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The Martian

Found in: science, preK-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Ridley Scott’s movie The Martian combines elements of sci-fi and classic shipwreck adventure in the tradition of Robinson Crusoe. How much science is behind the fiction? NASA considers the movie and the science in The Real Martians. The site includes a poster, interviews, a video (4:58) of Mars exploration, and a panel discussion with NASA and author of the novel Andy Weir. The following lessons, units, activities, and interactives provide opportunities for students to explore what needs to be considered before colonizing Mars.

Lesson Plans:

  • Analyzing Meteorological Data From Mars Students in grades 5-8 compare Earth and Mars temperature, wind speed, humidity and atmospheric pressure by accessing Internet-data resources from NASA.
  • Mars Exploration Debate (  PDF, 582 KB, 17 pgs.) Students in grades 5-8 research and debate whether future Mars exploration should be continued with robotic missions and/or human missions.
  • Mars Image Analysis  (  PDF, 49.35 MB, 61 pgs.) Students in grades 5-12 analyze NASA images of surface features on Mars and its geological history, interpret NASA science data, and discuss their findings. Aligned to NGSS and Common Core Standards. An Extension (  PDF, 259 KB, 6 pgs.) is available.
  • Mission: Mars Students in grades 6-8 consider the planning underlying a mission to another planet.
  • Martian Polar Activity Students in grades 6-12 measure and compare various NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the changing Martian and Earth polar ice caps.
  • How Does Flowing Water Shape a Planet's Surface? (  PDF, 2.7 MB, 22 pgs.) Students in grades 6-12 use a stream table to create features associated with flowing water and compare the results to landforms on Mars.

Lesson Packages:

  • Mars Exploration A collection of NASA’s K-12 lessons.
  • NGSS STEM Lesson Plans K-12 Mars lessons.
  • Mars Bound! Mission To The Red Planet (  PDF, 940 KB, 35 pgs.) In this simulation, students in grades 3-12 plan a mission to Mars. Accompanying materials included. Aligned to standards.
  • Dirty Ice or Icy Dirt: Teacher Guide (  PDF, 2 MB,42 pgs.) Students in grades 5-12 assess whether the Martian surface around high latitude regions is more like dirty ice, icy dirt, or something else based on both Mars data and student-made physical models.
  • The Courage to Soar Higher Educator Guide Students in grades 4-6 launch pop rockets, create a pop-up book about the solar system, build Mars colonies, and more in this unit of 20 lessons.
  • Is There Water on Mars? (  PDF, 4.11 MB, 109 pgs.) Students in grades 9-12 experiment with water as it changes state and investigate effects of air pressure to deduce the water situation on Mars.

Activities & Interactives:

  • Let’s Go To Mars Students in grades K-5 decide what 10 items to take on a 9-month journey to Mars: favorite foods, drinks, and entertainment to pass the time? Don’t forget: some things will not behave in zero gravity.
  • Mars Activities (  PDF, 6.3 MB, 131 pgs.) Standards listed for K-12 activities.
  • Imagine Mars Students in grades K-12 design a livable Mars community and upload the image.
  • Mars Student Imaging Project Students in grades 5-12 use a camera on the Odyssey orbiter to take an image of Mars and analyze it.
  • Exploring Mars: Old, Relativity Students in grades 6-12 click an image of the Mariner Valley complex on Mars with craters and landslides, to discover when features formed.
  • Planet Designer: Martian Makeover In this mission, students in grades 5-8 must determine what is needed for Mars to have flowing liquid water.
  • Planet Designer: Retro Planet Red In this mission, students in grades 9-12 attempt to modify Mars to support liquid water.
  • Marvelous Martian Mineralogy In this mission, students in grades 9-12 are mineralogists in 2032 who need to analyze Martian soil.

Background Resources:

Mars One: Science Or Fraud?


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