January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Mars Curiosity

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Bethany Dixon

With a new year, it’s easy for teachers to feel like they’re on Mars, but with the landing of the Curiosity, we now have the opportunity to show students what it’s actually like to be there! How long can you spend on Mars? Whether it’s 60 seconds or 16 lessons, integrating the landing of the Curiosity rover into your curriculum can be more than just an interesting lesson in current STEM events. Organized by approximate time needed, here are the latest resources to deliver an out-of-this-world classroom experience, with a preview that spans bell work, an Emmy-award winning short video series, standards-based, ready-to-go lesson plans, and resources for using Mars for interdisciplinary community involvement:

60 Seconds for Mars: For a quick intro, start with “Mars in a Minute’s: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars?” from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory video series, this super-short introduction gives an intro to exactly what put the “terror” into NASA during those first seven minutes. The student-friendly animation is still sophisticated enough for high school but exciting enough to keep elementary students engaged.

2 Minutes for Mars:  If you have two minutes in your day, the “Flex, Zap, Roll,” video shows Curiosity’s new rock-zapping laser and some scientific camaraderie as they celebrate the first roll of the wheels.

15 Minutes for Mars: Try the Emmy-Award-Winning NASA Now videos. They’re free, come with pre-during-and-post-lesson questions, and leveled for grades 4-12. These come with questions to ask before and after and include extension activities for students. September is Mars month for NASA Explorer Schools, so if you haven’t signed up for this standards-based free resource this may be a great reason to join.

1 Class Period for Mars: Map Mars. Take a trip to the computer lab and utilize this seriously addictive program. NASA’s “Be a Martian” allows anyone to view imagery from the Odyssey orbiter and to align them with previous pictures to help build a more comprehensive map of Mars. The epic introduction will make students (and Mars-loving science teachers) feel like they’re an important part of the mission: align tiles to help map mars, count and tag craters, and help identify one of the 250,000+ images by clicking on what is in the picture. This is the perfect alternative to the early “scientific observations” lesson that you’ve grown tired of and it involves students in real-world research. The ability for students to earn points gives teachers an automatic accountability piece that can help with classroom management and give students a sense of accomplishment.

2 Class Periods for Mars: Consider using “Electromagnetic Spectrum: Remote Sensing Ices on Mars.” In this NASA Explorer Schools Physical Science lesson, students analyze data collected by Mars spacecraft using three different forms of electromagnetic energy — visible light, infrared, and gamma rays — to investigate the composition and distribution of ices at the high-latitude regions of Mars.

2 Weeks for Mars: If you have time and want a closer look at Mars, the Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) from Arizona State University and NASA’s Mars Education program works with teams of students from grades 5-college sophomores to help image the surface of Mars with the Odyssey, a spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Minutes to Months for Mars: The Imagine Mars Project is a STEM-based interdisciplinary project that asks students to work with NASA scientists and engineers to imagine and design a community on Mars. This project involves looking at and reflecting on school and community culture and making decisions about what careers and arts will be necessary for a community on Mars based on the differences in climate, terrain, and resources available. Projects are showcased in an impressive online gallery.

Mars Road Trip: Still can’t get enough of Mars? On Saturday, September 29, NASA and Arizona State University are hosting the “Curiosity has landed in Your Classroom!” Educator Conference for free at the Mars Space Flight Facility on campus: for more information visit the link below.

“But I teach life science!?” Not to worry, “Properties of Living Things: searching for life on Mars,” has an excellent activity that is a variation of the chestnut “yeast lab.” I modify the NASA curriculum by having my students act as samplers – I prepare three Martian “soils,” one with salt and sand, one with sugar, yeast, and sand, and one with crushed Alka-Seltzer tablets and sand. Then I have students test for signs of life by adding warm water. Use the NASA materials to discuss characteristics of life, and look to the NASA Now videos for the “Search for Life,” or “Extremophiles,” to expand their thinking on what life looks like – or MIGHT look like.

Links:

Mars in a Minute: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars? http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm?id=1087

Flex, Zap, Roll: Curiosity’s New Moves: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.cfm

Map Mars: http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov/maproom#/TagMarsTaskCompleted

Mars Exploration Program for Educators: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/participate/marsforeducators/soi/

NASA Explorer Schools: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/web/nes/home

Mars Student Imaging Program Registration Form: http://marsed.mars.asu.edu/msip-online

Imagine Mars: http://imaginemars.jpl.nasa.gov/leaders/getting_started/5steps.html

Curiosity has Landed in Your Classroom Educator Conference Registration Form: http://marsed.asu.edu/curiosityhaslanded

Written by Bethany Dixon

Bethany Dixon is a science teacher at Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, is a CSTA Publications Committee Member, and is a member of CSTA.

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Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

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Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.