Student International Engineering Contest: Design A Lander for Mars


The Mars Society is announcing the international student engineering contest to design a lander capable of delivering a ten metric ton payload safely to the surface of Mars. The competition is open to student teams from around the world. Participants are free to choose any technology to accomplish the proposed mission and need to submit design reports of no more than 50 pages by March 31, 2018.

These contest reports will be evaluated by a panel of judges and will serve as the basis for a down-select to ten finalists who will be invited to present their work in person at the next International Mars Society Convention in September 2018. The first place winning team will receive a trophy and a $10,000 cash prize. Second through fifth place winners will receive trophies and prizes of $5,000, 3,000, $2000, and $1,000 respectively. In honor of the first craft used to deliver astronauts to another world, the contest is being named “Red Eagle.”


The key missing capability required to send human expeditions to Mars is the ability to land large payloads on the Red Planet. The largest capacity demonstrated landing system is that used by Curiosity, which delivered 1 ton. That is not enough to support human expeditions, whose minimal requirement is a ten ton landing capacity. NASA has identified this as a key obstacle to human missions to Mars, but has no program to develop any such lander. SpaceX had a program, called Red Dragon, which might have created a comparable capability, but it was cancelled when NASA showed no interest in using such a system to soft land crews returning to Earth from the ISS or other near-term missions.

In the absence of such a capability, NASA has been reduced to proposing irrelevant projects, such as building a space station in lunar orbit (not needed for either lunar or Mars expeditions), or claim that it is working on the technology for large visionary interplanetary spaceships which will someday sail from lunar orbit to Mars orbit and back, accomplishing nothing.

For full details about the Red Eagle student engineering contest, including team rules, guidelines and requirements, please click here.


The Case for Mars: On Barboza Space Center Fellowship Program Reading List

The Case for Mars

The Barboza Space Center will introduce the book, “The Case for Mars.”  This will be part of our new Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Fellowship Program.   The book will be used to create space mathematics story problems. And to help with the building of robots, science experiments and the designing of Martin habitats.

www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.comA Case for Mars Robot & Book  .JPG

The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must
Author Robert Zubrin
Richard Wagner
Arthur C. Clarke
Language English
Subject Non-fiction
Publisher Touchstone
Publication date
Pages 368
ISBN 978-0684835501
OCLC 34906203
LC Class QB641.Z83 1996

The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must is a nonfiction science book by Robert Zubrin, first published in 1996, and revised and updated in 2011.

The book details Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan to make the first human landing on Mars. The plan focuses on keeping costs down by making use of automated systems and available materials on Mars to manufacture the return journey’s fuel in situ. The book also reveals possible Mars colony designs and weighs the prospects for a colony’s material self-sufficiency and for the terraforming of Mars.


Mars Direct

The Mars Direct plan was originally detailed by Zubrin and David Baker in 1990. The Case for Mars is, according to Zubrin, a comprehensive condensation for laymen of many years’ work and research. Chapters one and four deal with Mars Direct most completely.


For Robert Zubrin, the attractiveness of Mars Direct does not rest on a single cost-effective mission. He envisions a series of regular Martian missions with the ultimate goal of colonization, which he details in the seventh through ninth chapters. As initial explorers leave hab-structures on the planet, subsequent missions become easier to undertake.

Large subsurface, pressurized habitats would be the first step toward human settlement; the book suggests they can be built as Roman-style atria underground with easily produced Martian brick. During and after this initial phase of habitat construction, hard-plastic radiation– and abrasion-resistant geodesic domes could be deployed on the surface for eventual habitation and crop growth. Nascent industry would begin using indigenous resources: the manufacture of plastics, ceramics and glass.

The larger work of terraforming requires an initial phase of global warming to release atmosphere from the regolith and to create a water-cycle. Three methods of global warming are described in the work and, Zubrin suggests, are probably best deployed in tandem: orbital mirrors to heat the surface; factories on the surface to pump halocarbons into the atmosphere; and the seeding of bacteria which can metabolize water, nitrogen and carbon to produce ammonia and methane (these would aid in global warming). While the work of warming Mars is on-going, true colonization can begin.

