant – Using MARGINS Data in the Classroom.

GeoPRISMS researchers are encouraged to create mini-lessons as a part of their outreach and broader impacts. To develop a mini-lesson based on your research, complete the submission form and one of the web developers at SERC will work with you to complete the process. If you have questions about this process, please contact John McDaris at jmcdaris <at>

We also encourage faculty members to use existing mini-lessons in their classes and evaluate how they worked as a method for improving the collection. If you are planning to teach with a mini-lesson, please consider using the Observation Protocol to capture what you see as its strengths and weaknesses. The anonymized review data will be shared with the original author to help them in revising their activity.