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Mars: Education
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Mars Activities
The lessons below are teacher-favorite lessons focused on the Red Planet. For more search options or to search by other science target, missions and other criteria, visit our Fast Lesson Finder. You can also search by curriculum standards on our popular Curriculum Standards Quilts.

Mars Lessons:

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Marsbound! Mission to the Red Planet
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Mars
Mission: Mars 2020 (Mars), Spirit/Opportunity (Mars), Mars Express (Mars), Mars Observer (Mars), Mars Pathfinder (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Mars Sample Return (Mars), MSL / Curiosity (Mars), MAVEN (Mars), Phoenix (Mars)

Short Description: Students learn systems engineering by engaging in a mission planning simulation that mirrors a Mission to Mars. Students create a mission that has to balance the return of science data with mission limitations such as power, mass and budget.

Planetary Geology: Impact Cratering
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Geologists studying impact craters have combined measurements of craters on the Earth, moon, and planets with laboratory experiments to develop approximate relations between the depth of a crater (d), its diameter (CD), and the diameter of the impacting body that produced the crater (ID). To explore these relations:

  • Use the data for Arizona's Meteor Crater shown in the class handout to estimate d/CD.
  • With that result and the laboratory observation d/ID ~ 7 develop a relation between the diameter of a crater and the diameter of the impacting body.
  • Why does any single such relation for all craters serve as only an approximation?
  • Use the result to estimate the size of the impactor that produced Meteor Crater and compare it to the estimates for the dimensions given in the class handout.

Strange New Planet
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Mars
Mission: Mariner 04 (Mars), Mariner 06 (Mars), Mariner 07 (Mars), Mariner 09 (Mars), Mars Global Surveyor (Mars), Mars Pathfinder (Mars), Viking 01 (Mars), Viking 02 (Mars)
Short Description: Strange New Planet brings insight into the processes involved in learning about planetary exploration. This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered by the use of remote sensing techniques.

Summit Up: Comparing Volcanoes on Mars and Earth
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Spirit/Opportunity (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: Summit Up is a 20 minute activity in which children make paper models to scale of the tallest volcanic mountains on Earth and Mars and discover a big difference between volcanoes on these two planets.

The Goldilocks Planets -- Not Too Hot or Cold
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Spitzer (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Once you have discovered a planet, you need to figure out whether liquid water might be present. In our solar system, Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that water cannot remain in liquid form. It vaporizes! For planets beyond Mars, the sun is so far away that water will turn to ice. Only in what astronomers call the Habitable Zone will a planet have a chance for being at the right temperature for liquid water to exist in large quantities on its surface!

The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Earth Science (Earth), MAVEN (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: This activity introduces students to the atmospheric differences between the three sister planets in a graphic and hands-on way, using jelly beans or cotton balls to model different atmospheric gases. Students will use this understanding later as they begin to appreciate the scope and importance of the greenhouse effect on Earth.

The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 3-5
Solar System Body: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Comets
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This simulator lets students explore many aspects of the orbits of planets and one comet.

NGSS Connections:

What's the Difference?
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: InSight (Mars), MAVEN (Mars)

Short Description: This is a free multimedia software application that facilitates scientific analysis by allowing virtually any pictures, graphics, animations and movies to be compared side by side. The solar system dataset contains comparisons of the planets and major moons within our solar system. Users can upload graphical, animated, interactive, textual, and audio-formatted content into the categories and attributes grid and then supplement their data with customized multiple choice and summary assessment tests.

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Last Updated: 28 Apr 2014