Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Life on Mars

Mars Imaginings: The Story

Adapted from Imaginary Martians, Destination:  Mars, NASA Johnson Space Center, 2002.

Overview

During this 45–60-minute activity, children ages 6–13 consider depictions of Mars from science fiction books and video clips. As a group, children discuss what they know about Mars and compare their ideas with the way Mars and imaginary martians are presented in the science fiction works. They then use what they’ve learned to create their own Mars Science Fiction “Movie Trailer” Zines. Optional:  The children may also create a short story about life on Mars at home.

It is recommended that this activity is preceded by two or three of the previous activities so that the children will already have an understanding of what life needs and how Mars compares to Earth. This activity may be extended to serve as a tween and/or teen science fiction book club.

What's the Point?

Tips for Engaging Girls in STEM:

  • Provide engaging informational and narrative texts. This activity offers numerous science fiction book suggestions to engage the children.
  • Embed activities in interesting contexts. For elementary-aged children, use fantasy, such as saving a planet from invasion, searching for life on another planet, etc., to spark their interest and engage their imaginations. This activity is heavily imbedded with fantasy and science fiction about Mars in order to spark interest and engage young imaginations.

Materials

For the group:

For each child:

Trading Cards (large file, 34 MB)
Trading Cards (small file, 7 MB)

For the facilitator:

Preparation

Optional extension:  Feature one or more science fiction works about Mars as part of a tween and/or teen book club. Have the participants read and discuss each entire work of science fiction. Display several nonfiction books about Mars in a place where the children can page through them before and after the activity.

Activity

1. Welcome the children and tell them that they will be exploring how life is depicted on Mars through books and video clips, which they will then use to create their own short Mars science fiction “movie trailer” Zine. Ignite their imaginations with a few questions before diving into the activity. Have them draw/write their ideas on a large sheet of butcher paper or poster board:

If appropriate, point back to the group definition of life developed during the Searching for Life activity, and remind them to keep it — and what they have learned about Mars — in mind as they work together to create a short science fiction “movie trailer” together.

2. Introduce the children to the Mars science fiction books. Invite them to consider the descriptions of Mars and martians in one or more science fiction works, either by listening to excerpts read to them or by reading individual works/excerpts themselves with a book club/small group. Note the publication date of each work you feature, and ask the children to think about how our understanding of Mars has changed since that time. Explain that our understanding of Mars has changed over time as scientists continue to study Mars with telescopes, orbiting spacecraft, landers, and rovers. Often this change in our understanding is reflected (at least partially) in literature, such as science fiction works.

Note:  You may lead this in a storytime fashion with the group, bringing in a professional storyteller, if available. Many librarians do their own storytelling — at least with younger children.

3. Play two or three short video clips from sci-fi movies for the children.

4. Invite the children to use their imagination and create a Mars sci-fi “movie trailer” Zine! Introduce the Zine to them (show them an example). Explain that they will create miniature comic books to take home. Have them consider what others might want to know about life on Mars. Remind them to use a format similar to the movie trailer video clips that they watched in their drawings and text. Have them write and illustrate a concept on the Zine template. Optional:  Invite them to use the Life on Mars? Trading Cards as inspiration for their trailers.

Trading Cards (large file, 34 MB)
Trading Cards (small file, 7 MB)

Things to keep in mind and to guide the children’s effort (you may provide fiction and nonfiction books about Mars to help the children):

5. Invite the children to take their Zines home with them. Encourage them to create a short story based on their Zine at home.

6. Optional:  Collect and photocopy the children’s Zines for the library’s collection. Explain that you will add their photocopied creations to your library’s collection (circulation) to share with the community.

Optional:  You may have the children complete this at home (on their own), if needed due to time constraints. However, this would prohibit you from featuring their stories in the library’s circulation to share with your community.

In Conclusion

Summarize what was discovered about how life on Mars is depicted in sci-fi books and movies, how it compares to Earth, and how science fiction has reflected our (changing) understanding of the Red Planet over time.

Extensions

Work as a group to create and film a Mars sci-fi “movie trailer.”