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LIVE FROM MARS: Educators Classroom Connection

Cedarwood Elementary School
Fran O'Rourke/Hartman

Cedarwood Elementary School works on Mars all year

Cedarwood Pathfinder Project

For more than 3000 years, Mars has captured the imagination of all. It has also been the subject of intensive scientific study. NASA began exploration of Mars with the Mariner IV mission in 1964-65, and will continue on July 4, 1997, when the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft will touch down on the Red Planet at the mouth of a giant flood channel, Ares Vallis. This mission gave the Cedarwood Elementary School an opportunity to simulate a scientific expedition.


Pathfinder is a total hands-on activity. Students constructed the planet Mars surface, designed a model of their own Pathfinder spacecraft, and studied all aspects of planning and conducting a mission. This included: providing news coverage, performing experiments, gathering data, and conducting a debriefing.

October/November (1995): The design and engineering of the student Pathfinder landing systems and rover vehicles from K'Nex. Boeing sent two engineers into the room weekly for 8 weeks to help teach engineering concepts.

Each step of the mission, students created HyperCard, HyperStudio stacks and multi-media presentations to showcase their studies. These presentations were displayed during the mission for everyone to view. The use of a video spigot card allowed students to include video clips into their computer presentations. By recording the trial and error of the vehicle design and building process, the students reached a level of learning far surpassing any book-based curriculum.

December/January: Design methods for vehicle protection. Tests were conducted from a 75-foot ladder (fire truck) onto the student-made Martian surface.

March 8th (Mission Day): Community, parents and other students were invited to watch as students dropped their vehicles from a ladder, then had to control them to make soil and rock collection. Guests were given the opportunity to predict which designs would be successful. All project methods were analyzed and data collected and recorded on the best designs. The library was turned into Mission Control, where over 25 students designed lessons were conducted for other students not directly involved.

Some other highlights were: A visit by the Governor of the State of Washington, who invited some of the class back to the State Capital. At the Capital, the State Seal was applied to the first official Mars Driver's License, issued to Brian Cooper, chief rover operator for NASA's JPL. Brian had to pass a test, of course, before the license was issued.

Pictures and Text submitted by:
Fran O'Rourke/Hartman
2908 122 St. SW
Everett, WA, 98204