Eighth Grade is Paving the Way to Mars

How can humans create a sustainable settlement on Mars?

Eighth-grade students were armed with this essential question before tackling their three-part, group project for Middle School Science Teacher Michael Johnson.

With the help of Ashley King, coordinator for technology integration and experiential learning, Johnson asked students to develop three, distinct facets of this quarter-long research project:

  1. Groups wrote two-to-three-page research papers—although many were longer after students saw they needed more room for their findings—illustrating their research. When they were finished writing, students held a peer review workshop to examine each other’s findings and provide feedback.

  2. Next, students constructed creative representation of their colonies and had to prove the attributes that made it sustainable.

  3. Finally, groups crafted presentations to defend their projects at a science-fair-like expo held for sixth and seventh graders—Collegiate faculty and staff members were invited, too.

Groups did an (inter)stellar job explaining and defending their creations during the expo. It seemed they’d thought of everything; some structures were spherically shaped to stand up against the unforgiving dust storms. There were other colonies with solar panels to power advances laboratories and even school houses.

“Students really took this prompt and ran with it,” said Johnson. “The way they synthesized their research with the creativity of their final product made me proud. I think they got a lot out of the assignment.”

Experts Dr. Matthew Simon and Dr. Phillip Williams design crafts and pods for long-distance space travel for NASA and were on hand to provide students with feedback on the projects.

“I would totally live in our colony on Mars,” said eighth grader Lila Rosen. “I’d want to be one of the first people to live on the planet—someone has to be the first!”