A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet


SciGuides are a collection of thematically aligned lesson plans, simulations, and web-based resources for teachers to use with their students centered on standards-aligned science concepts.

Our conception of "life" on other planets, especially what life on Mars may resemble or has resembled in the past, is based upon the media. Our images have been of "little green Martians." Before we can learn and understand the complexity known as Mars, we must first learn about Earth. Using "Earth-The Making of a Planet" by Roy Gallant and Christopher Schuberth, discovering and exploring Earth will assist us in our journey to Mars. Before searching the wide variety of web sites, we will also review the Astrobiology Goals mentioned in the Astrobiology Roadmap. See web site-http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/roadmap/

With our two explorer rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, both traversing the surface of the red planet, together with the research data and pictures that we have previously received from the Viking and Pathfinder missions, we now speculate that life may exist now or has existed in the past on Mars. Scientists believe that life on Mars was/is life in the form of bacterial-type organisms, many of which are invisible to the naked eye.

Come, join us in a voyage from Antarctica, at the bottom of the world, to Siberia, at the top of the world; from Baja, California to the Bahamas; and from Earth to the Meridiani Planum on Mars. The Internet will connect you and your students, using content and activities, to the study of life on earth and its relevance to the discovery of past and perhaps present life on Mars.

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Reviews (26)
  • on Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:35 PM

SciGuides are really fantastic. If I am ever asked to teach about Mars, I can be confident knowing I'll have A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet SciGuide to go to for lesson plans, simulations, and web-based resources. I'll be able to create outstanding lessons in a shorter amount of time since many resources are easily accessible in this SciGuide.

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:32 PM

I really enjoyed this SciGuide. I really enjoyed "Stopped Dead in its tracks", Blue Green Algae and its Fossils, Water and Volcanoes-a strange mix and What are Extremophies activities/lessons. This resource will be very useful for many different ages.

Stephanie  (Ellicott City, MD)
Stephanie (Ellicott City, MD)

  • on Tue Aug 20, 2013 10:23 PM

With all the interest in Mars exploration, this resource is a real attention getter in class. I used this for my NASA Summer of Innovation class this year!

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:10 PM

This is my first sciguide and I love it. The information was very clear and had many different options to explore the topic. I liked that there were so many ways to approach and teach the material. You can keep digging into whatever you want and keep learning new ideas.

Catherine VonGarlem  (Crownsville, MD)
Catherine VonGarlem (Crownsville, MD)

  • on Wed Oct 24, 2012 1:16 PM

I was not so sure about this when I began to use it but this science guide offers so much information. It is divided up in several fields such as websites to explore, information and even lesson plans. There is a lot of stuff so I would pick and choose what you want to focus on.

Emily Frazee
Emily Frazee

  • on Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:25 AM

“A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet” is a bit advanced for my kindergarteners, but I couldn’t resist a look because of the recent mission of Spirit and Opportunity. This SciGuide links users to internet opportunities that can assist teachers with connecting content related to Mars and our exploration of the planet. The sites provide activities and lessons for classroom use. The SciGuide focuses on three themes, those of “Evidence of Extinct Life,” “Evidence of Ancient Climates,” and “Habitats on Mars.” “Evidence of Extinct Life” focuses on two sub-themes, “Ancient Life on Mars” and “Fossils on Mars.” Both have a number of websites that provide lesson plans and experiments that demonstrate how and why we can speculate about life on Mars. “Evidence of Ancient Climates” has three sub-themes: “Evidence of Ancient Oceans,” “Fossilized Algae,” and Studying Ancient Climates.” The last one, “Habitats on Mars,” has two sub-themes: “Environmental Factors for Life on Mars” and “Viking Lander Data.” Selecting the links within any of the themes takes you immediately to a great deal of information, a lot of lesson plans, and other material that adds to the teacher’s knowledge and gives you ideas for ways to convey this information to students of many ages. I love the recipe for experiments in “Planets in a Bottle.” The only improvement that could be made to this SciGuide is more resources, even though there are already enough to keep teachers busy for months.

