Is There Anyone Out There?

This resource was funded by the UK Space Agency and developed by ESERO-UK and CIEC Promoting Science. It is based upon the quest to discover more about the solar system through space projects such as the European Space Agency’s Aurora programme, and NASA’s Curiosity mission seeking to gather evidence of life on the planet Mars.

The students take on the role of space scientists or space engineers to discover more about Mars. The activities in this resource are designed for students aged 9-12 years.

The activities are organised into three themes: life, landscape and landing. Activities in the life and landscape themes are suitable for students aged 9 to 11.

Landing Theme Activities in the landing theme are intended for children aged 12, or to challenge gifted and talented primary children. Students consider data from the viewpoint of scientists or engineers to identify the best landing site for the rover. They are asked to estimate the age of landing sites, identify landscape features such as craters, rocks, deltas, canyons, elevations and interpret scales, data and images. The class debates to decide the most appropriate location.

Life Theme Children consider the criteria essential for life and discuss what form life might take. They go on to: • compare and test samples of ‘soil’ identifying properties that indicate characteristics of Martian ‘soil’. • test for the possible presence of microorganisms • investigate conditions affecting their growth.

Landscape Theme The children study images from Mars to note significant features and make hypotheses about their formation. They carry out and evaluate practical tasks to mimic crater formation, lava flow, and the creation of channels and deltas. The activities vary in duration from approximately 1 to 3 hours, depending on the circumstances in each school and class. The investigative activities and images in each theme provide a sequence that helps the children to explore features of the planet Mars in practical ways involving the use of key skills. They introduce the children to a range of challenges each requiring the use of enquiry skills, discussion and problem solving consistent with UK curricula requirements.

It is intended that children develop their own ideas, and methods of recording and presenting their results and conclusions. To support this approach, hints and facts, and ideas for investigation and recording are provided, to be adapted by teachers to suit the needs of their children. The activities are designed to appeal to the imagination of children. Themes can be taught independently, and teachers can select the ideas in a particular section according to the interests of their students.

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