Live From Mars Teacher's Guide Preview: Closing Activities

From: (Jan Wee)
Subject: Live From Mars Teacher's Guide Preview: Closing Activities
Date: Fri, 04 Oct 1996 15:40:18 -0500

Dear discuss-lfm members,

This is the last of the LFM Teacher's Guide Preview files 
that I will be sharing today. Keep in mind that we will
be placing these and the rest of the files online at our
LFM web site in the days ahead.  Again, these are *not*
in final form, but for your convenience to assist you
in your advance preparation as you implement the LFM
project in your classroom/learning environment.

We will soon be sharing the Planet Explorer Toolkit collaborative
online activity with this forum in the upcoming weeks.  This
special activity will involve student research, data collection, 
online debate and team work as students step into the shoes of 
mission scientists and work together to select the best Planet 
Explorer Toolkit.  More on this in future postings!

Have a great weekend! :-)

Jan Wee

Closing Activities

We expect that Live from Mars will be something of a wild ride, for 
you and your students, just as for the spacecraft traveling to the 
Red Planet. Just as in traditional field trips down here on Earth, 
there will definitely be some bumps along the way. This section of 
the Guide, however, is designed to encourage your students to look 
back over the experiences they've shared and the new information 
they've explored. Contemporary educational research convincingly 
demonstrates that understanding is reinforced by the process of 
articulating new information for others. We hope these multi-
dimensional, inter-disciplinary Activities suggest ways to do that 
in an engaging and exciting manner rather than as a dry "course 
review". These Activities should encourage students to go back to 
their Mars Mission Logbooks and see their own work as a valuable 
resource, as they synthesize the new facts they've mastered, 
digest the comments they've heard or read from the expert 
and engineers, and use the research skills they've developed. Direct 
your students to review the pre-assessment activity they completed 
as they began this journey(see p CHECK) - they will be amazed at 
what they've accomplished!

These three Activities also appeal to different grades, and utilize 
different types and levels of resources. 
* Activity B-1, "A Flag for Mars", is appropriate for younger 
students, tapping artistry and language skills as well as new 
knowledge of the Red Planet. 
* Activity B-2, "Where Next?", invites more extensive technical 
and scientific research: PTK proposes two variants, one with, and 
one without, online access. 
* Lastly, Activity B-3, "To Terraform, or Not to Terraform?" 
relies less on the science and logistics of exploring Mars and more 
on discussing and debating moral and philosophical issues. 
LFM does not expect any class to do all of these, but we are sure you 
and your students will benefit from an opportunity to look back over 
what you've learned. We also know that student work on any of these 
Activities will be some of the most compelling and specific 
evidence of what they've absorbed/retained from this unusual 
learning experience. 

Activity B-1: A Flag for Mars

Students will demonstrate understanding of the geographical and 
political significance of flags by researching and discussing the 
historical use of flags on Earth, debating ownership issues for 
interplanetary exploration, and designing a flag for Mars.

* paper/pencils
* drawing/construction paper
* scissors/glue
* online and/or print encyclopedias, and other research sources 
* Mars Mission Logbooks


Display a variety of flags (U.S., state, school, Girl Scout, etc). Ask 
students to identify the group of people which each flag represents. 
Ask them what is implied when a flag is placed at a location, i.e., 
New World, the Moon, the South Pole. How do explorers "stake out" or 
lay claim to this new territory? Whom do the explorers represent?  

If possible, implement this activity as an interdisciplinary unit, 
allowing students to integrate cross discipline skills within the 
context of their "science" unit.

1. Begin this project by having students research the history of their 
own flags, either for their city, state, region, province and/or 
country. Why do people have flags? What do the graphic elements of 
your flag symbolize?   How were they selected? Was there any 
discussion? Were alternate designs proposed and debated? Who 
approved the flag? Has the flag changed over time (like the U.S. flag) 
or has it remained the same?   
2. Ask students to use the what they have learned from the Live 
>From Mars Activities. Encourage them to think about shape, colors, 
symbols, and overall design that conveys images, thoughts and facts 
about the Red Planet..
3. Have students design original Mars flags. Create a bulletin board 
for displaying student work. 
4. Once students have completed their flags, ask them to write an 
essay about their design. Younger students may want to write a 
descriptive essay explaining their decisions about what to include in 
a flag. Older students might want to write a persuasive essay to 
convince a global "Earth Explores the Solar System" (EESS!) 
committee that their particular design should be adopted. 

Remind students that the life of a productive scientist or engineer 
involves a lot more than number-crunching on a computer: a 
researcher must be able to write well to convince funding agencies 
to support his or her future activities. Modern science is 
increasingly a multi-disciplinary activity, almost inevitably 
involving language arts and communications skills along with 
content knowledge and logical thinking skills.

<< SOC ST ICON>>Have students debate the ownership of planets in 
Solar System. Who should govern them? What laws might be needed? 
How would enforcement be handled? (Students might find the 
Antarctic Treaty, referenced in Live from Antarctica and LFA 2 of 
Review the Student Handout for Activity B-3, Gary Allen's article 
appearing in Space News. If appropriate for your students' reading 
and comprehension skills, pass out copies and invite even younger 
students to discuss the colonization of Mars. (See MultiMedia 
Resources for relevant literary materials.)
<<COMPUTER ICON>>Have students create their Mars flags using paint 
program software. Send to Jan Wee ( for 
inclusion on the Live From Mars web site.

Suggested URLs


Activity B-2 "Where Next?"

Share with your students this July 1996 press clip:

NASA Seeks Proposals for Mars Landing Sites
Washington -- NASA's Office of Space Science plans to award this 
autumn as many as 15 grants of up to $20,000 per year for two years 
to university, industry and government groups that propose the most 
scientifically promising landing sites for the agency's Mars Surveyor 
Program ...which is intended to search for life and water sources on 
the red planet and increase understanding of the planet's volatile 
climate and history ...the grants are available for those missions to 
be launched after 2000. The studies NASA officials select will 
provide detailed geological maps of proposed landing sites, 
exploration strategy, the types of scientific data they expect to find 
at the site, and will include a description of rover or land transport 
Space News, July 1-7, 1996

Passport to Knowledge is NOT suggesting that student teams 
compete with career scientists to propose fully detailed and 
budgeted plans for NASA's actual missions to Mars in the 21st. 
Century -- but we do suggest that an exciting Closing Activity, 
drawing on all dimensions of the Live from Mars Module, would be to 
invite students, working in teams, to research and write-up their
suggested landing sites, scientific rationales and type of spacecraft 
for the "Next" Mars missions. 

Note to teachers: this Activity also provides an extremely powerful 
way to assess the new learning which students will have gained 
from participation in the Module. Best done in Fall 1998, after what 
we hope will be Pathfinder's safe landing and successful primary 
mission, it's also possible to undertake the Activity at the end of 
the 1996-1997 school year: as indicated by the news clip quoted 
above, NASA's actual invitation went out in Fall '96, before MPF or 
MGS were even launched! 

PTK invites students to participate in two different ways, in two 
different mediums.

Print Only
If your class and school still lacks online access, have students 
research more traditional references in books, encyclopedias, news 
papers and magazine and CD-ROM's. Use the materials in this Guide 
and in the LFM videos as resources. Encourage students to make their 
reports as formal as possible, with carefully thought-out rationales, 
compelling language, and, if possible, a budget generally 
comparable to those for MGS and MPF, scaled upward to reflect 
increasing size of rover, etc. After sharing your students' work with 
parents and others, please be sure to send some of the more 
interesting proposals to PTK (keeping copies for yourself) But, in an 
era of "NetDays" and other special incentives from phone companies 
and others, consider ways to get online (see below, page CHECK) 
since then your students' discussion can take advantage of "peer 
review" (kids commenting from across America and around the 
world) and direct interaction with expert mentors (see below.)

With Internet Access
Just as Live from Mars began with an online collaborative activity, 
PTK will host an online discussion forum for students to interact 
with Mars experts to brainstorm, research and refine their missions 
plans -- discuss-next. And just as in the online "Great Planet 
Debate" which selected the actual planets to observe during Live 
from the Hubble Space Telescope, PTK will invite experienced Mars 
researchers to serve as online mentors: they'll make suggestions, 
and provide references. They'll respond to student input and point out 
the pro's and con's of various sites and strategies. PTK will also 
provide links to a database which includes some of the actual sites 
proposed by career scientists to NASA, but we will encourage 
students to evaluate and debate the real proposals and make their 

Since this Activity can only be done online, we will provide more 
detailed information about discuss-next in late Spring 1997, after 
the second LFM program which airs April 24th.

Suggested URLs


Activity B-3: "To Terraform or Not to Terraform?"

Teacher Background
"Mars is interesting because it can be colonized." That's the 
provocative lead sentence of an article appearing in Space News, 
July 8-14, 1996, by Gary A. Allen Jr., an engineer at NASA Ames 
Research Center. Allen argues against focusing Mars exploration on 
the scientific search for evidence of past life, which he (rather 
dismissively) calls "exopaleontology." Instead he proposes colonizing 
Mars with human explorers on the fastest track possible as the best 
strategy, and references his own paper in the Journal of the British 
Interplanetary Society, JBIpS, arguing for a one-way mission to Mars 
delivering 940 colonists at a cost "comparable to simply exploring 
the planet." ("One-way" -- you can see why we call this provocative! 
However, JBIpS was where Arthur C. Clarke first proposed Earth-
orbiting satellites: it serves as a sounding board for ideas that at 
first seem improbable, some of which end up as mundane (sic) fact 
within 50 years.)

On a related topic, other scientists, respected NASA Ames 
exobiologist Chris McKay among them, discuss ways to terraform 
Mars, unlocking the oxygen and water now trapped in its frozen crust 
by seeding the poles with hardy microscopic plants, darkening the 
surface, heating up the entire planet as a consequence, and so 
recapturing the thicker atmosphere and warmer, wetter conditions 
which most scientists accept were once present on Mars. (This is 
the theme of Kim Stanley Robinson's three award-winning science 
fiction novels, Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars: see MultiMedia 
Resources.) Some researchers even argue that if there are still 
Martian life-forms, microscopic and trapped in the permafrost, they 
can be "captured" and put in cold storage, just as smallpox germs 
once were here on Earth. In short, build a protected zoo for microbes, 
and make Mars fit for humans. To others, this does not seem 
environmentally correct treatment of the legitimate, current 
inhabitants of Mars.

Copies of article: Allen Jr., Gary A. "Options for Exploring Mars" in 
Space News, July 8-14, 1996, p 13.

Have students read (or read aloud with them) Allen's article. Allow 
time for students to share their initial reactions to the ideas in this 

Ask students to consider our current reactions to how European 
invaders treated the Native American peoples. Encourage students to 
review their Mars Mission Logbooks and the work they and their 
peers have done over the course of the entire project. Have them 
research the issues (encourage online as well as print resources), 
then group them in teams with similar perspectives, and marshal 
arguments to prepare them to debate, or discuss, or otherwise 
report on the issues involved in one or other of the two distinct but 
related propositions:
Humans should Colonize Mars rather than sending Robot Missions to 
Explore it for Ancient Life, and/or:
Humans should Terraform Mars, whether there are extant Martian 
Life-forms, or Not.

If you lack online access, stage a debate in class, as a formal 
debate, or in the format of TV talk show. Or, prepare a class 
newsletter summarizing the various printed reports. Or contact 
local scientists, share your students' work with them, and ask them 
to come in to class to respond. Prepare students to receive and 
interact with "experts".

Online LFM will provide (moderated) opportunities for students to 
share their arguments and interact, both by asynchronous postings 
(e-mail, via the debate-future mail-list) and live WebChats to be 
joined by Mars experts. Depending on the level of interest, 
technologies and connectivity possessed by participating classes, 
LFM may facilitate CU-SeeMe or other forums to exchange comments 
between classes. Check the LFM Site in late Spring 1997 and 
onwards for the latest!

As in all other Wrap-Up Activities, please record and share the most 
interesting student work with PTK by mail or online.

As should be apparent, PTK and LFM do not consider Activity B-3 to 
be about "right answers" to the propositions, but more about 
appropriate questions and interesting arguments deploying 
information acquired during the project in thoughtful, convincing 

Suggested URLs