Posted By: Donna Collins
Organization: St. John Regional School
This spring our school received the new Mars Map curriculum. The email that told us to expect the new curriculum did not say that we were also receiving a set of ten very interesting, colorful and informative Discover Mars books. Also in the box were two Mars radio controlled rovers.
My seventh grade class was in the mist of studying environments, habitats and the needs of all living things. When the materials arrived, they were very excited and wanted to be part of the Mars explorations.
Over the next few days, the seventh graders built and tested the Mars rover in the classroom, read about what would be needed to survive on Mars and how long it would take to get there.
Due to different trips being taken by other grade levels in our school, the seventh grade had an opportunity to spend almost a full day using the Mars map. They used the books provide, the internet websites and their own critical thinking to identify areas where water has been found on Mars in the form of ice, and made hypothesizes of where water may be found, possibly in the future.
Students then drove the rovers from water site to water site, then set up an obstacle course on the map for the rover to maneuver around to get to a water source. Through it all, the students were fully engaged in cheering on their rover driver, or problem solving what was happening when the rover stopped and would not continue.
We had so much fun with this activity, that we forgot to take photos.
The following day, the seventh grade wrote reflection essays about their experience with the Mars Map. Here are some of the things the kids wrote;
“On the Mars map the rover had nothing to go over, like on Mars where there are a lot of rocks and dirt to go over. But we tried to stimulate this by putting boxes in the way to drive the rover around them. Also, the many times the rover broke I was easily able to walk on the Mars map and fix the rover. But actually scientist studying Mars aren’t able to do that. They have to start from scratch or wait to see if the rover will start to work again. Scientists also need to add solar panels, but our rover ran on batteries so we didn’t have to. Another difference would be that using the Mars map we didn’t have any weather variables. So the scientists who actually make these rovers have to make them so they can survive cold and hot temperatures, also dust storms and any kind of acid rain. ” (Gracie)
“We did many things similar to what scientists in this area really do. Before going to Mars we had to research locations on Mars and we had to build a rover and control it. Scientists would need to develop a way of getting to Mars, which is something we did not do. But the idea and process were similar to what really happens during a mission into space. Each person had a job to do and had to be in charge of a specific task.” (Sam)
“In the Mars book, the book talked of a person named Percival Lowell. Lowell was convinced that there was canals on Mars, even though nobody believed him. He spent a lot of time searching for the canals, and even tried, successfully, to prove that there was water on Mars atmosphere.This is like what my group and I did where we tried to look for water and a habitable place on the surface of Mars.” (Quinlan)
“In the Mars book, in the article about rovers “A new century begins on Mars” it talks about the expeditions that people over the world have done to learn about Mars.They’ve sent orbiters to learn about the atmosphere and the moons to see if humans can survive in the different atmosphere’s gases, gravity, and air pressure. The Europeans sent an orbiter which worked but the spacecraft that was supposed to land crashed. The U.S. have sent some rovers to find out about the terrain, where they can find water, and what types of minerals are there. That was what our experiment was like. We built some rovers researched where we could find water and we set up some obstacles for the rovers to move around.” (Lilly)
As part of their reflection essay, my seventh graders were asked to make a list of the five pounds of personal items that they would take with them to Mars. Their lists were a good reflection of children their age, 12-13 yrs old. Lists included things such as; iPod, iPhone – loaded with games and books to read, and to contact parents and family on Earth, other kids added a Kindle with ‘lots of books to read’. In addition to electronics, for this group their would be a large number of baseballs, soccer balls and footballs going to Mars, along with warm blankets and print photos of parents and family members.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this great adventure, the Mars Map and curriculum have greatly motivated all of my sixth, seventh and eight grade students in the areas of problem solving in the STEM fields and for several, deeper curiosity about Mars and how they might be the ones who get there.