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.
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
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
Curiosity has Landed in Your Classroom Educator Conference Registration Form: http://marsed.asu.edu/curiosityhaslanded
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…