On February 18, 2021 NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance landed on the surface of the Red Planet. It has two jobs: to search for signs of past life on Mars and to collect soil and rock samples. This is a big mission and a teachable moment. So, how can we get our students involved in this historic event? Learn about the rover and check out these 5 Mission to Mars activities for the classroom:
Marsbound STEM Activity
During the Marsbound! Mission to the Red Planet activity created by the California Institute of Technology, students will develop a science question, and then they must design a solution. They will have to prioritize communication systems, computer systems, and scientific instrument packages while making trade-offs to remain within the limits of their mass, power, and budget constraints. Teams at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) make these same considerations as they develop actual missions to Mars. Check out the full lesson plan for key vocabulary, materials, the full procedure, and scripts. This activity can easily be adapted for virtual classrooms as well!
Virtual Scavenger Hunt
One of the best ways to expose students to a lot of information in a short amount of time is a good ole virtual scavenger hunt! They are easy to design, and a little competition always gets kids engaged. NASA provides the Mission to Mars: A Scavenger Hunt! in PDF format for use with the NASA Knows! for K-4 students (or 5-8 students). Use it as-is, or use it as a template to make your own. Just create a list of questions and challenge students to find the answers as they explore the site. It’s full of info on aeronautics, astronauts, earth, and more. Even remote students and families can join in on this one. It’s one of the easiest Mission to Mars activities!
All Aboard to Mars!
NASA created an opportunity called “Send Your Name to Mars.” By filling out some quick info (name, email, zip code), your name will fly on a future NASA mission to the Red Planet! If your students don’t have email addresses, or you don’t want them to use them, you can always do one as a class. I used “Ms. Caudill’s 3rd Grade Class” as our first name and “Raleigh, NC” as our last name. Then I used the school email and zip code. When you’re done, you can even print what looks like a flight boarding pass. More FAQs here.
To make these boarding passes even more fun, here are a few additional ideas:
- Print multiple copies and hand them to students as they walk in the door as their “ticket to Mars.”
- For virtual, post a boarding pass on a slide and see if students can guess (infer!) the lesson topic.
- Use them as incentives to motivate students to get involved in learning. Maybe the winner of the virtual scavenger hunt (above) or any student who completes a choice board (below) gets their individual name included on the next trip to Mars.
Space Communications and Navigation Choice Board
NASA has SCaN choice boards for students K-8. Each worksheet contains nine different activities centered on math, science, reading, and drawing. Students can choose their own path to learning more about space communications and navigation technology, from engineering to satellites! Download the worksheets for each grade level cluster below.
To complement the choice boards, you can watch each stage of the Perseverance Landing Day milestones here.
Mars Perseverance Photo Booth
Since we can’t take the students to Mars, why not bring Mars to them? With the Mars Perseverance Photo Booth, you CAN! Upload any picture (individual photos or even a class picture will work) and choose the background (mission control, Mars, launch site, etc.). You can even incorporate writing by having students caption their photo or write a story to go along with it. Just make sure you download your image before refreshing or leaving the site because it will not save on its own.
It’s during real-life, historical events like these that teaching math and science is the best! If you use any of the above activities, use the hashtag #CountdowntoMars to show NASA via social media.