The Big Question

What if we planted a plant from Earth on Mars?

What if we planted a plant from Earth on Mars?

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:

Space, Plants

Planning an investigation will really get your class thinking like scientists. How will they investigate whether or not a plant from Earth could grow on Mars or vice versa?

Run the activity

1. Plan an investigation around a Big Question. First, find out what the pupils already know about what conditions are like on Mars? (It is very cold, there is less sunlight than on Earth and there is very little oxygen)

  • Would a plant be able to survive in a very cold environment?
  • Would a plant be able to survive with much less sunlight?
  • Would a plant be able to survive in a place where the water is all frozen?

2. How will the group explore the question? Prompt pupils to explain their ideas, qualify them and refine them based on views expressed by other people. What is their plan for the investigation?

3. Ask the class to imagine they had to present their investigation at a school assembly or to their family, how would they show their action plan?

Background science

Some plants on Earth survive in very cold conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. However, it is significantly colder on Mars as it is much further away from the sun. The greater distance from the sun also means that there is less sunlight. Plants also need oxygen to survive and there is very little oxygen on Mars. If a plant were to grow on Mars without protection, it would need to be one that had evolved to survive in conditions like that rather than one that had evolved to live in conditions that are found on Earth.

 

The 2020 ExoMars mission is looking for signs of life on Mars. We've got lots of activities to support your own Mars exploration. Read more on our blog! 

Take it further

After thinking about this problem, children might like to try the Problem Solver activity Get growing on Mars and design a ‘grow-pod’ to protect a plant in the harsh Martian environment. 
They might also like to think about how plants are suited to very different conditions here on Earth by looking at the Odd One Out activity Growing in hot and cold places. Check out the RHS resources around growing plants in space with the Rocket Science resource pack. NASA has also got some lesson plans related to growing plants in space.

Image credit: Fabian Plock via Shutterstock