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Summer of Innovation Activities & Resources

Summer of Innovation Activities & Resources

Make a comet you can eat, build a four-wing paper boomerang, use a soda straw to put a rocket in flight, and explore Mars along with NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity! Discover these and other fun informal NASA educational activities for students in grades 4-9.

Note: Each of these activities can also be found in NASA/JPL's Summer of Innovation handbook. Learn more about the Summer of Innovation program and get involved, here.

Explore Your Curiosity
Curiosity, NASA's newest Mars rover, landed on the Red Planet on Aug. 5, 2012, and set off on a mission to find signs that Mars could have once sustained life. It's the biggest rover yet, carrying multiple instruments as well as 17 cameras! It's essentially a laboratory on wheels. Get a rundown of the mission in this Curiosity resource guide for educators. Then bring Curiosity into your classroom with the lessons below.

› Download a PDF of the Explore Your Curiosity Curriculum
Modeling Solar System Distances - Students find objects (food and candy) to match the sizes of the planets for a Solar System model on the one ten-billionth scale then go outside to walk the distances between the planets over a 600-meter area.

Solar System Bead Distance -
Create a scale model of the solar system using beads and string.

What Can We Learn from Images - Participants compare and contrast images of Earth and Mars and then experiment with lenses to understand more about the instruments used to make the pictures.

What are Satellite Images - Participants create maps of the room and dis-cuss the perspectives in their drawings. Thenthey look at satellite images to help them real-ize that these are taken from above the Earth.

Build Your Own Satellite - Students will understand what instruments may be on a satellite and what function satellites play in the reservoir of scientific research data and that scientists and citizens use daily.

What Do Satellite Images Tell Us About Mars? - Participants compare satellite images of Mars and Earth to look for similar features. Then theybrainstorm a list of forces or events that could have caused some of these features to form on Mars.

Did Wind Create Features on Mars? - Participants use trays of sand and straws toattempt to recreate surface features ofimages of Mars.

Did Water Create Features on Mars? - Participants use trays of sand and cups ofwater to attempt to recreate surface featuresseen in images of Mars.

Did Impacts Create Features on Mars? - Participants use trays of sand and a variety ofsolid objects to model the effects of"impactors" on the surface.

What Else Do We Want to Find Out About Mars? - Participants discuss the models they created inthe last three activities as models of forces that shape the surface of planets, and talk about thesimilarities and differences between models and real events.

How Can We Find Out More About Mars? - Participants use a variety of resources to try to find answers to their questions. Then they hold ascience conference to share their findings.

Which Planet Shall We Visit? - Participants compare images of planets and select one planet on which to base the story of theirimaginary voyage. They create comic strips to tell the tale.

Do You Think Aliens Exist? - Participants discuss the possible existence of alien life and then survey the group to record andgraph opinions. They use their science journals to write about and illustrate their ideas.

Is it Living? - Participants compare a living and a non-living object to begin defining life. They gooutdoors to search for living things.

Do the Mystery Samples Contain Life? - Participants explore the properties of threemystery samples and try to find out which onecontains life.

What Does Life Need?
- Working in small groups, participants determine, write about, and/or draw what a particular livingorganism needs to survive.
Are Microbes Alive? - Participants observe mold growing on potatoes,and then look at magnified images of several different microbes.

Where Does Life Live? - Participants use cards and/or computer images to look at some extreme environments and thenmatch the environments with life forms they support.

Could Life Live in Other Places in the Solar System?
- In their science journals, participants recordwhat they already know about our solar system.Then they examine NASA images of moons,planets, and the sun to evaluate them as possible places for life to exist.

Now What Do You Think About the Possibility of Life in the Universe? - Participants reexamine their own thinking, then take a new survey to find out if they havechanged their opinions because of new information.

If You Went to Mars/Mars Critters - Students will use their knowledge of Mars and living organisms to construct a model of a planet or animal that has the critical features for survival on Mars.

Article: Middle School Students Find Cave on Mars - California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave.

Planetary Surfaces/Geologic Landform Seen on Aerial Photos - Students will study a series of aerial photographs of different terrains on Earth. In answering questions about the areas, they will become acquainted with landforms resulting from the four major geologic processes.

Landform Mapping: The Terrestrial Planets - The objective of this exercise is to recognize and compare the similarities and differences among the surfaces of the terrestrial planets at a global scale.

Geologic Features of Mars
- By examining images of Martian surface features,
students will learn to identify landforms and interpret the geologic processes that formed them.

Launch to Mars! - Students will learn about rocket stability as they construct and fly small paper rockets.

Imagine Mars - Students will use what they know about Mars to design a permanent settlement on Mars for 100 people.

Go for Flight
The Blended Wing Body -- Model an airplane wing out of paper and see how subtle design changes alter its flight performance.

Rotor Motor -- Construct a rotary wing and use it as a model to examine various mathematical concepts. 

Four-Wing Paper Boomerang -- Learn how to make your own boomerang out of a manila folder and see it fly!

Sled Kite -- Get creative while building a kite model that's also a lesson in flight dynamics.

Right Flight -- Discover how adding weight to a glider (built by you!) can change the way it flies.

Exploring the Solar System
Soda Straw Rockets -- These little "indoor" paper rockets pack a big lesson in rocket dynamics.

Deep Impact - Comet on a Stick -- Make your own comet model, just like real scientists and engineers, to see how the sun influences these stellar objects.

Make a Comet Model and Eat it! -- Ice cream fans will melt at this activity that turns edible treats into a lesson in comets and chemistry.

Stepping Stone to Beyond -- Mount an imaginary expedition to an asteroid then learn how to mine an edible version.

Edible Rocks -- Learn how to take a geologic survey with an edible meteorite model.

Living in Space
Potato Astronaut -- Study the effect of high-speed micrometeoroid impacts using a potato and a straw.

Keeping Your Cool -- Investigate how the water cooling system in a Space Shuttle functions using simple household materials.

Build a Solar Oven -- Build a solar oven that you can really use!

Design Challenge: Feel the Heat -- Design and build a solar hot water heater and see how big a temperature change you can get.

Spaced-Out Sports -- Use Newton's Laws of Motion to design a new game for International Space Station (ISS) astronauts to play in space.