Mars In The Classroom


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The BBC BluePlanet

Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet.

Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.

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Contact Information

Dr. Wendy Kirk 


CIPS

MITC Info


Mars in the Classroom began as a twinkling in the eyes of Dr. Sarah Dunkin and Dr. David Heather. After teaming up with Dr. Matthew Blame and Paula Martin funding was secured from COPUS to undertake a pilot scheme.

MITC TEAM
The Mars in the Classroom project team.
Paula Martin, Sarah Dunkin, Matt Balme and David Heather.

Contact Details

For general enquieries, comments and suggestions, please contact:


Dr. Wendy Kirk (MITC Co-ordinator),

Department of Geological Sciences,

University College London, 

Gower Street, London. 

WC1E 6BT. 

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7679 7900

e-mail: w.kirk@ucl.ac.uk

The History of Mars in the Classroom

Mars in the Classroom began as a twinkling in the eyes of Dr. Sarah Dunkin and Dr. David Heather. After teaming up with Dr. Matthew Blame and Paula Martin funding was secured from COPUS to undertake a pilot scheme. After a period of playing with the experiments and preparing them for approach by the students, the pilot scheme was begun. The initial pilot scheme was run inconjuction with Nicholas Hawksmoor School in Borehamwood over several weeks (total of 12 hours) during the summer term 1999. A class of year 9 students (aged 13-14) was split into 5 teams, who then carried out a series of experiments, culminating in the design of their own manned mission to Mars. Support was provided through school visits and workshops held by the professional scientists. The experiments undertaken at this stage were:

  • Mission Briefing
  • Impact Cratering
  • Playdoh Volcanoes
  • Choccy Rocks
  • Mission Planning

The feedback from this stage of the pilot scheme was used to develop the individual modules and the overall aim of the project to design a manned mission to Mars. The new and improved pilot version of Mars in the Classroom was then tried out at Charles Edward Brooke School in over several weeks (total 12 hours). As with the original scheme, a year 9 class was split into teams, who then carried out a series of experiments, culminating in the design of their own manned mission to Mars. Once again, support was provided through school visits and workshops held by the professional scientists. The experiments undertaken at this stage were:

  • Mission Briefing
  • Impact Cratering
  • Playdoh Volcanoes
  • Choccy Rocks
  • Mission Planning

Everyone involved (students, teachers and scientists) thoroughly enjoyed taking part in these pilot schemes.

Using the feedback from both pilot schemes a complete Mars in the Classroom resources pack was created. The funding from COPUS allowed 100 hard copies of this resources pack to be printed and made freely available to schools on a first come, first served basis.

All of these 100 packs have now been distributed, but demand for the resources pack remains high. We are currently looking for funding to produce more hord copies of the resources pack. Meanwhile, we have developed the Mars in the Classroom web site to make the resources pack available for download.

The Future of Mars in the Classroom

The Mars in the Classroom project is continually developing. Some of our plans for the near future include:

The extension of the Reflectance Spectrometer and Mars Rover experiments into interactive experiments housed on these web-pages.

The development of new experiments such as:

  • Face on Mars

Using the face on Mars as an example, this experiment shows how the appearance of an object can be changed simply by altering lighting conditions. For advanced students, it may be possible to design and build their own `Face on Mars'.

  • Build Your Own Martian Shield Volcano!

(Albin, E.F. LPSC XXIX Education Abstract, 1998)

By building a wax shield volcano, students can learn about how these structures form over time. Successive `lava flows' will illustrate how a volcano circularises at the base, and will produce a caldera and `lava' lake in time. It will become clear that to make a volcano such as those seen on Mars, dozens of `eruptions' are necessary.

  • Sci-Kits - Build Your Own Mars Global Surveyor (MGS)

These DIY models are available commercially from Sci-Kits. By building the models, students can learn about the structure of the spacecraft and its configuration at different stages of the mission.

The production of more hard-copies of the resources pack/resources pack on CDROM

The adaptation of Mars in the Classroom for use by other age groups

If you have any suggestions about how the Mars in the Classroom may be improved, developed or extended please do not hesitate to contact the MITC team.