Geologic Scene Investigators: Part 1

Scratching the Surface

Geologic Scene Investigators: Part 1 – Scratching the Surface is a six part activity in which children, ages 813, explore the features of Mars and Earth, perform experiments to determine how these features form, and discuss what the features suggest about the history of Mars. They record their observations and findings in their GSI Journal.

Setting the Scene
Setting the Scene, a 60 to 90 minute activity, engages children in an investigative journey of Mars' surface features by comparing and contrasting them with surface features on Earth. Teams of "planetary investigators" examine images of volcanos, channels, and craters on Earth and Mars. The activity can be divided into two sessions.

Carving Channels
Carving Channels is a 20 to 30 minute activity in which children create channel features with flowing water. Their observations of the ways in which flowing water alters the surrounding terrain will be used as clues to draw conclusions about Mars' geologic past.

Volcanos - Go with the Flow
Volcanos - Go with the Flow is a 30 to 45 minute activity in which teams of children create volcanos like those they have examined on Earth and Mars. Using baking soda, vinegar, and Play-Doh, they model volcanic eruptions and older children map the lava flows. The children explore how volcanos grow, how later lava flows overlap earlier ones, and how earlier flows influence the paths of subsequent flows. They determine a volcano's history of eruptions based on the layering of different flows, and reflect on what the presence of volcanos means about a planet's interior.

Crater Creations
In the 30 to 45 minute Crater Creations activity, teams of children experiment to create impact craters and examine the associated features. The children observe images of Martian craters and explore how the mass, velocity, and angle of impactors affects the size and shape of the crater.

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

Mind Over Mars
In this 30 to 45 minute game, teams of children use their knowledge of Mars to create question cards for a board game that will assess and reinforce their understanding of what they have learned. This activity can be used as a wrap-up for Geologic Scene Investigator Part 1 or Part 2, or as a wrap-up for the entire investigation.

The children work in teams in Setting the Scene. The channels, volcanos, and craters activities can be presented in many different ways, depending on the resources available and program format. The activities can be undertaken one at a time, with small groups of children working together on the same activity. Alternatively the activities can be set up as stations and groups of children can rotate from one station to the next.

For stations, it is recommended that no more than 4 to 5 children occupy a station at one time; there may be a need for replicate sets of stations. Each station should have a responsible facilitator present to help guide the activity. Provide facilitators with the background information for the activity they will supervise. Remind the children to bring their GSI Journals to each of the stations and to answer the questions for each experiment.

If the children are going to be conducting Part 1 and Part 2 of the Mars: Inside and Out module, they should use the GSI Journal Mars Inside and Out version.  If they only are going to be conducting Part 1 of the module, they should use GSI Journal Part 1: Scratching the Surface.

Be sure to have the children write their names on the front of the journal. If the activities are to take place over several days, you may want to consider collecting the journals for safe keeping, and redistributing them when it is time for the next activity.

Last updated
October 2, 2009

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