The Case for Mars acknowledges that any Martian colony will be partially Earth-dependent for centuries. However, it suggests that Mars may be a profitable place for two reasons. First, it may contain concentrated supplies of metals of equal or greater value to silver which have not been subjected to millennia of human scavenging and may be sold on Earth for profit. Secondly, the concentration of deuterium – a possible fuel for commercial nuclear fusion – is five times greater on Mars. Humans emigrating to Mars thus have an assured industry and the planet will be a magnet for settlers as wage costs will be high. The book asserts that “the labor shortage that will prevail on Mars will drive Martian civilization toward both technological and social advances.”

Wider considerations

While detailing the exploration and colonization, The Case for Mars also addresses a number of attendant scientific and political factors.

Risks confronted

The fifth chapter analyzes various risks that putatively rule out a long-term human presence on Mars. Zubrin dismisses the idea that radiation and zero-gravity are unduly hazardous. He claims that cancer rates do increase for astronauts who have spent extensive time in space, but only marginally. Similarly, while zero-gravity presents challenges, “near total recovery of musculature and immune system occurs after reentry and reconditioning to a one-gravity environment.” Furthermore, since his plan has the spacecraft spinning at the end of a long tether to create artificial gravity, worries about zero gravity do not apply to this mission in any case. Back-contamination – humans acquiring and spreading Martian viruses – is described as “just plain nuts”, because there are no host organisms on Mars for disease organisms to have evolved.

In the same chapter, Zubrin decisively denounces and rejects suggestions that the Moon should be used as waypoint to Mars or as a training area. It is ultimately much easier to journey to Mars from low Earth orbit than from the moon and using the latter as a staging point is a pointless diversion of resources. While the Moon may superficially appear a good place to perfect Mars exploration and habitation techniques, the two bodies are radically different. The moon has no atmosphere, no analogous geology and a much greater temperature range and rotational period. Antarctica or desert areas of Earth provide much better training grounds at lesser cost.


In the third and tenth chapters, The Case for Mars addresses the politics and costs of the ideas described. The authors argue that the colonization of Mars is a logical extension of the settlement of North America. They envision a frontier society, providing opportunities for innovation and social experimentation.

Zubrin suggests three models to provide the will and capital to drive Mars exploration forward: the J.F.K. model, in which a far-sighted U.S. leader provides the funding and mobilizes national public opinion around the idea; the Sagan model, in which international co-operation is the driving force; and the Gingrich approach, which emphasizes incentives and even prizes for private sector actors who take on research and development tasks. In keeping with the third idea, Zubrin describes twelve challenges that address various aspects of the exploration program. A monetary prize – from five hundred million to twenty billion dollars – is offered to companies who successfully complete the challenges.

The prize-based approach to hardware development has emerged within the private aeronautics community, though not yet on the scale envisioned by Zubrin. Ventures such as the Ansari X-Prize and Robert Bigelow’s America’s Space Prize seek low-cost spaceflight development through private enterprise, and crucially, for the attainment of very specific predetermined goals in order to win the prizes.

The underlying political and economic problems of raising sufficient capital for terraforming using halocarbon emissions is critiqued by John Hickman.

See also


External links

Can Robots Help Us To Grow Food on Mars?

Students in the USA are getting ready to collaborate with high school students in France and other countries.  They are on a mission to come up with a better way to grow food on Mars.  First, we must do a good job growing food here on Earth.  California high school students are working on special robots that will help us to grow food.


We are stilling looking for high school teachers and students to join our team.

Contact us: and the http://www.OccupyMars.WordPress.comIMG_0005.JPGIMG_0010.JPGIMG_0007.JPGIMG_0006.JPG

Space food

Food aboard the Space Shuttle served on a tray. Note the use of magnets, springs, and Velcro to hold the cutlery and food packets to the tray

Red LED lights illuminate potato plants in a NASA study on growing food in space

Space food is a type of food product created and processed for consumption by astronauts in outer space. The food has specific requirements of providing balanced nutrition for individuals working in space, while being easy and safe to store, prepare and consume in the machinery-filled weightless environments of manned spacecraft. In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging on space programs as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication. Although astronauts consume a wide variety of foods and beverages in space, the initial idea from The Man in Space Committee of the Space Science Board was to supply astronauts with a formula diet that would supply all the needed vitamins and nutrients.[1]


Early history

Astronauts making and eating hamburgers on board the ISS August 2007.

