Missions for the Martian Classroom

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. —Walt Disney

How do the Mission to Mars and other aspects of exploration connect to your content area?

Hint: The space program can be linked to all subjects in ways that are both grounded to Earth and out of this world! Space isn’t just for science class. It can and should be connected to every subject and grade level. Here are some ideas to get started:

Instead of Bellwork, have a Launch assignment. A simple tweak to the structure of a lesson, such as the title of an activity, can transform the level of excitement about the learning that is about to take place.

Are objectives written on the board when students arrive to class? Congratulations, the building administrator is undoubtedly applauding. The students, on the other hand, are bored to tears by the words “Students will be able to.” Why not turn the objectives into destinations? Students then determine when they have "Arrived" by demonstrating learning for mastery.

Human nature longs for a challenge. This is why we are drawn to competitions; whether sports, video games, or NASA Challenges. When introducing potential careers to students, start with the line, “Do you have what it takes to be a ___________?” in place of the standard titles of “Requirements” or “Qualifications.” The simple phrase, "Do you have what it takes?" gives students something to aspire to and gives motivation and inspiration to obtain the necessary skill sets. 

Along the same lines, get students involved in NASA challenges. Visit NASA’s “Get Involved: NASA Solve” for opportunities to explore and solve challenges around topics such as Information Technology, Citizen Science, Multimedia Production, Engineering and Modeling, Aeronautics, and more. Other challenges include art contests and even “Train like an Astronaut: Walk to the Moon” to encourage healthy lifestyles. The NASA HUNCH, or High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware is a favorite with its Culinary Challenge component.

Teach Language Arts and History through a biography of Neil Armstrong. Take this a step further and create a drama assignment where students act out scenes from the biography. As a bonus, give them the option of writing the biography of the first person to step foot on Mars.

The NASA Art Program blurs the lines between Science, History, The Future, and Art as it commemorates both past events and interpretations of future events and discoveries. Explore the NASA History Flickr page and ask students to write a story about one of the images. Have students research a space mission and create their own visual representation of their learning.

Tourism will morph into a whole new map as we continue to explore new frontiers. Visit alien worlds on the NASA Exoplanet Exploration website for downloadable posters for the classroom. While there, check out the “Universe of Monsters” and “Galaxy of Horrors” with your students to get creative juices flowing.

Get students writing about space. Science on the Space Station is coordinated by CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. The entity has funded and facilitated experiments ranging from vascular tissue research to cell growth on scaffolds (known fondly as “organs on chips”), to fluid dynamics, and remote sensing. CASIS also lets private businesses conduct experiments, and it forms partnerships with nonprofit organizations to spark interest in STEM.  For example, Boy Scouts in the Chicago area sent microgravity experiments to the Space Station on August 8, 2017, to measure genetic mutations of bacteria in low gravity compared to the changes that occur on Earth in an attempt to find better ways to fight cancer. Have students read about this fascinating project and others like these and write a prediction on what they believe the outcomes will be, or about an experiment they would like to propose.

Get students creating art about space through monthly Space Gallery Art competitions with ESA Kids. Explore this site for fun facts, activities, videos, and other contests about our universe.

Teaching a class or unit on entrepreneurship? Have students develop and pitch a concept for product or business that would be connected to low-orbit, a mission to Mars, or beyond. Use Flipgrid for students to pitch their idea in three minutes or less and send a link to the grid to business and industry partners to provide feedback to students.

Creativity and play are common themes in innovation and can help solve big problems. Give students agency in demonstrating mastery of content in fun and creative ways using a menu of options such as this:

Show Me What You Know Learning Menu.PNG