Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.


Planet Explorer Toolkit Online Collaborative Activity

(A Thirteen Step Plan)

Educators & students shares their ideas through debate-lfm.

Post your Planetary Data for Step 10, and View Submitted PDI Data

Detailed description (updated on 3/3/97):

October 18-December 10th....

STEP 1: Introduce the activity to students by sharing the PET activity goals and Specific Learning Objectives (below) and establishing your own classroom timeline and Project Logistics.

    Specific Learning Objectives:

  1. The student will be able to identify and explain the uses of scientific instruments to measure unique characteristics of their local environment.

  2. The student will be able to identify which scientific data is most useful (ability to prioritize) for interpreting their environment.

  3. The student will be able to prioritize the utility of scientific instruments in identifying specific environments.

  4. The student will demonstrate effective debate skills, use of proper online "netiquette," and use of logic in supporting their proposed Planet Explorer Kit, as well as the ability to reach consensus within a community forum through cooperation and compromise.

  5. The student will demonstrate critical thinking skills through the ability to identify relevant vs irrelevant instrument selections/proposals.

  6. The student will be able to identify the most common scientific instruments used in collecting planetary data and their specific uses/applications in data collection.

  7. The student will be able to identify the scientific instruments included in the Mars Pathfinder Mission and Mars Global Surveyor, the type of information each instrument collects and why it is important to collect this type of data.

  8. The student will interpret the collected data and be able to identify the environment type to which the data belongs (i.e., terrestrial, aquatic, prairie, desert, etc.).

  9. The student (participating as an individual) or students as a group/class will be able to identify specific mystery locations on Earth through interpretation of data sets, given specific limitations/boundaries (i.e., possible locations)

  10. The student will be able to present a written proposal for their Planet Explorer Toolkit and the rationale for their proposal in a clear and concise format.

    Some Project Logistics to think about....

  11. Will you group the students in cooperative learning groups or will you do the activity as a class discussion with everyone contributing ideas together?
  12. Will your class need a mentor/facilitator? Will you need to contact a local astronomy club or science expert?
  13. Will you need some assistance from the English or speech teacher on effective debates? Many middle school and high school English textbooks have a chapter dealing with effective debate techniques.
  14. Will you hold your own debate within the classroom before going online and supporting the merits of your class's Planet Explorer Toolkit?
  15. How will your class determine your Planetary Data Input (PDI) Site (exact locale where your class data will be collected)?
  16. What advance plans do you need to make for the data collection activity? Are you within walking distance or easy access of the site? Will you take a field trip to the locale?
  17. What common scientific measurement instruments do you have on hand within your setting or that can be borrowed?
  18. How will you involve students in the actual online debate?
    Planning access to a computer with e-mail connectivity will be important, especially during December and January when posting your PET proposal(s) -- one per class-- and having students actively engaged in the online debate takes place.
  19. Will you use your home computer to facilitate this effort?
  20. Can you arrange to have a computer in class to create word processed files that can be posted after class or from home if you do not have Internet access in the classroom or another convenient location?

  21. STEP 2

    Join the debate-lfm forum as soon as you have decided to become part of this online collaborative activity. Although most of the activity online will take place between December '96- May '97, the PTK Staff will be sharing late breaking news and valuable information via the debate forum beginning October 25, 1996. 

      Note: Although there is not a formal registration or sign up process, the PTK staff will be collecting information about the classes participating in this collaborative activity sometime in mid-November. 


    STEP 3: Student Research / Information Finding

    In order to effectively determine which scientific instruments would be best to include in their PET, students must know something about the instruments Mars Mission scientists selected for Pathfinder. They must also be knowledgeable about the various instruments Earth scientists use to collect data about our home planet.

    Conduct research. Collect information about the Mars Pathfinder's set of instruments by visiting the NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) Mars Pathfinder Web site and collecting information. Visit the Live From Mars Web site ( Select Featured Events. Select Planet Explorer Toolkit Collaborative Activity for links to related Web sites and online background information files. Use your Live From Mars Teacher's Guide for additional background information.

