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Resources, Resources: Mars!

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Resources, Resources: Mars!

By Rebecca Rupp

Mars

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS AND a great opportunity to guide your children to fun learning as Curiosity roams Mars!

What with the Curiosity rover (what a great name – so homeschool) landing on Mars recently, it seems like a good time to investigate the Red Planet. Check out some of these resources!

Mars for the Younger Set

Fly Me to Mars (ProStar Publications, 2007) by Catherine Weitz, a geologist at the Planetary Science Institute, is a picture-book “visit” to Mars, covering major Martian features – tallest volcano, largest canyon, chilly polar regions, and two potato-shaped moons – and showing how Mars compares to Earth. For ages 3-7.

Seymour Simon’s Destination Mars (HarperCollins, 2004), spectacularly illustrated with maps, diagrams, and full-page color photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars Orbiter Camera, and the Pathfinder lander, is an excellent introduction to the history and science of the planet for ages 5-8.

Patrick O’Brien’s You Are the First Kid on Mars (Putnam Juvenile, 2009) stars a little boy in an orange space suit traveling to Mars via space elevator, space station, and Nuclear Thermal Rocket (which last travels at a thrilling 75,000 miles per hour), and finally arriving at a Martian colony populated by scientists and engineers. The book is illustrated with wonderful photorealistic paintings, peppered with interesting facts, and written in the second person, which gives the text a feel of you-are-there immediacy. For ages 5-8.

Satisfy the Mars Curiosity

Elaine Scott’s Mars and the Search for Life (Clarion Books, 2008) is an attractively presented history of speculations about and explorations of the planet Mars, from Orson Welles’s panic-inducing War of the Worlds broadcast and Percival Lowell’s apocryphal canals through the Mariner flybys, Viking landers, and Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Sidebars provide additional facts and supplementary explanations. The book is illustrated with photos, drawings, and diagrams. For ages 10-14.

In Chris Gall’s There’s Nothing to Do on Mars (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008), Davey Martin’s parents have moved to Mars and Davey shares the plight of all bored kids: “There’s nothing to do!” His parents send him and his robot dog, Polaris, out to play, but nothing amuses – not the mysterious giant face, the peculiar fossils, or the hordes of leaping pop-eyed Martians (smelly from lack of baths). Finally Davey and dog dig for buried treasure on top of Olympus Mons and unleash a massive eruption of water. This exciting find causes more and more people to move to Mars – and at the end of the book, Davey’s parents, feeling cramped, are considering a relocation to Saturn. The illustrations have a bright retro-comic-book look. (Polaris is particularly adorable.) A Kirkus Best Children’s Book of the Year. For ages 5-8.

See also Solutions to Midnight Panic Attacks and Other Fun When You Start Homeschooling

In Walter R. Brooks’s Freddy and the Men from Mars (Overlook Juvenile Books, 2011), the local newspaper reports that six foot-tall creatures with red whiskers, believed to be visiting Martians, have been captured by Mr. Herbert Garble, and are now on display at the Boomschmidt Circus. Freddy, the never-at-a-loss pig, rightly suspects a hoax, and prepares, with help from the Animal Bureau of Investigation, to track down the culprit. Freddy is right – the “Martians” are disguised rats – but a lot of hilarious Freddy-esque confusion and complications ensue, including the arrival of real (pear-shaped, three-eyed) Martians. For ages 8 and up.

For synopses of the 24 Freddy books, information on Freddy and his creator, a selection of poems by Freddy, and to become an official “Friend of Freddy,” see Freddy’s home page at http://www.freddythepig.org/.

Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (Simon & Schuster, 2012), originally published in 1950, is a collection of linked short stories that comprise a chronological “future history” covering the exploration of Mars, colonization of the planet by humans fleeing a war-torn Earth, and conflicts with the native Martians. There are 28 stories in all, among them “Rocket Summer,” “And the Moon Be Still as Bright,” “The Fire Balloons,” and “The Million-Year Picnic.” For ages 13 and up.

A detailed study guide to accompany The Martian Chronicles from Washington State University can be found at http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/science_fiction/martian_chronicles.html.

In H.G. Wells’s classic The War of the Worlds, originally published in 1898, Martians in Tripods (three-legged fighting machines) invade and devastate southern England, before succumbing to Earth bacteria. Available in many editions including War of the Worlds (New York Review of Books, 2005), illustrated by Edward Gorey, and an abridged Great Classics Illustrated version for ages 7-9. (For a complete list of Great Illustrated Classics titles, see http://www.greatillustratedclassics.com/.)

From Washington State University, see http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/science_fiction/warofworlds.html for a detailed study guide to accompany War of the Worlds.

To listen to Orson Welles’s panic-producing 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, visit http://www.mercurytheatre.info/ or http://archive.org/details/OrsonWellesMrBruns.

In Virginia Hamilton’s Willie Bea and the Time the Martians Landed (Aladdin Books, 1989), Willie Bea’s extended family is caught up in the hysteria that surrounds Orson Welles’s scarily realistic broadcast of The War of the Worlds. For ages 9 and up.

From the Nine Planets website, learn all about Mars with many cool links at http://nineplanets.org/mars.html.

Mars Rising at http://science.discovery.com/convergence/mars-rising/mars-rising.html is a six-part documentary about a manned mission to Mars, including interviews with experts and film footage from such Mars-like Earth locations as Chile’s bone-dry Atacama Desert and the Arctic’s Devon Island. The website has an episode guide and interactive activities.

See Mars Activities at http://marsed.asu.edu/resources-mars_activities for an excellent downloadable 128-page booklet of projects, games, and activities for grades K-12. Included are background information, instructions, and extension suggestions for 24 different activities, among them Rover Races, Volcano Mapping and Lava Layering, Searching for Life on Mars, Edible Mars Rover, and Mars Meteorites’ Fingerprints.

From Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” listen to the first movement – “Mars, the Bringer of War” – performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I.

The Mars Exploration Program website at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/ has a wealth of Mars-based information, including updates and images from the Curiosity rover, help for finding Mars in the night sky, downloadable curriculum materials, lesson plans for a range of ages, and hands-on projects and activities.

For much more on Mars – include Martian Art and Red Planet Poems – see “Mars: Curiosity to Barsoom” at http://www.rebeccaruppresources.
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