Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

Where in the World are these P.E.T. Mystery Sites?



This fun and challenging activity is an "enrichment" activity developed in association with the Live From Mars Planet Explorer Toolkit online collaborative activity. Students and their sponsoring educators submitted over 80 proposals for their "best 'Planet Explorer Toolkit'" which contains instruments and tools that would uniquely describe their planet -- Earth. Their work parallels that of the Mars Mission scientists and engineers who planned the instrument payload for Mars Pathfinder.

For more information about the P.E.T. Activity, see:

The 84 proposals presented over 350 distinct "tools" which, through online discussion/debate, were reduced to fourteen tools including a Celsius thermometer, windsock and compass, disposable camera, sample collection tools and other items. Each class used the same TOOLKIT for data collection at their unique site.

Classes around the nation scheduled their "Launch Phase" data collection field trips to a local Planetary Data Input Site and collected data that uniquely describes the area. The data and images collected were submitted online and are accessible via the Live From Mars Web site. You will find the PDI forms submitted by classes at:

Collectively, these PDI forms provide base data for this activity enabling students to identify weather patterns, biomes, and other characteristics of participating sites.


Just as participating P.E.T. classes collected data and images from their unique Planetary Data Input Site, Mystery Site Hosts have collected DATA and IMAGES from sites around the U.S. and international locales. Students of grade levels 3 through 12 may participate in solving "Where In the World Are These P.E.T. Mystery Sites?"

Different levels of participation are offered for elementary students (Gr. 3-5), middle school students (Gr. 6-8) and high school students (Gr. 9-12).

Students will access the Mystery Site PDI data at:

Each Mystery Site has a PDI (Planetary Data Input) form and accompanying images taken "on location" which uniquely describe the site. The data does NOT include the latitude and longitude of the location or the time zone. The GOAL will be to determine the LOCATION of the Mystery Site.

Elementary and middle school students have a >range< of choices (given in latitude and longitude) from which to select their answers. Elementary students have THREE choices, whereas middle school students have FIVE choices. High school students will be given a range of latitude and longitude within which the Mystery Sites are located. High school students will not have specific choices, but instead, will submit their best answer citing the latitude and longitude for each of the five Mystery Sites.

In the case of the high school level: The class(es)/student(s) submitting the closest answers for the Mystery Sites were chosen to be the winner(s).

In the case of the elementary and middle school participants: The winners were be selected from those entries with the highest number of correct answers.


  1. Students will analyze Planetary Data Input data and images in order to identify clues to the location of the mystery site.

  2. Students will demonstrate how to use latitude and longitude to locate a specific point on Earth, properly noting the coordinates in degrees and minutes along with the compass direction (N or S for latitude and E or W for longitude).

  3. Students will effectively utilize multiple reference sources including online resources, compare Mystery Site weather and biome data, and geography/geology with possible locations.

  4. Students will demonstrate teamwork, task delegation, and cooperative discussion techniques.

  5. Using deductive reasoning, students will narrow the possibilities of Mystery Site locations selecting the "best possible choice" on the basis of their data analysis.

  6. Students will justify/defend their Mystery Site locations based on evidence collected during their research.


  1. Introduce the "Where in the World are these P.E.T. Mystery Sites?" activity. Explain the activity (based on the above Background and Brief Overview) and inform the students of *your* timeline. Suggestion: Group students into collaborative teams. Each team will attempt to identify all five Mystery Sites *or* have each team select one site to solve.

    You may want to access the Mystery Site Data *in advance* and download and print copies for each group! There are SEVEN Mystery Sites in all, each grade level will use *five* of the seven sites.

      Elementary Students use SITES # 2,3,5, 6, & 7

      Middle School Students use SITES # 1-5

      High School Students use SITES #1-5

  2. Review the P.E.T, Data Collection Form with students found online at:

    making sure that students understand the different types of data included in the PDI Form. Having an overhead copy of the form on hand will help with this process.

  3. REVIEW latitude/longitude and mapping skills.

    Since all students must utilize latitude and longitude coordinates, it is important to review how to use lat/long coordinates to locate a specific point on Earth. It is also important that students understand that noting N or S latitude and E or W longitude is essential.

    A possible review could incorporate plotting the latitude/ longitude location for each participating class who submitted PDI (Planetary Data Input) forms accessible via the LFM web site at:

  4. Have the students get into their small groups to brainstorm what they feel is the "BEST PLAN of ACTION" -- the process they feel will work most effectively --- which will enable them to solve the Mystery Sites. Have students share their plans with the large group. Discuss the use of critical thinking skills. Point out how subtle clues contained within the PDI data forms and images can help eliminate certain Mystery Site possibilities.

  5. Provide the students with a variety of reference materials including online access to archives of weather maps, back issues of newspaper weather reports for late March and April, atlases, geographical reference books, materials on biomes and environment, guide books on plants, trees, animals, world and U.S. maps.

  6. Schedule time for each group to present their findings and conclusions to the rest of the class. Survey the group for final "nod of approval"/feedback.

    Suggestion: Classroom teachers are encouraged to require that students "justify" their Mystery Site locations with evidence supporting their decisions. Having to defend their choices will prevent "guesswork" and develop higher level thinking skills! Have the students share their justifications during the group discussions.