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

Puzzling Patterns - Where Does Volcanism Occur?


Children ages 8 to 13 compare volcano maps of Earth and Mars and identify patterns, similarities, and differences in this 30 minute activity.

What's the Point?


For each child:

For each team of 3 to 4 children:

For the Facilitator:


1. Provide the teams with copies of the maps of Mars and Earth without the volcanos marked, and invite them to examine the maps.
What do they observe on the different maps? Answers will vary and may include that the Earth has water and land and Mars has no oceans; there are volcanos, Mars has more craters, etc.

2. Ask the children if they see any volcanos on the map of Mars. Invite them to place a dot on top of each volcano they see.

3. Invite the children to examine the map of Earth more closely. The Earth map and the Mars map are not to the same scale.

4. Provide the children with the maps of Earth and Mars with the volcanos marked.

5. Have the children make observations about the volcanos on Mars compared to Earth. Invite them to take notes of their observations about the number, size, shape, and patterns of the volcanos on the different planets.

6. Once the teams have completed their observations, bring them back together as a group to discuss their findings.


Have the older children ponder why the differences they observed between the volcanos on Earth and Mars might happen. What are their ideas? They will undertake an activity that shares one of the reasons that the Mars volcanos are so large! Allow a few minutes for the children to record their ideas in their GSI Journal.

For a more extensive data-rich inquiry activity in which children explore the processes that occur at plate boundaries (volcanos, earthquakes, formation and destruction of the sea floor, and the related physical features), please see Discovering Plate Boundaries.