Veronica Winegarner
Veronica Winegarner

  • on Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:24 PM

I found this SciGuide to be very interesting. It provides us with key information about how to teach students about the Red Planet. I didn't know what to expect, as this is the first SciGuide I've seen. When I opened it up, i found this resource loaded with lesson plans, student examples, as well as Vignettes and audio clips. I love how this SciGuide lets students express their creativity and questions about life on Mars. Many students are already curious about life on Mars, and this SciGuide will help to spark student interest and generate more learning in the classroom.

Allison Ziolkowski
Allison Ziolkowski

  • on Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:19 PM

Purchasing a SciGuide is like opening a present! I anxiously await the publishing of additional Sci-Guides after experience "A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet." Sci Guides are meant for all educators - and align themselves with educators that teach through the scientific method and/or those of us that base our classroom learning on the 5E method. Background content knowledge, Lesson plans, student work samples, audio clips, web linkes, and extensions are detailed in every Sci Guide. Well worth your investment!

Alyce D  (Peyton, CO)
Alyce D (Peyton, CO)

  • on Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:29 PM

At first it may take time to adjust navigating around the SciGuide because of the fine print. However it provides a SciGuide Map that outlines resources offered which helps ensure no links are missed. It also provides resources for both students and teachers. For example, students can use the links to learn more about the Red Planet on their own and the teacher can use the Lesson Resources to implement the material into instruction.

Katherine  (Glenelg, Maryland)
Katherine (Glenelg, Maryland)

  • on Tue May 11, 2010 5:38 PM

This resource is a SciGuide, which means that it is a collection of multimodal resources and information that teachers have access to in order to learn all about the topic. I really like how the topic isn’t just confined to the planet Mars itself, but rather, how discoveries on Earth relates to the exploration of Mars. This resource explores the two rovers that are presently on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit, as well as the data collected from the surface of the planet. The fact that this resource is a SciGuide will really help to give teachers many options on how to learn everything they could want to know about Mars, the red planet.

Kimberly Forrester  (, )
Kimberly Forrester (, )

  • on Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:21 PM

This Science Guide: A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet would be a great resource for all teachers, especially new teachers. This guide gives general information about Mars, but most importantly gives lesson plans, audio clips, concept maps, web-based simulations, and many more interesting ideas teachers can use for a science unit about planets. I would recommend that everyone check it out because there is so much useful information.

Daniele Surkovich  (Ellicott City, MD)
Daniele Surkovich (Ellicott City, MD)

  • on Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:25 PM

This sciguide is a great resource for teachers who are trying to understand specialized topics around space. I liked seeing that there was a lesson plan, case study, audio clip and sample of student work to support this topic. Looking through the lesson plan it was easy to follow and something that everyone can use in the classroom. I liked how the supplies used were basic such as the extremophiles lesson plan. What I would have liked to see was to navigate to these lesson plans a bit more easily. If all the topics were displayed right away on the front page, instead of clicking through that would have been great! But this resource was worth clicking through to find these great tips.

Elaine Thomas
Elaine Thomas

  • on Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:11 PM

I really enjoyed A close-Up Look at the Red Planet because it was very informative and gave resources for both students and teachers. I really like the way this source has information for students to work on their own and gain information and at the same time helps teachers to implement the information into lessons. I feel that resources should be able to do both to be beneficial.

Anna W
Anna W

  • on Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:31 PM

At first, the layout confused me. However, once you start clicking on all the different links, the site becomes easier to navigate. I personally think this is a very informative resource on planet Mars. It's not your typical fact sheet and that is what I like about it. It gives a little bit of history amidst all the scientific stuff. There are tons of links leading you to anything from Lesson Plan ideas to diagrams/maps. Overall, an excellent source (1 star taken off because of the layout).

