National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Properties of Living Things: Searching for Life on Mars

During this web seminar, participants received an overview of a lesson for students in grades 5-8 and watched a video that shows how the activity is connected to NASA missions to Mars. The participating educators learned how to guide students in reviewing criteria for determining if something is alive–or not alive–and applying those criteria to determine if something is alive or not alive in three different soil samples. This type of analysis is similar to what the Viking rover used on Mars when looking for life. After reviewing the lesson and seeing a video of students conducting parts of the experiment, seminar attendees collaborated with other participants about ways of using the activity and adapting it to suit the needs of students and classroom setup. Teachers were presented with a list of possible extension activities to maintain student interest in the topic.


This web seminar is part of a series of electronic professional development experiences sponsored by the NASA Explorer Schools (NES) project. NASA Explorer Schools invests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics educators to inspire and engage a whole generation of future scientists, engineers and technicians that NASA needs to continue our journey. NES gives educators of grades 4-12 free access to NASA’s people, missions, research, and facilities. We take the work out of searching through thousands of materials on the NASA website and provide a comprehensive set of teaching materials for dozens of STEM concepts. For additional information about the NASA Explorer Schools project, visit

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