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Out of This World #3: Mission to Mars with The Day Explorer

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will respond to a news article about the possibility of humans living on Mars.  They will structure their thinking using a “Pro/Con” T-Chart and then decide whether or not they would be willing to move to Mars.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To read and respond to a current events article with a “Pro/Con” T-Chart and to make a decision based on their work.  Each student should be able to list five “Pros” and five “Cons.”  (AASL 2.1.3, “Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real-world situations, and further investigations.”)

Suggested Time:

35-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will complete a “Pro/Con” T-Chart based on his understanding of the article.  Using his work, each student will also decide whether he would be willing to move to Mars.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind students that thus far they have completed a factfinding mission using nonfiction sources (first lesson) and explored the science fiction genre (second lesson).  Today, they will be working with current events in a news article.  The plan is to:

  • Read the short article together (attached)
  • Complete the suggested activity (Pro/Con chart)
  • Put together a class “Pro/Con” chart.
  • As a class, vote to see who would be willing to move to Mars.

2. Main:

Use the article “What Life on Mars Might Really be Like.”  Read through the article together as a class.  If your students are unfamiliar with reading the news, point out the headline, the “hook,” the photograph, and especially how the article tries to represent both sides of the issue.

Make sure that the students know what a T-Chart is and how to use one.  (Please see the attached photograph for a sample of the completed T-Chart at the end of the lesson.)    Make sure that students understand the terms “Pro” and “Con.”  Usually I just teach this by asking who likes to swim in the ocean and who does not like to swim in the ocean.  Ask one students who does not like to swim in the ocean to come to the front of the group and hold up the red “X.”  Ask the students who does like to swim in the ocean to hold up the green check mark.  Teach the terms “Pro” and “Con” and “For” and “Against.”  The big idea here is that there is not a right or wrong answer.  Rather, there are different viewpoints or ways to interpret the data.

Give students five to seven minutes to work on their own T-Charts and come up with their own “Pros” and “Cons.”  Follow the instructions for the activity at the end of the article.

After a few minutes, go quickly around the class and ask every student to give you either a “Pro” or a “Con” about moving to Mars.  Scribe these on the flipchart paper, thus making a class T-Chart.  (See attached sample photo.)  After every student has contributed one idea, ask the class to vote:  How many students would move to Mars and how many would not want to move?  In one of my classes, two students voted to move and 21 voted to stay on earth.

3. Conclusion:

Wrap up by challenging the students to be Thinkers and always try to discover both sides, or the “Pros” and “Cons” of an issue.  Ask the students to insert their assignment into their UoI notebooks or folders.

  1. Copies of “What Life on Mars Might Really be Like,” from http://thedayexplorer.co.uk (attached)
  2. One piece of flipchart paper the class can see.  (You can also scribe digitally if you prefer.)
  3. Small green check mark. Small red “X.”  (I usually handwrite these on quarter sheets of paper.)
  4. Flipchart markers.

Normally I ask students to make their T-Chart in the half page of blank space at the end of the article.

The Mars article was taken from an online source called The Day ExplorerThe Day Explorer is part of The Day, a UK-based organization that specializes in rewriting news for student and teacher use in schools.  Our school has a subscription to The Day and The Day Explorer but you might be able to find something similar in National Geographic Kids, Wonderopolis (website) or Brain Pop.

I particularly like The Day because it presents both sides of an issue and because it provides discussion points and activities based on the article content.  You can ask for a trial subscription and I strongly recommend that you try it out.  The Day Explorer puts news and current events within reach to students in elementary school.

Recommended books for this lesson:


Key Terms:

Mars, Space Travel, Space Colonization, Pros and Cons

What Life on Mars Might Really Be Like

Mission to Mars T-Chart