Mariam Ahmed  (Jessup, MD)
Mariam Ahmed (Jessup, MD)

  • on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:37 AM

At first, the resource seemed a bit confusing because I thought the little introduction was everything. But, after I explored the page more, I found interesting sites and links. I like that there is a page of sites for teachers and students. The links could be very useful and underneath the link, there is a description of what the page is about, so that is helpful. But, I dislike how you have to continuously click on link and more links in order to discover more. But, overall the many websites posted could be very useful for teaching.

Catherine Lee
Catherine Lee

  • on Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:14 PM

This sciguide gives you a closer look at what is possible going on or what has been happening on Mars. For many, Mars is a mystery but due to technology we have been able to explore the planet with the help of our two explorer rovers, Opportunity and Spirit. In order for us to get a better idea of whether life existed or currently exists on Mars, we must first look at Earth and compare the two. Although this sciguide focuses much on Mars, it allows us to dig deeper and learn more about Earth too. Explore the various activities and information to discover the past and possible present life on Mars. Did life ever exist there and what evidence have they found to prove that? This sciguide can help answer some of these questions.

Eve Nishikawa
Eve Nishikawa

  • on Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:58 PM

The Chart of Reviewer ratings along with the descriptions down below are helpful for teachers to see if the link is worth visiting or is effective to use for a lesson.The lesson plans were nice and provided resources, addressed the standards used, and goals, but I did not like the organization of the SciGuide. I realized that a lot of the links were to articles which I found lost my interest rather than the interactive Science Objects that I think truly benefited in my learning. The one activity that I really enjoyed was the Planet in a bottle activity that I found. You were able to do the same experiment, making minor changes for each planet. This is a simple project to do in the classroom or at home without the need of expensive equipment. And is a good way to learn informally if the students complete this activity at home with their parents. They could then come back to class with their observations written and pictures of their projects.

Nahomy R  (Elkridge, MD)
Nahomy R (Elkridge, MD)

  • on Sat May 19, 2012 5:11 PM

This was a very interesting SciGuide. Using evidence such as fossils, climate, and habitat on mars has students examine the possibility of life on Mars. Who would not be interested in learning about life on Mars? I especially liked the information regarding the possibility of water on Mars through the evidence of erosion and water marks. This could be connected to the erosion unit that we go over in the earth science portion of my class. Also, I really like the hands on activity where students experiment with salt and sugar to look at biomarkers as evidence for life. This activity is very hands-n, which my students love and also inquiry-based/ However, careful attention must be made to ensure students make the connection to the evidence and not focus on the burning of sugar, as students (especially my high school students!) are apt to do. I did not particularly like the planets in a bottle activity as it was geared toward younger students and my students would probably think it was too simplistic. I would also add to this lesson the recent discovery of lava flows by researchers in Hawaii, which adds an additional connection to plate tectonics, not only on Earth, but on Mars as well. I do like the lesson on extremophiles as these are such interesting organisms. As we briefly discussed life in the universe, I explained to my students that for a while, we have assumed that life cannot exist under extreme conditions, yet we have been proven wrong time and again. For example, we thought that life could only exist with sunlight (photosynthesis), yet scientists discovered life at the bottom of the ocean where sunlight doesn’t exist. Bacteria near hydrothermal vents thrive off of the chemicals spewed out by the vents. So why do we assume that life cannot exist without water, or oxygen, somewhere out in the universe? How do we know that life has not “evolved” to take advantage of some other “resource” that will help them survive? However, as much as I like the use of technology in the classroom, I have a difficult time using web searches in my lessons during class time since can be tricky to manges. Oftentimes websites don’t work, internet goes down, computers in our lab are used for testing, and generally, after about 15-20 minutes, students get off-task and start checking emails or check on other websites. I don’t mind, however, assigning work requiring the internet for homework where students can use their own time to look for information on the internet. In summary, this was a good SciGuide for students to learn about the environment in space, and especially on Mars. The information itself is interesting and has lots of connections to things we learn about Earth.