    • Have students record information in their Live From Mars Mission Logbooks (see LFM Teacher's Guide, Activity A 1.)

    • Have a brainstorming session to identify all the scientific instruments used by Earth Scientists. Identify what is measured through the use of these instruments. Decide if this data would be useful/valid and practical for use in their own PET.

      If students are unfamiliar with the scientific instruments, have them conduct research in the school library, by doing interviews with local scientists, weather experts, or using electronic resources like the Internet to locate information.

      You might have a guest speaker (scientist, weatherman, astronomer) visit your classroom and discuss the instruments they use in their research and work. If possible ask them to display the instruments and show how they work, what type of information can be collected, and why that information is valuable.

      Sky and Telescope provides a Directory of Astronomy Clubs, Planetariums and Observatories that could be helpful in locating speakers or mentors to help with this activity.

    STEP 4: Lead a class discussion focusing on the factors that will impact your final decisions on the instrument set selected for your class's PET.

    • Discuss the factors that impact real life mission scientists as *Discuss the factors that impact real life mission scientists as they determine the payload on planetary spacecraft.* Be sure to read the Biographies and Field Journals of the Mars Mission Team for clues about this aspect of the mission planning. The Live From Mars Web site has a special *Team Members* link where you will find these interesting personal journals.

    • Discuss what "consensus" means and the fact that the students in each class must debate the merits of their unique PET. Discuss how logic, compromise, and debate netiquette plays a special role in this online collaboration.

    • Discuss the need to have a "universal PET" which everyone (no matter where they are located geographically) must use to collect data. The consensus reaching process may end with no one particular class's PET being selected, but rather a blend of ideas from many proposals. Or we may find that one school/class does have the best PET proposal. Explain that this determination will be made online via discussion and that the students should be ready to support their ideas with logic and carefully planned supporting evidence.

    • Discuss what impact cost has on their instrument selections? Remind students that their PET must not exceed $200.00 in value. Just like in real life, missions' cost limits what can be included in instrumentation packages aboard spacecraft.

    • Finally, determine your class proposal for the best Planet Explorer Toolkit. Document (record) the proposal and explain why you feel this is the best PET. More information describing exactly how to submit your proposal will be shared online in the debate-lfm forum. Please do not begin submitting your proposals until December 10th!!

    December 10th-December 20th....

    STEP 5: Submit your Planet Explorer Toolkit online sometime between December 10th and December 20th, 1996, one report per participating class. If you are a homeschooler, one per participating family. You are encouraged to post your PET after careful thought and brainstorming. Once proposals are posted they cannot be revised and re-posted, so be sure to come to consensus within your classes or learning environment BEFORE submitting your PET proposal.

    Remember that you will be sharing not just your PET proposal but also the *rationale* for the PET that you select.

    A PET Proposal submission form and specific posting directions are available online and posted to the debate-lfm forum. Please use the format of the form that will be provided.

    December 10th through December 20th, 1996

    STEP 6: Read the debate-lfm postings (e-mail messages) on a regular basis and share the various PET proposals posted with students. You may want to print out the proposals and have a class discussion focusing on the pros and cons of each proposal and how your own PET compares.

    December 20th-January 5th -- Break for the holidays

    January 6th-March 14th, 1997

    Online Discussion Begins/ Consensus by March 14th, 1997. Note the date for reaching consensus has been extended due to the needs of the participating classrooms. NASA Mars Mission experts will be on hand during the first two weeks of March to assist and mentor our group through the final stages of determining the Toolkit.

    STEP 7: Be prepared to discuss (online and in the classroom) the merit and the lack of merit of the PETs proposed during the January 6th -- March 14th debate period.

    Pay particular attention to the "guest experts" (planetary experts, scientists, researchers, or other online guests) and the questions and issues they pose.

