This material was developed for Live From Mars, a Passport to Knowledge project. Live From Mars was a precursor to Mars Team Online.
The Planet Explorer Toolkit
An overview of the Collaborative Activity
During the activity, students simulated the activities of the Mars Pathfinder team. Educators began by sharing the P.E.T. overview with their students. Students then brainstormed in their classrooms about what common/inexpensive tools they would place in a shoebox to measure their local environment.
Students shared their ideas online and read others' submissions. All students participating in the activity discussed their tools online and tried to reach a consensus about the set of instruments that everyone will put in their shoebox. These ranged from weather-related items to imaging instruments and communications tools.
Next, students reviewed their proposed Toolkit for tools that might be lacking, excessive costs, problems, and then revised the list of tools as need. A NASA Mars Mission Team member joined the online debate forum to assist participants in reaching a consensus.
Participating classes gathered their P.E.T. instruments and collected data that was later shared online.
Winning classes were selected (one per grade level range -- elementary, middle and high school) on the basis of their overall involvement in the P.E.T. activity. These classes received special awards allowing them unique ways to participate in NASA's missions to the Red Planet.
A set of seven locations were designated Mystery Spots. Students participated in a contest to determine the actual locations of these Mystery Spots. Special awards were given to one class per grade level (elementary, middle and high school) based on accuracy.