Teaching a topic on space can sometimes feel a little abstract. And, since field trips to Mars aren’t yet within budget, this leaves us with a problem…
How can we bring Mars to the classroom and make learning about space a realistic experience for our learners?
Well, we have put together a list of activities that will prepare your students for a mission to Mars. There are activities suitable for little learners, right up to budding astronauts.
Mission control, prepare for take-off…
1. Observe Mars in the Night Sky
Mars can be seen throughout the year with the naked eye or an amateur telescope. From down here on earth, Mars appears as a red-colored star. There are plenty of star-gazing apps and websites to help you locate it.
Learn more: Starlust
2. Make a Messy Mars
This art activity is great for younger children and those that love to get messy. Make a scale model of Mars and the solar system using papier-mâché. This will help kids visualize how Mars compares in size to other planets.
Learn more: Instructables
3. Learn about the Mars Rovers
NASA has put together a great fact-file all about the Mars Rovers. It’s easy to read and engaging for children. Once kids have read up on each of the rovers, there are some fun coloring pages to complete.
Learn more: Space Place NASA
4. Design your own Mars Rover
Once your students have learned all about the real rovers, set them a challenge to design their own and explore the engineering design process. Encourage them to think about what they would like their rover to discover on a future mission to Mars. And, think about what special tools it might need to complete the job.
Learn more: Fun Kids Live
5. Build your own Model Spacecraft
Whether it’s a Mars rover or a space rocket, challenge your kids to build their own spacecraft out of junk. They can use everyday materials such as cardboard boxes and plastic bottles. Give them the freedom to think creatively and ask them about the features they have included.
Learn more: Nurture Store
6. Explore Mars in Real-time
Another great resource from NASA, but aimed at older students. Students can explore rover images for signs of life, and listen to sounds gathered from the NASA 2020 Mars Rover Mission. Plus, the 3D interactive resource allows students to discover the landscape and learn more about specific scientific sites of interest.
Learn more: Mars NASA
7. Talk-time Activities
Talk-time activities are a great way to develop communication skills, and they are a fun team-building strategy. A themed mission to Mars session could involve talking about:
- 5 items you would bring on a trip to Mars.
- 5 questions you would ask an alien on Mars.
- Name 3 people you would take with you on a space mission.
Learn more: Twinkl
8. Jobs for the Future
Make a list of jobs that might be required in the future. This is a fun warm-up activity to start a lesson. It encourages kids to think creatively and to have fun. They might come up with ideas such as an intergalactic translator or a travel agent selling holidays of Mars.
Learn more: Melissa and Doug
9. Make a Mars Playscape
For young children, play is the best and most memorable form of learning. There are some great ideas for space-themed small-world set-ups on Pinterest. Set up a dusty Mars-scape to help children learn about all about the Red Planet.
Learn more: Inspire My Play
10. Taste some Edible Mars Rock Samples
Forget real rocks from Mars, study some edible Martian rock samples instead. Does this edible rock recipe contain the ingredients for life on Mars? It's all in the name of science, we promise!
Learn more: Mommy Hacks
11. Jet-propelled Rockets
Turn your classroom into a jet propulsion laboratory. Make rockets powered by Alka-Seltzer, balloon-powered rockets, or even soda-straw rockets. For older students, this video is perfect for explaining the science behind the chemical reactions involved.
Learn more: Learning Resources
12. Egg Drop STEM Challenge
When the Mars rovers touch down on the Red Planet, it’s important their landing systems cushion the fall. So, swap a rover for an egg and challenge your kid to become a landing engineer. They might focus on developing a parachute landing system or perhaps a shock-absorbing system instead.
Learn more: Buggy and Buddy
13. Design a Mission to Mars
Aimed at K-12 students, NASA has put together a set of STEM activities that are out of this world. The free online resource is made up of 7 individual lessons. They include everything to help plan a successful rover mission. Students will learn about the process of design, from designing a Mars rover to planning a safe landing.
Learn more: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
14. Mars Sensory Play
Young children needn’t miss out on experiencing the Red Planet. Playing with some extraterrestrial soil samples, they will develop their sensory awareness and fine motor skills. Follow the recipe and add some orange food dye to give it a Martian twist.
Learn more: Mommy Evolution
15. Design a Colony on Mars
The Vivify STEM project is a semester-long program where students design a colony on Mars. It’s the ultimate STEM project that draws on creativity and imagination too.
Learn more: Vivify STEM