Having been introduced to the "Mars City Alpha" kit at ASU's "A Day In Space" workshop in February 1995, we were very excited about implementing the unit with our sixth graders at Luke Elementary School. We were graciously supplied with a kit donated by the Sun City Engineers. We looked at the materials and realized the simplicity of the format, thoroughness of the plans and tremendous potential for creative, hands-on experiential learning for our students.
Mars City Alpha stipulates that the year is 2043, and an international Mars colony is being planned. Designed for students in grades 5-8, activities to plan a Mars base require students to gather facts, form hypotheses, and make team decisions. The kit is interdisciplinary, and is being used by a growing network of teachers around North America. Mars City Alpha recently received the Learning Magazine Teacher's Choice Award.
The kit proposes different timeframes in which to conduct the project, and we chose the 3-4 week plan as our time at the end of the year would be limited. A week before we began the Mars City Alpha project, Dr. Ken Edgett of ASU visited our students and shared a wealth of information to whet their appetites for exploring Mars. Total class instruction was given initially to explain our mission, the format of the unit, individual duties, class and unit objectives and general guidelines.
Our classes worked 1-1 1/2 hours a day for the entire four weeks on this project. At the close of the unit, we invited parents and guests to join us in a grand presentation. There was incredible teamwork and a refreshing sense of accomplishment in the students! We were very pleased with the success of our Mars City Alpha project. We heartily encourage other educators to make use of this wonderful kit. We found it to be extremely well organized, very "teacher friendly," as well as interesting for the students. We are gearing up to do Mars City Alpha again this fall, this time allowing more time to do it. We would like to hear from any other educators who have worked with these materials. Your experiences and ideas would be invaluable to us. Our address is: Laurie Little and Patti Buck, Luke Elementary School, 7300 N. Dysart Rd., Glendale, AZ 85307, USA.
For more information about Mars City Alpha kits, contact the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, 1029 N. Royal St., Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314.