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60 minutes on Mars

A five lesson unit of activities as an introduction to the search for evidence of life on Mars using robot rovers.

Mars has been revealed as a world strangely familiar, yet different enough to challenge our perceptions. Among our discoveries about Mars, one stands out above all others: the possible presence of liquid water, either in its ancient past or today.  If so, the compelling question is this: is there any evidence of life in the planet’s past or present?

This unit of work provides young people with the special opportunity to remotely explore a scientifically accurate re-creation of the surface of Mars with a robot rover to search for evidence of life.

In-line with the Australian Science Curriculum, these activities provide opportunities for students to develop an understanding of important science concepts and processes, the practices used to develop scientific knowledge, of science’s contribution to our culture and society, and its applications in our lives. The activities provide experiences to develop critical and creative thinking skills and challenge students to identify questions and draw evidence-based conclusions using scientific methods. [curriculum links]

Searching for evidence of life on Mars will give students the opportunity to become explorers and scientists, experience the joy of scientific discovery and nurture their curiosity about the world around them … and beyond.

 

The unit includes 5 lessons:

Lesson 1: What will we do with our 60 minutes of Mars rover time?

Guide your class to develop a scientific goal for their 60 minute exploration of the Mars surface with the Mars Lab Continuum Rover.
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Lesson 2: Searching for evidence of life on Mars

A lesson to guide your class to investigate how to look for evidence that Mars may have once had environments that could have sustained life.
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Lesson 3: Plan your mission and learn to drive the rover

A two part activity to guide teams through the precise mapping and planning of their 60 minute exploration and to practise driving through a simulation of the Mars Yard.
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Lesson 4: Mission day: 60 minutes on Mars

The class attempts to carry out their planned mission by remotely connecting to the Mars Lab and controlling the Continuum Rover across the Mars [Yard] surface at the MAAS (Powerhouse Museum).
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Lesson 5: What did we find? How did we perform?

Following their mission, teams examine the data collected and report on what it may suggest, evaluate the mission and share their findings.
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Australian Science Curriculum Links

The 60 minutes on Mars unit makes  many links to all three strands of the Australian Science Curriculum. The following tables show the broad links according to the curriculum’s Years 7-10 content descriptions.  Specific curriculum linked learning outcomes are shown in the side bar for each individual lesson.

Science Understanding

Science as a Human Endeavour

Science Inquiry Skills

Year 7

Water is an important resource that cycles through the environment ACSSU222 Scientific knowledge changes as new evidence becomes available, and some scientific discoveries have significantly changed people’s understanding of the world ACSHE119curriculum-table-spacerScience knowledge can develop through collaboration and connecting ideas across the disciplines of science ACSHE223 Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge ACSIS124curriculum-table-spacerCollaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments ACSIS125curriculum-table-spacerIn fair tests, measure and control variables, and select equipment to collect data with accuracy appropriate to the task ACSIS126curriculum-table-spacerSummarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions ACSIS130curriculum-table-spacerReflect on the method used to investigate a question or solve a problem, including evaluating the quality of the data collected, and identify improvements to the method ACSIS131curriculum-table-spacer

Use scientific knowledge and findings from investigations to evaluate claims ACSIS132curriculum-table-spacerCommunicate ideas, findings and solutions to problems using scientific language and representations using digital technologies as appropriate ACSIS133

Year 8

Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks contain minerals and are formed by processes that occur within Earth over a variety of time scales ACSSU153 Scientific knowledge changes as new evidence becomes available, and some scientific discoveries have significantly changed people’s understanding of the world ACSHE134curriculum-table-spacerScience knowledge can develop through collaboration and connecting ideas across the disciplines of science ACSHE226 Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge ACSIS139curriculum-table-spacerCollaboratively and individually plan and conduct a range of investigation types, including fieldwork and experiments, ensuring safety and ethical guidelines are followed ACSIS140curriculum-table-spacerIn fair tests, measure and control variables, and select equipment to collect data with accuracy appropriate to the task ACSIS141curriculum-table-spacerSummarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions ACSIS145curriculum-table-spacerReflect on the method used to investigate a question or solve a problem, including evaluating the quality of the data collected, and identify improvements to the method ACSIS146curriculum-table-spacerUse scientific knowledge and findings from investigations to evaluate claims ACSIS234curriculum-table-spacerCommunicate ideas, findings and solutions to problems using scientific language and representations using digital technologies as appropriate ACSIS148

Year 9

Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community ACSHE157curriculum-table-spacerAdvances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries ACSHE158curriculum-table-spacerThe values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research ACSHE228 Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically ACSIS164curriculum-table-spacerPlan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods ACSIS165

curriculum-table-spacerSelect and use appropriate equipment, including digital technologies, to systematically and accurately collect and record data ACSIS166curriculum-table-spacerUse knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence ACSIS170curriculum-table-spacerEvaluate conclusions, including identifying sources of uncertainty and possible alternative explanations, and describe specific ways to improve the quality of the data ACSIS171curriculum-table-spacerCommunicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations ACSIS174

Year 10

Global systems, including the carbon cycle, rely on interactions involving the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere ACSSU189 Scientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community ACSHE191curriculum-table-spacerAdvances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries ACSHE192curriculum-table-spacerThe values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research ACSHE230 Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically ACSIS198curriculum-table-spacerPlan, select and use appropriate investigation methods, including field work and laboratory experimentation, to collect reliable data; assess risk and address ethical issues associated with these methods ACSIS199curriculum-table-spacerSelect and use appropriate equipment, including digital technologies, to systematically and accurately collect and record data ACSIS200curriculum-table-spacerUse knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence ACSIS204curriculum-table-spacerEvaluate conclusions, including identifying sources of uncertainty and possible alternative explanations, and describe specific ways to improve the quality of the data ACSIS205curriculum-table-spacerCommunicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations ACSIS208

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