Lunar and Planetary Institute

Next Stop: Mars

Next Stop: Mars


Next Stop: Mars is a 60 minute kick-off for children ages 8–13 that sets the stage for further explorations and activities in Explore! Mars — Inside and Out. As a group, children discuss what they know about Mars. They read books to learn more, and may create a drawing or model of the landscape (optional). The children revisit what they have learned and prepare to explore further.

What's the Point?

  • Earth and Mars have many differences and many similarities.
  • Scientists have gained a great deal of information about Mars in recent years, and there is still much to learn.
  • Models can be tools for understanding the natural world and for helping us to identify more questions


For the Group:

  • Chalk or white board, or poster paper and markers to record the children's ideas
  • Books about Mars. Possible selections could be:

    • Planet Mars: See More Readers Level 1
      Seymour Simon, Chronicle Books, 2006, ISBN 0811854043
      Young readers ages 6–8 view photographs of Mars from the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and receive up-to-date information in an easy to read format.
  • Exploring Mars
    David J. Ward, Lerner Publications, 2006, ISBN-10: 0822559366
    Ward provides a comprehensive introduction to Mars for children ages 9–12 that includes discussion of Mars' surface features and water, life on Mars, and past and future missions to Mars.
  • Messages from Mars
    Loreen, and Leedy Schuerger, Holiday House, 2006, ISBN 0823419541
    In the year 2106, junior astronauts and planetary scientists take a journey together to Mars and report their wealth of discoveries about the red planet to their friends back on Earth. A fun and informative read for children ages 8–13.

  • Optional: A variety of craft materials that may be used to draw or make a model of Mars (for example, clay or Play-Doh, colored and/or plain paper, markers, crayons, glitter, pipe cleaners, foil, pom-poms, tape, glue, etc.)

For the Facilitator:


  • Review the background information about Mars.
  • Prepare an area large enough for the children to be comfortably seated as a group.
  • Display several books about Mars in a place where the children can page through them before and after the activity.


1. Assemble the children in a group and invite them to share what they know about Mars. Keep track of their ideas on poster paper. It is not important to correct the children's ideas, rather this activity should encourage them to explore and learn more.

  • What does Mars look like?
  • What color is it?
  • Is it smaller, larger, or about the same size as Earth?
  • Is it closer or farther from the Sun than Earth?
  • What would it be like to live on Mars? Are there mountains? Rivers? Forests? What is the weather like?
  • How might Earth and Mars be alike? Different?

2. Following the discussion, invite the children to read about Mars! Consider dividing the children into smaller groups, or inviting older children to take turns reading to the group.

When they are finished reading, consider inviting the children to draw a picture or create a model of the Martian landscape using the craft items available.

3. If the children have questions about the vocabulary they are reading, have them begin a ‚Äúvocabulary wall" — a place where they can write the words. Can others in the group help with the definition? Invite them to search for the meaning of the word, and have them share their findings with the group.

4. When they have finished reading, ask the children to share what they have learned.

  • What new things did they learn?
  • Was there anything they learned about Mars that surprised them?
  • What did they find the most interesting about Mars?
  • Would they like to live on Mars? Why or why not?
  • Do they think now that Mars is more likeor different thanEarth?


Ask the children if they would like to learn more about Mars.

  • Just how similar and different are Mars and Earth?
  • Does Mars have water like Earth? What about volcanos?
  • What does the inside of Mars look like?

Invite the children to explore Mars Inside and Out further!

Last updated
February 4, 2010


Back to top