Willoughby Middle School Students Explore the Geology of Mars

WilloughbyWilloughby Middle School students, with the assistance of Earth Science teacher Tony Marinelli, Media Specialist Jim Winton, and Space Explorers, Inc., took a computer-simulated trip to Mars. Using the computers in the WMS Media Center and the Mars Explorer Simulation provided by Space Explorers, Inc., 145 eighth graders were able to send a rover to Mars and investigate its geological history.

"I am amazed at the quality of the Mars Explorer Simulation," Marinelli said. "This activity allowed my students to use their knowledge of basic geology concepts on Earth and apply them to the other planets in the Solar System, especially Mars. The students are amazed that Mars has similar features as Earth, such as mountains, volcanoes, valleys, polar ice caps, and dust storms."

WilloughbyThe students used the curriculum module of the Mars Explorer Simulation to complete an extensive study guide created by Marinelli. The ideas and concepts contained in this study guide included the following information about Mars: its physical features; its moons; past and present missions to Mars; the contributions of Kepler, Newton, and Einstein; the function of the instruments on the rover; and the phases of a rocket launch to Mars.

"By completing the study guide at their own pace, the students gained a firm background knowledge about Mars. This knowledge is necessary if they wanted to use the simulation to explore Mars," said Marinelli.

WilloughbyOnce the study guide was completed, the students used actual maps of Mars to select a landing site. Once the landing site was approved, the students were given the green light for launch. When the rovers successfully landed on Mars, the students were in control.

"I liked the fact that the students had to make their own decisions during every step of the simulation," Marinelli said. Their questions, such as 'Where do I land?' and 'What object do I study first?' taught them the importance of using their background knowledge and developing an investigation plan."

WilloughbyThe students are finished with the Mars Explorer Simulation and are currently building and launching model rockets. They are learning that propelling a rover to Mars is not an easy task!

Marinelli added, "Special thanks goes to Jim Winton for assisting my students during their time in the Media Center and Partners In Science Excellence and the Lake Shore Compact for providing the funding to implement this innovative program."

Learn about Tony Marinelli's Girls' Space Camp.

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