Explore - Mars: Inside and Out! - Setting the Scene

Mars Summit Up - Comparing Volcanos on Mars and Earth


Summit Up is a 20 minute activity in which children ages 8 to 13 make paper models to scale of the tallest volcanic mountains on Earth and Mars and discover a big difference between volcanos on these two planets.

What's the Point?

  • Volcanos on Mars are much taller and have more volume compared to those on Earth.
  • Models — such as the children are using here — can be tools for understanding the natural world.
  • Geologists use comparisons between features on Earth and other planets, like Mars, to help them identify differences in how the features may have formed or changed.


For each child:

For the Facilitator:


1. Introduce the activity by asking the children if Mars or Earth has volcanos. Prompt them to recall the images they examined in earlier activities.

2. Provide the children with the volcano sheets, tape, scissors, and colored pencils. Ask the children what these drawings show. These are drawings of volcanos, one on Earth and one on Mars. On the paper, it is like looking down on the volcanos from above.

Ask the children to notice the squiggly circles around each one of their volcanos. Tell them every line represents one mile in height, or altitude. If they were climbing up one of these mountains, they would climb a mile for each line they walked across!

  • How many miles are there from the bottom to the top on the tall volcano?
  • The short volcano?
  • Which would they rather climb — the taller or the shorter volcano?
  • One of these volcanos is on Earth and one is on Mars. Can they guess which is which?

3. Have the children cut out both models. Have them color the shaded area on the smaller volcano blue. Invite them to cut out the outline of the volcanos and to cut the straight lines up the sides of the volcanos. Starting with the large volcano, help the children to very slightly overlap the edges of the cut and tape it, forming a gentle cone. Repeat for the second volcano.

4. Invite the children to examine their models. These are scale models of a volcano on Earth and one on Mars. While the models are smaller than the actual volcanos, they are both to the same scale and their sizes can be compared.

  • Which do they think is a Martian volcano? An Earth volcano?

Share with the children that Mauna Kea, Earth's tallest volcano, rises about 6 miles (almost 10 kilometers) from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Mars' tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, is a little over 13 and a half miles high (about 22 kilometers)! That is over 7,000 stories high! Olympus Mons is the tallest known volcano in our entire solar system. Olympus Mons is not only tall, it's wide! It is almost 340 miles across — about the size of the state of Arizona! Mauna Kea is approximately 50 miles across (about 80 kilometers).

5. Revisit the models with the children.

  • Which volcano model represents Olympus Mons on Mars?
  • Mauna Kea on Earth?
  • It takes hikers about 8 hours to get up Mauna Kea — and that is including only the part that is above land! How long might it take you to hike up to the top of Olympus Mons?
  • Why do they think they were asked to color the bottom half of Mauna Kea blue? The base of Mauna Kea, and over half the volcano itself, is under water!


Ask the children if they think there might be a pattern to the sizes of volcanos on Mars — do they think all the volcanos are bigger than Earth's?

Allow a few minutes for the children to record their ideas in their GSI Journal.

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