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Winning Lesson Plan
Life on Mars

Subject: Space Science
Grade: 3-5, 6-8

VaReane Heese, from Springfield Elementary School, Springfield, Nebraska submitted this week's lesson plan that takes a look at the question: "Could there be life on Mars?"

Brief Description

Scientists believe that Mars once supported life. Students work in teams to investigate and debate the possibility of transforming Mars so that the planet can sustain life again.


Students improve skills in summarizing, predicting, and inferring; work cooperatively to explain a theory; and learn to conduct research online and consult with online experts.

Key Concepts

Mars, life on other planets

Materials Needed

Recyclables, such as, but not necessarily limited to, plastic bottles; paper boxes and tubes; potting soil and small plants or ground cover; presentation software, such as PowerPoint or ClarisWorks, or poster board for non-electronic presentation; computer to access the following Internet sites

Lesson Plan

  • Explain to students that although scientific missions to Mars have failed to find evidence of life on the Red Planet, all the chemical elements necessary to support life are present. Because of this, some scientists support the theory that it would be possible to transform the climate on Mars so the planet could once again sustain at least plant life. One possibility includes terraforming-transplanting to Mars lichens and algae that live just beneath the surface of Antarctica and then building a mobile unit that processes soil and generates greenhouse gases to trap solar energy, thus creating carbon dioxide.

  • Arrange students into groups. Have each group research the likelihood of terraforming Mars, arrive at a group consensus about the possibility, and develop a presentation to share their views with the entire class. Explain to students that they will have to explore suggested Web sites, take notes to back up their theories, and document sources. Suggest that they also make note of graphics they might use in their presentations. Tell students to consult at least one online expert for an opinion on the validity of their theory.

  • Have students create classroom models supporting their theories. They can use terrariums, planters, plastic bottles, potting soil, and small plants or ground cover.

  • After they finalize their presentations, arrange for students to present them to the class. They can present electronic projects with an LCD projector or a transceiver and monitor connected to a computer. After all groups complete their presentations, allow time for questions and answers and debate.


Student evaluation will be based on teacher observation of the research processes, a rubric for evaluating presentations, student self-evaluations, and classroom models of terraforming successes or failures.

Lesson Plan Source

VaReane Heese ([email protected]), Springfield Elementary School, Springfield, Nebraska


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