Ken Liu
Ken Liu

  • on Tue Oct 18, 2011 8:36 PM

A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet, is a wonderful, very informative, easy to navigate, resource. I liked the way they set up this resource. It starts off with an introduction that is very capturing because it talks about life existing on Mars. Then it has links on the right to click on to learn more. The links had very interesting titles that would make almost anyone want to read them. This resource also provided links to the resources they used. The best part about this resource were the lesson plans they provided for teachers to use if they wanted to in their classrooms. This is an awesome tool and I am going to remember that for when I start teaching science to a class!

Jessica Valenstein
Jessica Valenstein

  • on Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:02 PM

This is an interesting recourse that focus's on the concept of finding life on Mars. If you are looking for this recourse to inform you about the basic information concerning mars (i.e. weight, number of moons, size compared to other planets, pressure, or wind speed, etc) this recourse is not the one for you. This science guide main focus discusses scientist attempts to determine if life existed on mars or if it currently exist. Often times the links you can explore compares mars to the habitats and other various findings that are similar to earth. Initially, this science guide can seem confusing but don’t be afraid to engage in the multiple choices you have available to explore and comprehend the concept of life existing on mars. This science guide is beneficial because it navigates you in your own exploration through a variety of websites to research and gain knowledge from. In order to benefit the teacher even more with this topic, this guide offers a lesson plan, audio clip, sample of student work and more. I recommend that you check it out!

Katie G  (Baltimore, Maryland)
Katie G (Baltimore, Maryland)

  • on Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:52 PM

This is an interesting recource that focus's on if there is life on Mars. If you are looking for this recource to inform you about the more general information on mars, this recource is not the one for you. This science guide main focus discusses scientis attempt to determine if life existed on mars or does currently exist. Often times the links you can explore compares mars to the habitats and finding that are simialr to earth. This science guide is beneficial because it navigates you in your own exploration through a varitey of websites and recources. In order to benefit the teacher even more with this topic, this guide offers a lesson plan, audio clip, sample of student work and more.

Katie G  (Baltimore, Maryland)
Katie G (Baltimore, Maryland)

  • on Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:40 PM

Before reading this SciGuide about Mars I was very confused about how the status of water on Mars and if the Volcanoes were active or not. After reading this SciGuide I realize that the water on Mars is most likely frozen in the polar ice caps and the Volcanoes are dormant. It really made the arguement for life on Mars clear!

Allison  (Columbia, Maryland)
Allison (Columbia, Maryland)

  • on Mon Apr 26, 2010 1:11 PM

Nicole Chich The Close-up Look at the Red Planet I really liked this resource about Mars. It is a wealth of information, bringing its readers to many different areas from lesson plan ideas to evidence of extinct life on Mars to connecting Earth’s ancient life to life on Mars. Each section brings you fascinating bits of information that is easy to read and understand. As a future science teacher I feel like the information and the lesson plans that are held in this resource would be very useful for the classroom use. I learned a great deal about Mars myself, and was not bored for one second. The only disadvantage is I feel they could have placed the information in a more logical, page by page manner. The navigation was not so user friendly to me and easy to lose track of where you starte

Nicole Chich
Nicole Chich

  • on Sat Apr 24, 2010 2:53 AM

This SciGuide provides brief information and link to other informative sites to compare and contrast Mars and the Earth. The main theme is about life form in Mars. Through this, the content provides evidence for extinct life on the Earth and how it relates to Mars, evidence for climate, and habitats. Each theme has at least one lesson resource which includes lesson plan. This would be good for teachers who are looking resources for a thematic unit on Mars.


  • on Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:25 PM

This SciGuide is good for answering questions that students may have regarding Mars. As a lesson plan, I think that it may be too long for middle schoolers.

Jane  (Sayreville, NJ)
Jane (Sayreville, NJ)

  • on Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:18 PM

I feel that this resource is beneficial for teachers and educators in their professional development, however it does lack in some areas. Although this resource provides information about Mars, it lacks a lot of general information. For example, it does not discuss it's size and location in depth, which I believe are important when distinguishing between different planets. Also, it would be more helpful if this resource used more comparisons especially with Earth. Overall, I would rate this an alright resource, and not too shabby!


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