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

Mars by the Book

Adapted from Imaginary Martians, Destination: Mars, NASA Johnson Space Center, 2002 and Earth, Earth’s Moon, Mars Balloons, Follow Your Curiosity:  A 2012 NASA Summer of Innovation Collection, NASA JPL, 2012 .


In this 30–45-minute activity, children ages 8–13 investigate how Mars compares to the Earth, working together to create an Earth-Mars Comparison Poster to post in the program facility/library and share with their community. Their poster will feature basic facts about Mars and the Earth, as well as a scale model using balloons to represent the two planets.

What's the Point?

Tips for Engaging Girls in STEM:
  • Provide engaging informational and narrative texts. This activity provides an opportunity for facilitators to leverage their local library (nonfiction) resources and provides book suggestions for engaging the children.


For the group:

For each child:

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

For the facilitator:



1. Welcome the children and tell them that today they will be discovering facts about Mars through books and comparing Mars to Earth. They will then use their new facts to create an Earth-Mars comparison poster to be displayed in the library/facility following the program. Warm up their minds with a few questions before diving into the activity:

Note: There should be no right or wrong answers at this point. The purpose of this discussion is to see what they think, not whether it is accurate. The facilitator should revisit any misconceptions revealed here during and at the conclusion of the activity.

2. 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.

3. Assemble the children in a group and invite them to share what they know about Mars. Hand out the Earth Facts sheet and ask them to compare their findings about Mars to the Earth.

4. Have the children work together to draw or make a model of Mars and Earth based on their findings, comparing the two planets, on the large poster. You should create a scale model of Earth and Mars using the blue and red balloons respectively.

5. Create an Earth-Mars comparison poster. Have the children work together to write short facts about each planet on the poster. Short facts may be written on the round labels and then stuck to the appropriate model planet balloon. Longer facts should be written on the poster. Note: The poster should already have the scale-model planet balloons attached before the children start to add the facts.

In Conclusion

Summarize what was discovered about what it is like on Mars, how it compares to Earth, and congratulate the group on a job well done in creating the scale model and comparison poster. Invite the children to share the poster during their visits with family and friends and to explore Mars further by attending future activities (if applicable)!

Summarize that Mars and Earth are similar, yet unique, and scientists are interested in Mars as a possible place to find life beyond Earth. Future module activities will explore the requirements for life and why scientists consider Mars a good candidate for life elsewhere in the universe! Optional:  Give each child a copy of the Scientist Spotlight pages or Life on Mars? Trading Cards to take home.

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


If desired, extend this reading activity with an art component. Provide a variety of craft materials that may be used to draw or make a model landscape of Mars (for example, clay or Play-Doh®, sand, rocks, colored and/or plain paper, markers, crayons, glitter, pipe cleaners, foil, pom-poms, tape, glue, etc.) inside a box (with no top and one side mostly removed for viewing). When the children are finished reading the nonfiction books, invite them to draw a picture or create a model of the martian landscape using the craft items available.