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From the LOC (or Wherever You May Be), All the Way to Mars! Part 2

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The following is a guest post by Kaleena Black of the Library of Congress.

Our previous post on a recent Mars-related program in the Young Readers Center of the Library of Congress described how students studied historical and current primary sources to prepare them to discuss whether they’d want to visit and possibly to live on Mars. As we mentioned, a critical part of the program was an expert-led imagination exercise (motivated by primary sources), which invited the students to envision a potential community on Mars and their respective roles within it. This post will explain how we supported and facilitated this discussion.

When we first asked the group to define “community,” one student said it was a “neighborhood,” while another described it simply as a “team.” To keep the students thinking about what makes a community, we supported the discussion with a set of photographs of “community helpers” from the Library’s online collections -  a police officer, a painter, a teacher, musicians, and a doctor. We allowed plenty of time for students to study and analyze the pictures.

Chinese Musicians [children], Canton, China, 1919

Ward in a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force hospital at an R.A.F. depot, 1945

Washington, D.C. Teacher helping pupils in Negro grammar school, 1942

Children crossing street with police officer, 1924-5

Andrew Standing Soldier, Sioux Indian, painting mural in auditorium, OD School, Pine Ridge, South Dakota, 1940

We posed these discussion questions to the students:

  • If you were to live on Mars, what would your community look like?
  • If you were to live on Mars, what do you think would need to be done there (e.g., jobs, services, roles)?
  • How would you help, take care of, and protect others in your community? What might your roles be?
  • What other activities would you do?
  • Any there new services that you would need on Mars?

When brainstorming what a future community would look like, most students quickly prioritized their families, many of the aforementioned “helpers,” as well as others who could support important necessities. Interestingly, however, when we came to the topic of food on Mars, many students initially insisted that it would come from a supermarket or a restaurant. When we dug deeper about how it would get to the restaurant, for instance, then, we started getting more answers like “from farms.”

During this discussion, the students came up with many other questions about a future on Mars, as well as considerations about how life on Mars might compare to life on Earth. Students might continue to research various topics, including Mars, outer space, and elements of civic or community life.

Let us know how this works in your classroom.

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