| Victoria Walsh and Gregory Kurtzman learn about the extreme temperatures on Mars by piling on layers of clothes in Kathy Horstmeyer’s 1st grade class at Gladwyne (Pa.) Elementary School. |
How do sound waves travel on Mars, and what would happen if music were played there? What would art look like on Mars, since its atmosphere is different from Earth’s? And what kind of government would human inhabitants of Mars need?
This school year and next summer, many of the nation’s students will do their best to answer those questions and others as part of a federally sponsored project focusing on Mars and the new millennium.
The Mars Millennium Project--a cooperative effort by the Department of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Endowment for the Arts, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the White House Millennium Council--is one of the many federally sponsored projects timed to the start of the year 2000.
The primary education initiative from the White House Millennium Council, the project asks K-12 students to design a village for 100 transplanted humans on Mars in 2030.
Already, federal organizers are looking forward to the results. NASA plans to display finished products on a World Wide Web site, and federal organizers are working with local organizations on exhibiting projects in the designers’ hometowns.
“It is worth noting that, in all likelihood, it will be one of today’s students who will be the first human to set foot on Mars,” said David M. Seidel, an educational service specialist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
“This will provide students with opportunities to understand Mars, exploration, science, the arts, and so on,” Mr. Seidel added. “It should facilitate the interactions of faculty and engage members of the community with the life of the school, as students look outward to find experts to provide assistance.”
The project is not a competition, and it places no limits on the form activities can take. According to Terry Peterson, a senior adviser to Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, pilot programs this past summer in Los Angeles, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Houston and Fort Worth, Texas involved everything from student poetry and dancing to video presentations and model spacecrafts.
Ginger Head, the founder and executive director of the Fort Worth, Texas, branch of Imagination Celebration--a national group affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington--is working on the Mars project with the entire 79,000-student Fort Worth school district.
"[The project] is so perfect a fit for this kind of organization,” said Ms. Head, whose group promotes arts education.
Among other activities, Imagination Celebration is sponsoring a districtwide rocket launch, a logo contest, and lectures.
At Gladwyne Elementary School in Gladwyne, Pa., this fall, 1st grade teacher Kathy Horstmeyer introduced her 16 pupils to Mars on the first day of school.
Ms. Horstmeyer sent them to specially designed classroom stations that provided information about the planet’s surface, temperature, moons, and volcanoes. She even invited some 2nd graders who studied Mars last year in her class to be present at the stations.
Over the course of the current school year, Ms. Horstmeyer anticipates that her students will perform a play about Mars, correspond with a scientist on the Internet, and build a model version of a bubble community for Mars.
The five national sponsors and 121 cooperating organizations working on the Mars effort plan to offer schools a network of instructional materials, information, and corporations willing to help schools or youth groups with designing activities.
The National Endowment for the Arts has produced instructional videos, and NASA has created a Web site and participation guide with information on Mars and ways to incorporate the Mars-millennium theme into curriculum and classroom activities.
According to Mr. Peterson, 92,000 copies of the participation guide have been mailed out or downloaded from the Web page, www.mars2030.net, since the Mars-millennium effort was announced in May.
Participants are encouraged, but not required, to register their proposed projects on the Web site.