Animated graphic of the Sun illuminating Mars, which is shown in the foreground

Activity Notes


In Part One of this three-part lesson, students begin a KWL (Know, Want, Learn) chart and decide what they want to learn from a robotic mission to Mars.



  • A KWL (Know, Want, Learn) chart is an organizational tool used to help students connect learning to what they already know, identify what they want to learn about a subject, and reflect on their learning.

Tips for Remote Instruction

  • This lesson can be conducted in an in-person classroom setting or via online technology. If using online technology, consider using a shared document or slide that multiple students can edit together to build a KWL chart for the class.


NASA sends missions to Mars so we can learn more about our home planet, Earth. Mars and Earth may have been quite similar when they formed, but now Mars is cold and dry and has very little atmosphere. Scientific evidence tells us that Mars once had a global ocean. What happened to it? Did that global ocean and its many Martian rivers once support life? These are just some of the questions scientists are hoping to answer.

NASA explores Mars using three types of spacecraft:

  • Orbiters – spacecraft that circle Mars, take images, and make scientific observations from space, but do not land
  • Landers – spacecraft that land on the surface of Mars, take images, and make scientific observations from one location
  • Rovers – spacecraft that land on the surface and then drive around to numerous locations to take images and make scientific observations


  1. Create a KWL (Know, Want, Learn) chart and label it “Mars.”
  2. Explain to students that they are going to talk about Mars, another planet in our solar system.
  3. Ask students what they know about Mars. Depending on the lessons already completed, they may know very little or quite a lot. Make a list of what students know under “K” on the KWL chart.
  4. Ask students what they want to know about Mars. Make a list of what students want to know about Mars under the “W” in the KWL chart.
  5. Ask students how they might go about learning more about Mars. Accept all reasonable answers (e.g., search the internet, watch videos, ask parents, ask scientists, ask teachers).
  6. Read "All About Mars" to students.
  7. Ask students to add to the "K" and "W" columns of the KWL chart. Explain to students that the more scientists know about a topic, the more questions they have.
  8. Select a couple of videos from the Mars In A Minute series that would interest your students and have students watch them.
  9. Ask students to add a few more items to the "K" and "W" columns of the KWL chart.
  10. Show students an image of the Perseverance Mars rover, and explain that this rover is designed to drive around Mars and use tools to learn about Mars. If possible, show students the 3D interactive of the Perseverance Mars rover so they can explore and see details more closely.

  11. Explain that in the next lesson they will learn more about the parts of the rover and plan their own mission to Mars.


Students should provide information for the "K" or "W" columns at some point. They may not have anything for "K" at first, but after the reading and videos, they should be able to provide something.


Continue to Part Two of this three-part lesson: