PTK Live From Mars New Fall Project - Weather Worlds

From: Eileen Bendixsen <>
Subject: PTK Live From Mars New Fall Project - Weather Worlds
Date: Fri, 19 Sep 1997 14:31:04 -0400

I apologize if this is a second posting, but I don't think it went through
the first time.


Dear discuss members,

Welcome back to another year (or at least part of a year) of Live From
Mars.  We know that you have been busy with the begining of school and hope
you are now ready to join us (Susan Hurstcalderone and Eileen Bendixsen) in
two exciting new activities for this fall.  This year's project is called
Weather Worlds.  You will find the description and timeline for Weather
Worlds below and at the lfm website
(  Weather Worlds
will take place on debate-lfm so that discuss-lfm can be used for more
general messages.

To subscribe to debate-lfm send e-mail to:
and in the message body write: subscribe debate-lfm

Come join us for some brainstorming, discussion and of course the famous
PTK debates.  Don't miss out on the fun and the excitement of once again
comparing what's happening right now on Mars with our own planet.  

We are waiting for you and your students on debate-lfm.

Susan and Eileen
Weather Worlds Comoderators

Weather Worlds
Two new activities for fall '97

NASA's Pathfinder spacecraft and its Sojourner rover have done an amazing
job of characterizing the rocks surrounding its Ares Vallis landing site.
But Pathfinder (renamed the Sagan Memorial Station in honor of astronomer
Carl Sagan, 1934-1996)
is also a weather station, recording temperature, wind speed and direction,
and pressure. These familiar and easy-to-understand measurements, along
with reports on clouds, dust devils, frosts and giant volcanoes, add to our
understanding of Mars. The fact that we can receive daily weathercasts is a
major reason Mars seems so real: like Earth, like our home states, it's a
place with everyday phenomena. 

We've refined last year's "Planet Explorer Toolkit" project into two
exciting activities that are suitable for a wide range of classrooms at
varying levels of sophistication and with varying amounts of time available
for participation. 

The activities relate directly to the National Science Standards and should
complement any existing Earth, space or general science curriculum. But
most of all they should be engaging, informative and FUN for your and your

You can choose to participate in one or both phases. Since the entire
activity begins now and should only run through the end of November. 

The Challenge
Designing for Data: Phase 1

Online at the LFM site under Featured Events, you and your students can
find a brief description of how Pathfinder is collecting weather data on
Mars, right now. That description also provides links to more extensive
information on NASA/JPL's own Pathfinder project pages and the University
of Washington's LIVE FROM EARTH AND MARS project.  (Not affiliated with
LFM, but a great source of current Mars weather data!) 

A brief description of the weather reports already sent back by Pathfinder
and why it's of interest to scientists can be the starting point for class

The challenge for students is to figure out what key weather measurements
they think are most important to gather here on Earth, and then how to
obtain them, by designing, building and/or acquiring instruments to collect
these data. 

As part of this process, students will also have to figure out protocols or
procedures about how and when to gather data. For example, is it enough to
gather temperatures just at noon? Do you also need night-time lows? If you
want maximum and minimum temperatures, how should you go about securing
these? As another example: Pathfinder's temperature sensors are set at
three different heights above the Martian surface, since researchers knew
there were great differences caused by just a few centimeters (yes,
centimeters!) change in elevation. Would such measurements be relevant on

But students are not limited just to instruments paralleling those actually
on Pathfinder. There's no rain gauge on the spacecraft, but rainfall is a
pretty important part of Earth's weather. Students should be encouraged to
start from scratch and come up with their best ideas. Temperature, wind,
pressure, humidity, hours of daylight, cloud cover-- these are all areas
that students might consider. 

There is a cost limit to keep everyone's ambitions in check: all the
instruments together must not cost more than $100. But we do not expect you
or them to buy the instruments: borrow, make, or otherwise access data, but
don't use instrumentation
worth more than $100. In addition, there is no size limitation: kids can
suggest and build large anemometers and wind vanes: the challenge is more
to figure out how to monitor weather on THIS planet, rather than deal with
size constraints appropriate for launching an instrument pack to another. 

After initial debate in class, we invite students to go online with their
suggestions, comments and brainstorms. Veteran PTK teachers consider the
online debate a KEY aspect of these collaborations, and we encourage you to
get your students online (see below for instructions) as soon and as often
as possible. But to focus the task, we request teachers work toward finally
submitting only ONE PLAN per class. The process of formulating that plan--
by in-class debate, posting online and responding to other postings and by
more internal discussion-- can be made into a rewarding activity for the
students no matter whether the teacher posts the final results to the list,
or also leaves that to students. 

To become part of the EARTH AND MARS WEATHER DEBATE, send e-mail to:
and in the message body write: subscribe debate-lfm

You will receive a welcome message from Susan Hurstcalderone and Eileen
Bendixsen, teacher comoderators of the online activity, and will start
receiving comments from other students. When your class submits a message,
they'll become part of a
vibrant online community of interplanetary weather watchers! 

We expect there will be considerable free-form brainstorming. And we
welcome that. But since we also intend to keep Weather Worlds short in
duration, we're going to arrange for each class that submits a plan to get
focused feedback from three
other classes in more or less the same grade level, as well as more general
comment from the entire list. 

There will be elementary (3-5), middle (6-8) and high school (9+)
categories. This will provide transcontinental (maybe intercontinental!)
feedback to focus attention and lend significance to their activities.
Based on the feedback and monitoring the wider debate students will come up
with a final plan. 

Based on review of all these plans, and with input from students and NASA
experts, we'll arrive at our final consensus set of instruments and

Summary of Tasks

1. Access background information on Pathfinder and weather on Mars at the
LFM Web site and review the specifics of the WEATHER WORLDS Challenge.
Debate what students have learned and discuss ideas in class. Subscribe to
debate-lfm and
submit questions and suggestions online. Read input from NASA Mars experts,
discuss comments from other classes, and develop a plan and a protocol. 

2. Use the special WEATHER WORLDS Web form that you will (soon) find online
under Featured Events (on the LFM site) to submit the class plan. Or, if
you'd prefer, use e-mail (instructions and addresses to come once the
WEATHER WORLDS debate is underway). Each plan must have sufficient detail
about how the specific instruments will be built, how their accuracy will
be tested, and how they will be used by the class to provide daily readings. 

Plans may include drawings if the class has the skills and resources to
include them as GIF or JPEG attachments. The special forms will permit text
to be converted into HTML for display. 

3. Each participating class will have its plan reviewed by three other
participating classes in the same grade category, using a checklist we'll
provide. The feedback form will also have room for questions that must be
answered by the original authors.
(The comoderators of debate-lfm will be responsible for routing feedback to
the submitting classes and will make sure comments are polite and to the

4. After the submitting class receives the feedback, it will have a chance
to think about the comments, work on a revised proposal, review elements
they like in other classes' work, and post a final version. These final
postings will go into a
permanent online gallery of student work on the LFM Web site. 

5. But just as NASA's scientists had to come to agreement since only one
set of instruments could actually travel to Mars and operate on its
surface, LFM will look to foster one final consensus about WEATHER WORLDS,
which will become the basis for Phase 2: Data Gathering. Students seem to
have been happy with this process in previous projects, and we'll be doing
our best to broker a (universally!) acceptable solution this time also. 


     - September 19, 1997: Begin! Research Pathfinder, subscribe to
debate-lfm, and begin discussions. 

     The debate begins and continues! 

     - October 3: Initial class plans submitted via forms found on the LFM
the Web site, or e-mailed to a specified address.  Online discussion and
debate continues. 

     - October 7-8: Classes that sent in a WEATHER WORLDS plan receive
three other plans from other classes in the same grade range, and a
checklist to help guide their comments on their peers' plans. 

     - October 17: Focused feedback forms are sent back to the central
e-mail address. 

     - October 20-21: Classes receive comments back on their original plans. 

     - Week of October 27: Classes submit revised plans responding to the
comments or provide additional explanations for the decisions they
originally made. The final plans are converted into HTML for posting on the

LFM enlists NASA experts to respond to student plans, and brokers a final
consensus plan which all will follow during Phase
2. Students should be assured that the final WEATHER WORLDS will definitely
be shaped by their collective ideas and

All classes submitting final entries will receive a Certificate of
Participation from LIVE FROM MARS. 

Data Collection and Analysis: Phase 2

In this second phase of the activity, any class may sign up to contribute
one or more sets of weather data on a daily basis for one or other (or
both, if they have time!) of the two weeks between 11/3 and 11/14, whether
they participated in Phase 1 or not. They can build their own WEATHER
WORLDS (using the consensus plan developed during Phase 1), or they can use
whatever other data sets they can access (local weathercasts or news
reports), but they are responsible for doing so on a daily basis and
assuring its accuracy. Their internal verification plans are part of the
registration form they use to sign up. Discussions of the need for accuracy
and acceptable variations can be part of the continuing online debate. 

Classes will use a form provided by LFM to file their daily reports so that
the data reported is in a standardized format. The specific types of data
that a class chooses to collect will have been discussed online during
Phase 1, and classes can access this archive to see if it helps them make
their decision. 

A younger class might choose to do temperature readings at three heights
every day. An older class might choose to collect a comprehensive set of
temperature, wind speed, air pressure and cloud-cover measurements. 

The raw data will be mounted on the LFM site in a way that will make it
easy to capture or download for Phase 2. It will also be displayed in a
graphic format, just like the student-generated cloud patterns seen on the

While the data are being collected, during the weeks of 11/3 through 11/14,
debate-lfm will host an online discussion of possible ways to analyze the
accumulating data. Once more, LFM will make some suggestions, referring to
Pathfinder and Earth-orbiting weather satellites, but students themselves
will have the final say. 

During the 11/13 LIVE FROM MARS broadcast, "Today on Mars," some of the
classes who've been collecting data and have already begun work on their
analysis will be featured. 

Final WEATHER WORLDS reports will be due by 11/21. They will be posted on
Quest and the student authors can respond to comments during December.
Classes that submit daily data will receive online recognition. All classes
that submit a full
analysis of their weather data will receive a certificate of participation

We hope this sounds like fun! But we're also sure there'll be questions.
That's what debate-lfm is for: teachers or students can ask away and our
comoderators, PTK Advocates Susan Hurstcalderone and Eileen Bendixsen, will
provide the answers. 

Remember the idea behind WEATHER WORLDS is to give students the feel of
real world science. Not only will they be gathering data in ways parallel
to what Pathfinder Is doing on Mars, they'll also be using the Internet to
debate plans with their
peers, something which NASA scientists also have to do. 

If you've been following Global Surveyor's arrival at Mars you may have
noted that while NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is once more home for
mission management, the MGS spacecraft is actually controlled by Lockheed
Martin in Denver, the
Mars Orbital Camera is controlled from Malin Space Systems in San Diego,
the Thermal Emission Spectrometer by Phil Christensen and our good
discuss-lfm friend Ken Edgett at Arizona State University in Tucson, the
Mars Orbiter Laser
Altimeter and the radio science have science teams equally dispersed. If
they can fly spacecraft this way, surely we can make