Explore! Ice Worlds!

Ice Quest!


In this 45–60-minute activity, children ages 8 to13, take on the roles of NASA scientists! They seek information collected from remote locations to answer questions about ice on Earth and in our solar system and discover why ice is so important. Children work individually or in teams of three to four on a quest for ice. Each team rolls a die that directs them to one of six posters at each turn. They collect information that will help them construct solutions — or challenge their advancement — in the game.

What's the Point?

  • Different kinds of ice occur on different planetary bodies throughout our solar system.
  • The study of ice, on Earth and other planets and moons, advances our knowledge of the history of our solar system, the history and composition of different planetary bodies, and possible locations of life elsewhere in the solar system.
  • The study of ice on Earth is important for many reasons, including the use of ice as an indicator of global climate change.
  • NASA scientists are engaged in a broad range of ice studies on Earth as well as other planets, moons, and planetary bodies in our solar system.


For the group:

  • 12 pieces of poster board, preferably in bright colors
  • 6 sets of cover pages
  • 1 set of poster content printouts
  • 6 square boxes approximately 6” to 12” across
  • Butcher paper to cover the boxes
  • Colored markers
  • Tape
  • Glue (optional)
  • Clipboard (optional)

For each team of three to four children:

For the facilitator:


  • Prepare the posters using the poster content printouts. There are six stations. Adhere the planetary information for station 1, including the number, to one or two poster boards. Cover the data for each region or planetary body with the corresponding cover page. Repeat for stations 2 through 6.
Poster printouts
  • Place the posters around a room, spaced such that 1 to 2 groups of three to four children can gather around them.
  • Cover the boxes in the butcher paper. Mark each side with large dots, numbering from 1 to 6, so that an oversized die is created. Place one die at each station.


1. Introduce the activity by inviting the children to share what they know about ice in our solar system.

  • Which planets have ice?
  • Is ice the same everywhere?
  • What kinds of ice occur in our solar system?
  • Where do the different ices occur?

2. Divide the children into teams of three to four and provide each team with copies of the Scientist Sheets. Have the teams read about the NASA scientists.

  • What are all of these scientists studying?
  • What planetary bodies are they investigating?
  • Why might they be interested in studying ice in these places?

3. Provide each team with a set of Ice Quest location descriptions. Have them match the Ice Quest location descriptions with the scientist who would be conducting the research. Invite each team to read the information carefully and choose the Ice Quest that is most interesting to them; they will gather the information to answer the questions of the Ice Quest they select. Overlap of team quests is fine, but encourage the teams to select different Ice Quests as they will share their findings.

4. Start the Ice Quests! Have the teams spread out among the posters. Each team should roll the die at their poster and proceed to the poster number indicated by the upturned face of the die (if they roll a "three" they should proceed to poster 3).

Once at the poster, the team should lift the flap of the region or planetary body they are investigating and read the information. If they are given an instruction (for example, "wait a turn"), they should follow the poster directions. Otherwise, the children should discuss the information and use it to answer their ice quest questions. When finished, they should roll the die and proceed to the indicated poster. Time each turn, allowing the children about five minutes after they have rotated to read their poster. Those instructed to "wait a turn" should wait until time is called to move on to the next poster. The winning team is the team that first completes all of the questions of their Ice Quest correctly.


5. Gather the teams together when they have all finished their Ice Quests. Invite them to share what they have learned.

  • Where are scientists on quests for ice?
  • What are some of the interesting things they are finding?
  • Why are scientists interested in studying ice on Earth? Ice in other places in our solar system?

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