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Monday, August 6, 2012

Curiosity in the classroom 3 thoughts on how to use the landing on Mars in ANY class

Thought I'd start with one of my favorite scenes of all time from Dumb and Dumber

As an educator the landing on Mars should have got you excited about the possibilities in the classroom. After all isn't NASA just a big classroom full of motivated students?

What we can learn from the Curiosity landing in your class

1. Anything is possible. Granted NASA has funding you don't as an educator, however, that's not the point. You could have all the resources in the world, but if you didn't know how to use them properly it wouldn't matter. Next time you or your students come up with a crazy idea like landing on Mars don't focus on why you can't do it, focus on why you can. I have found that when taking the positive approach even if we don't quite reach our destination we still get somewhere and in some cases make it further than the original plan. Dare your students to dream big and the results will be like landing on Mars.

2. Project based learning ROCKS! Is there a better current real world example of PBL than Curiosity on Mars? Look at the curiosity/excitement this has caused. Want your students to be this excited and passionate about class, then have your students create real world projects that they are passionate about. The results will be amazing.

3. There is something for every class. Some of you are saying well but I don't teach science. Yea, neither do I. Sure science teachers will have many opportunities to make lesson plans, but so do the rest of us. A few ideas. (Not going to cover science as I think it's too easy) My point here is to get YOU to think how YOU will use it no matter what you teach.

Math: Calculate flights from earth to all the planets. Figure out what it would take to get humans on Mars. Calculate gravity and what the difference would be here/there. Find the circumference of Mars and other planets...Really there are so many different math ways of looking at the flight. Awesome potential.

Social Studies: Evaluate the overall impact of this landing? Compare the landing on the moon to this, contrast differences. Compare the physical geography of Mars & Earth. What is weather/climate like on Mars? Analyze what would have to happen to have a colony on Mars? What happens if we do find life of Mars? You get the point...

English: Creative writing about trip to Mars, life on Mars. Write an editorial about the Mars landing. Report on the event for a newspaper. Essay on the impact of the landing. And so forth...

Art: Show the photos taken from Mars have students draw/paint their own. Have students make a collage/paint or draw pictures of what they would show of their planet to others. Paint/draw alien life. Again many possibilities...

Foods: Plan a trip to Mars figure out how much food you will need to take? How will you prepare this food? Make Mars inspired recipes. Cooking in space; how is it different, what alterations need to be made? What types of foods can be taken to space? Prepare meals under space travel conditions. Lots of fun here...

Health: How fit does one need to be to go in space? What are the risks healthwise of taking such a flight to Mars? What health benefits are there to space travel? What preparations would one need to make medically before going to space? What effect does space travel have on the human body? Is life on another planet possible from a health perspective? Interesting stuff here...

Band/orchestra/choir: Learn the music to famous 'space' movies (Close Encounters, 2001, E.T. etc...) Make up your own song about space travel, significance of event. How would playing an instrument/singing be different on another planet or in space shuttle? Prepare a playlist for space travel that has as many different types of music as possible, whet do you include and why? If there is life on other planets what music would best represent the human race? Why? More fun here...

Computer Tech: Make a multi media presentation about the flight. Keep a multi media blog about the findings from NASA's website. Document the history of space travel using Prezi, Meograph, or whatever program you want. Create a website about the event. Great creative ideas here, lots of possibilities.

P.E.: Well I figure you have the Olympics to spring off of this year. Right now everyone wants to make in 2016, make them feel it's possible. I'm sure there is a Mars tie in for you, but I know if I was teaching I would focus on Olympics.

This is just off the top of my head. I'm sure you have your own make it happen.


  1. For PE teachers, what if the Olympics took place on Mars??? How might events be different than those on Earth? Martian themed events! :-)

    1. Nice call. How much fun would Martian Olympics be? There would be a lot of creativity as well as science in figuring out how they would be different on Mars.

  2. Well said, Jared. I especially love the idea of using Curiosity's (well, and NASA's) success to discourage a "can't-do" attitude in class. Anything's possible when we are creative and motivated, and yes, even if it fails, we always learn something along the way.

  3. Thanks for the comment. Agreed, but I would never call it a failure. It's just that it didn't turn out as expected. The only real failure is not doing anything.

  4. You've given me a great idea for my Latin class. Even though Curiosity took only 8 months to get to Mars, took only 8 years from conception to landing, in reality Curiosity is the end result of nearly 3,000 yrs of brilliant minds and thousands upon thousands of experiments both successful and not. I can show how this traces directly back to Greek & Roman science and engineering without whose shoulders to stand on none of this would have been possible.

  5. Good I'm glad you were able to get an idea for your class, that was the whole purpose of this post. The main point is to figure out how you can use this transcendent event in your class, even if it's not science. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Great ideas!

    I am teaching Junior English in September so I am definitely going to use the creative writing ideas you suggest. :)

    Thank you for the post!