      Be ready to respond online as a class to comments, ideas, rationale with which you agree/disagree. Be *engaged* in the discussion by taking an active role as a PET participant. Pose relevant questions to our guest experts and PTK staff moderators as well as to other PET participants.

      Help reach the final decision for the BEST Planet Explorer Toolkit. Discuss the meaning of the words: team, consensus and compromise. Remember, the goal is to determine one universal BEST Planetary Explorer Toolkit that ALL classes can use. Consensus reaching will be key. PTK Staff will assist in this process as will our online experts.

      The class in each grade level range (elementary, middle, and high school) which best demonstrates effective critical thinking, problem solving and debate netiquette will be honored with special PTK awards.

    March 14 -- April 4th, 1997

    STEP 8: Immediately after consensus is reached by March 14th , gather the instruments that have been selected for the PET. You may need to borrow instruments from your local high school or science center.

    STEP 9: Determine the exact location (within easy access) of your data collection site. You might want to debate this location as a class or in small groups. Decide what location within your region is most characteristic (unique, revealing, symptomatic) and can be identified by the participating classes through simply interpreting the data you submit online. Decide who will collect and record the data. Schedule a convenient time to do so.

    By April 4th, 1997...

    STEP 10: Using the PDI (Planetary Data Input) Form posted here and online in the debate-lfm forum, collect the data and submit it electronically to NASA Quest.

      Be sure to collect data carefully and follow explicitly the instructions given online immediately after reaching consensus.

    ***Be sure to submit your data by 5pm Pacific time, April 4th.***

    All PDI data will be shared online at our Live From Mars Web site and all participating schools will be recognized online for their participation and data collection skills.

    Late April through May 20th

    STEP 11: PTK Staff will develop a set of seven Mystery Sites for each grade level range and will be posting this Super-Sleuth activity and directions on how to participate in the "Where In the World Are These PET Mystery Sites?" activity. Watch for news of this enrichment activity to be posted in the debate-lfm forum and the Live From Mars updates newsletters.

    Late April through May 20th, 1997.

    STEP 12: Classes participate in the "Where in the World Are These PET Mystery Sites?" activity. Classes will submit answers (one set per participating classroom) online. Specific directions will be posted to the debate-lfm forum and via the LFM Web site.

      A winning class in each grade level range will be selected from those who have correctly identified all five Mystery Sites. If ties occur, a drawing will identify the winner.

    Students will also participate in special extended activities developed by the PTK Staff focusing on Interpreting Collective Data from around the country/globe.

      These activities will encourage students to interpret the collective data and draw inferences about related scientific concepts. Topics relating to this activity may include the following: weather phenomena, geologic features, seasonal changes, etc.

    After May 20th, 1997...

    This collaborative activity will remain online for all interested students, educators, parents, etc., to enjoy over the coming months as the Mars Pathfinder reaches its destination

    STEP 13: Additionally, consider some form of assessment and evaluation!

    The essential question "What have students learned by participating in the Planet Explorer Toolkit activity?" can be best measured by checking to see if students have met the learning objectives stated in this activity. Review these objectives and consider one of these possible evaluation tools:

    1. Have your students present their PET to a younger class explaining the purpose, procedure, and the results of their participation through the use of a multi-media presentation (graphics, videotape, computer generated multi-media program like Powerpoint, Hypercard, etc.)
    2. Have students respond to the following essay question: If you were selecting a planetary research team that would lead a scientific mission to land on Mars, what qualities would you expect in this group to have? And why?
    3. Engage students in a debate modeled after the online consensus reaching forum used in the PET experience. Require them to reach consensus on an issue. For example: Pretend you are an alien from a far away planet and you must decide where on Earth is the best landing site that will give the most unique and interesting data about the Earth in general.

      Assess their skills of teaming, ability to compromise, think critically using logic and articulating rationale.

      Please share your assessment ideas online!