I first devised this project after reading constant news about Mars One, SpaceX, and the Orion spacecraft back in 2014. This inspired me to designed a project in which students design a working, habitable Mars colony completely from the ground up. The project involves groups of four propose a colony including a name, food sources, technology, religion, etc. From there, students do research based on the role that they chose within their group. They will then design colony blueprints, technological advancements necessary for survival, a colony flag, and a marketing campaign to convince others to move or visit their colony.
Two great ways to introduce this project and get the students excited is either watching The Martian (starring Matt Damon) or reading excerpts from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. From there, I guarantee that students will be hooked! In the end, this project could last anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on your commitment and district standards. You may even see some incredible results from your students! Just check out the physical model (pictured above) of a Mars colony built by one of my students from the first time I did this project!
This projects includes elements of scientific research, engineering, astronomy, entrepreneurship, budgeting, collaboration, and innovation! It’s the perfect PBL project to engage all types of learners. There is technology involved for those who learn best using that resources. Textual resources for those who enjoy reading. Visual resources for those who enjoy creativity and design. It’s a win-win for everyone!