Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Mars: Inside and Out

Mars: The Feature Story


In this 15 to 20 minute activity, children, ages 10 to 13, apply their understanding of planetary features to a topographic (elevation) map of Mars. Acting as planetary scientists, they observe patterns, identify features, discuss how they formed, and determine a relative history of planetary events.

What's the Point?


For each child:

For the group:

For the facilitator:



1. Invite the children to examine the picture (map of Mars).

2. Invite the children to share what they observe about the map. As they make their observations, invite them to show the feature or pattern they are talking about with the group by pointing it out on the map. Observations may include that:

3. Prompt the children to link their earlier investigations to the features.

4. Encourage the children to draw conclusions about the surface of Mars.

If the children have difficulty with this idea, ask them to imagine a sheet of mud in a rainstorm. Early in the rainstorm, when only a few drops have fallen, there will be only a few raindrop patterns in the mud. With time, as the storm continues, more and more raindrop imprints will be left in the mud. The older a planet surface is, the more raindrop/impact craters it will have. After the storm, you have a mud sheet peppered with raindrop imprints; imagine taking a bowl of mud and pouring it across half of the sheet. In the area where the new mud was poured, the imprints will be filled in/smoothed over by a newer surface.

5. Congratulate them on applying what they learned they now are official planetary scientists!


Have the children reflect on the geologic history of Mars that they, as planetary scientists, determined. Invite them to record their ideas in their GSI Journals.