Exploring Mars: Spirit and Opportunity

Students explore the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, grappling with the complexity involved in space missions through reading, analyzing photographs, and participating in engineering and design labs.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students study the rovers Spirit and Opportunity and their remarkable missions to Mars. Through a combination of reading, analyzing images and photographs, and participating in engineering and design labs, students will begin to understand the complexity, preparation, and diligence involved in space missions. Students will grapple with why the engineering and design process, particularly continually planning, trying, and evaluating, is a crucial part of a successful mission. This unit also allows students to make connections between content learned in math and content learned in previous science units, solidifying the importance and value of STEM. It is our hope that this unit inspires students to explore engineering and STEM not only in space but in the world around them. 

In this unit, students build their skills in consuming scientific and technical texts. Students will practice explaining the connection between two or more scientific ideas or concepts in a text. Additionally, students will be challenged to draw on and integrate information from two or more texts in order to describe a scientific idea, concept, or process in depth. This unit also continues the study of point of view and analyzing how the point of view influences what and how information is presented to a reader. The Mighty Mars Rover is written to captivate and engage a reader, while the NASA press releases are written to inform the public of the progress and findings of the Mars rover missions. Students will be challenged to compare and contrast the point of view of each text and the strategies each author uses based on the point of view and desired audience. Since this is the culminating unit of the course, all other informational standards will be spiraled throughout the unit.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What is the engineering and design process? How do scientists use the engineering and design process to plan for and execute missions to Mars?
  • What challenges did the rovers face on Mars? How did scientists and the rovers respond?
  • What goals did scientists have for the rover expeditions? Were the goals met? 

Vocabulary

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Text-based

tele-operate "grave doubts" altered audacious bewildering bombarded constraint conserve devoted diligently dwindle elated encircled enormity epic evaluate exposed fare fatal geologist habitable identical laboratory lament long magnitude malfunction microscopic ordeal parameter ponder protocol prototype prevail quest requirement revision replica refrain rover simulate slope stationary surrogate subsystem tense transmitter treacherous traversed unprecedented undeniable unsettling venerable vindicated

Root/Affix

-able -ious -ment -tion be- micro- micro- sub- un-

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 5th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Lesson Map

16

Discussion

    RI.5.9

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.3

Debate and analyze unit essential questions.

28

Discussion

    W.5.9

    SL.5.1

    SL.5.3

Debate and analyze unit essential questions.

30

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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3-5-ETS1-1

3-5-ETS1-2

3-5-ETS1-3

L.5.1

L.5.2

RI.5.2

RI.5.3

RI.5.5

RI.5.8

RI.5.9

SL.5.1

SL.5.2

SL.5.3

SL.5.4

SL.5.5

W.5.2

W.5.2.b

W.5.2.c

W.5.2.d

W.5.2.e

W.5.2.e

W.5.7

W.5.8

W.5.9

Spiral Standards

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L.5.1.b

L.5.1.d

L.5.2.d

L.5.2.e

L.5.3.a

L.5.4

L.5.4.b

L.5.5

L.5.6

RF.5.3

RF.5.4

RI.5.1

RI.5.10

RI.5.4

RI.5.6

W.5.10

W.5.4

W.5.5

W.5.6