View the video of our Mars Creatures discussed below.
After going over some of the basics on space travel, facts about the solar system, and some lessons on the unimaginable distances in space – one of the first activities I have students do is designing a creature to live on Mars. Students learned about Mars’s weather, composition and we saw downloadable video from NASA on the conditions on Mars. One video even shows the dust devils on Mars – unlike Earth’s dust devils, Mars’s can get miles high and 200 yards wide.
Next I lead them in a brainstorming session on what and how a creature could eat and drink on Mars, how would a creature move around on Mars (all the time having them think about creatures on Earth and how they do that), survive the cold temperatures, winds, thin air made of carbon dioxide, and so on.
Then students get a sheet of drawing paper and draw different mouths, legs, arms, eyes, noses…whatever their creature will need. Students pick the parts that fit conditions on Mars the best and then make a rough draft drawing of their creature. When done they get larger pieces of paper to draw their final draft and include the background that fits where their creature lives on Mars. They visited many of the plethora of Mars web sites available in cycer-space while they drew and picked backgrounds.
To design their creatures students have to think about feet that may have to hold on in high winds, eyes that may have to see in the dark (nocturnal Mars creatures were designed by several students), mouths that crunch solid rock or ice, or vacuum up dust – fur or blubber or feathers or ??? to stay warm – you get the idea. They have to think about the conditions and resources in a new way – think out of the box. Note that they are fairly early on in the whole Marsopolis process – I wish we had time, I’d love to redo this activity at the end as part of their assessment to see what they have learned.
I shot some video of them in action available on the “Learning is Messy” web site – I got examples of most of the steps – I may add shots of their finished creatures this week. Next step is more research, communicating with their team members at other schools and initial design of the systems they need to survive on Mars.
Learning is Messy!