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Module: Exploring Mars
Grades 4-10, Two Weeks
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module1cover.jpg By offering teachers five distinct activities that do not depend on one another, "Exploring Mars" is perfect for teachers wanting short, focused activities. The design of this module enables teachers to do one, some, or all of the activities to give their students a powerful introduction to Mars, planets, astronomy, and space exploration. Examine the list below to learn about the individual activities.

Exploring Activity 1: Getting Started in Mars Exploration

Purpose: To probe students' understanding of Mars and to have each student create a Mars Journal.

Key Concepts:
  • Mars is a neighboring planet.
  • Mars has a variety of landforms many of which are similar to ones found on Earth.
  • Spacecraft have visited Mars and returned images and data.
  • Journals help people record and organize their thoughts and are valuable tools in scientific research.
Exploring Activity 2: What Do These Images Show

Purpose: To Introduce students to Mars by having them examine images from the Image Set

Key Concepts:
  • Mars has a complex surface with features such as volcanoes, canyons, dust storms, channels an impact craters. Many of these features are the largest yet discovered in the solar system. Some, such as mud-flow-ejecta blankets and chaotic terrain, have only been found on Mars.
  • Mars has a thin atmosphere.
  • Mars has no surface water.
  • Mars has many features found on Earth.
  • Images provide clues about a plant's geologic processes and history.
Exploring Activity 3: What Can Craters Tell Us About a Planet?

Purpose: To learn some basic concepts about craters on Mars using three investigative techniques: image interpretation, modeling, and Mars-Earth comparisons.

Key Concepts:
  • Impact craters are caused when a bolide collides with a planet.
  • A craterÕs six and features depend on the mass and velocity of the bolide.
  • Impact craters provide insights into the age and geology of a planet's surface.
  • The Martian surface contains thousands of impact craters because, unlike Earth , Mars has a stable crust, low erosion rate and no active sources of lava. So, impact craters on Mars are not obliterated as they are on Earth.
Exploring Activity 4: What Is So Special About The Pathfinder Landing Site?

Purpose: To show how much students can learn about Mars and the Pathfinder mission by understanding some of the criteria used to select the Pathfinder landing site.

Key Concepts:
  • Images are a rich source of information and a stimulus for investigation.
  • Scientists are conducting robotic missions to explore Mars.
  • Chaotic terrain is thought to have formed when the removal of subsurface magma, water, or ice caused a loss of support, and the ground collapsed under its own weight.
  • Chaotic terrain is considered a source for the fluid(s) that created the channels.
Exploring Activity 5: What Questions Has This Module Raised?

Purpose:To help students develop an on-going connection to the Mars mission.

Key Concepts:
  • Each Mars mission has specific objectives and the instruments it needs to achieve them.
  • Space missions arise out to questions people ask about Mars, and students can generated questions worthy of future study.
  • Every mission has a specific time table and students can follow the progress of each mission in a number of ways.
Exploring Activity 6: What Next?

To recommend ways to incorporate the topic of Mars into a classroom and curriculum.

Space exploration provides many important connections to the classroom, yet how does one tap into what a mission has to offer? This activity presents a variety of approaches for bringing the topic of Mars into the classroom. These range from a modest level of commitment such as maintaining a Mars bulletin board to a high level of commitment such as having students conduct research using recent images and data from Mars.

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