2010 Annual Science Report

University of Wisconsin Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Project 6E: Imagine Mars at Emerson Elementary Afterschool Program

Project Progress

The Imagine Mars Project is a national arts, sciences, and technology education initiative that leads students to work together with scientists, engineers, artists, and civic leaders to design and share a futuristic Mars community for 100 people.

Second and third grade students in the Emerson Elementary after school program (Safe Haven) spent eight weeks working with outreach personnel from the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum to develop ideas toward a sustainable, long-term human settlement on Mars. After deciding as a class to colonize the equatorial regions of Mars, the students formed work divisions based upon the needs and interests of their proposed settlement and colonists. Operating in these teams, the children researched and performed experiments to help them understand the special constraints living on Mars would entail. Throughout the experience they developed new sports, unique recipes, unconventional housing, and innovative health practices all tailored to the unique challenges supplied by Mars. Particular projects that were popular were when we asked the students to create their own planet (and draw a picture of it) considering habitability (FIGURE 1) and to build their own rover or lander after learning about the Mars rovers and landers (FIGURE 2).

Throughout the course of their Imagine Mars project, the students of Emerson Elementary learned the importance of making informed decisions, working diplomatically in a group, and blending art and science to design a functional, long-term human settlement on Mars. Outreach specialists from the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum with the after school personnel helped guide the students in this endeavor. The NASA website and local libraries were extremely useful resources utilized in order to plan lessons and activities. The students took part in an array of activities and experiments during the eight weeks spent developing their Martian colony, and especially enjoyed creating new sports, new housing styles, and designing their own spaceships.

Many of the participating students did not have an understanding of the Solar System or NASA’s missions to Mars. By working for two months with them, we were able to share astrobiology-related information with them, which sparked their imaginations to think about how they would explore and look for life. Students were particularly excited to try their hand at shuttle and rover design through drawings and model-making.