For lunch on Vostok I (1961) Yuri Gagarin ate three 160 g toothpaste-type tubes, two of which contained servings of puréed meat and one which contained chocolate sauce.

In August 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Gherman Titov became the first human to experience space sickness on Vostok II; he holds the record for being the first person to vomit in space.[2] According to Lane and Feeback, this event “heralded the need for space flight nutrition.”[3]

One of John Glenn‘s many tasks, as the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, was to experiment with eating in weightless conditions. Some experts had been concerned that weightlessness would impair swallowing. Glenn experienced no difficulties and it was determined that microgravity did not affect the natural swallowing process, which is enabled by the peristalsis of the esophagus.

Astronauts in later Mercury missions (1959–1963) disliked the food that was provided. They ate bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders, and tubes of semiliquids. The astronauts found it unappetizing, experienced difficulties in rehydrating the freeze-dried foods, and did not like having to squeeze tubes or collect crumbs.[4] Prior to the mission, the astronauts were also fed low residual launch-day breakfasts, to reduce the chances that they would defecate in flight.[5]

Project Gemini and Apollo (1965–1975)

Several of the food issues from the Mercury missions were addressed for the later Gemini missions (1965–1966). Tubes (often heavier than the foods they contained) were abandoned. Gelatin coatings helped to prevent bite-sized cubes from crumbling. Simpler rehydration methods were developed. The menus also expanded to include items such as shrimp cocktail, chicken and vegetables, toast squares, butterscotch pudding, and apple juice.[4]

The crew of Gemini III snuck a corned beef sandwich on their spaceflight. Mission Commander Gus Grissom loved corned beef sandwiches, so Pilot John Young brought one along, having been encouraged by fellow astronaut Walter Schirra. However, Young was supposed to eat only approved food, and Grissom was not supposed to eat anything. Floating pieces of bread posed a potential problem, causing Grissom to put the sandwich away (although he did enjoy it)[6] and the astronauts were mildly rebuked by NASA for the act. A congressional hearing was called, forcing the NASA deputy administrator George Mueller to promise no repeats. NASA took special care about what astronauts brought along on future missions.[7][8][9]

Prior to the Apollo program (1968–1975), early space food development was conducted at the US Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and the Natick Army Labs.[3] The variety of food options continued to expand for the Apollo missions. The new availability of hot water made rehydrating freeze-dried foods simpler, and produced a more appetizing result. The “spoon-bowl” allowed more normal eating practices. Food could be kept in special plastic zip-closure containers, and its moisture allowed it to stick to a spoon.[4]

Skylab (1973–1974)

Skylab 2 crew eats food during ground training

Larger living areas on the Skylab space station (1973–1974) allowed for an on-board refrigerator and freezer, which allowed perishable and frozen items to be stored and made microgravity the primary obstacle.[10]:142–144 When Skylab’s solar panels were damaged during its launch and the station had to rely on minimal power from the Apollo Telescope Mount until Skylab 2 crewmembers performed repairs, the refrigerator and freezer were among the systems that Mission Control kept operational.

Menus included 72 items; for the first time about 15% was frozen. Shrimp cocktail and butter cookies were consistent favorites; Lobster Newburg, fresh bread,[11] processed meat products, and ice cream were among other choices. A dining room table and chairs, fastened to the floor and fitted with foot and thigh restraints, allowed for a more normal eating experience. The trays used could warm the food, and had magnets to hold eating utensils and scissors used for opening food containers.[10]:142–144[12]:29 The food was similar to that used for Apollo, but canned for preservation;[11] the crew found it to be better than that of Apollo but still unsatisfying, partially due to food tasting different in space than on Earth.[10]:292–293,308 The frozen foods were the most popular, and they enjoyed spicy foods[12]:130 due to head congestion from weightlessness dulling their senses of taste and smell.[10]:292–293,308 Weightlessness also complicated both eating and cleaning up; crews spent up to 90 minutes a day on housekeeping.[13]

After astronaut requests, NASA bought Paul Masson Rare Cream Sherry for one Skylab mission and packaged some for testing on a reduced gravity aircraft. In microgravity smells quickly permeate the environment and the agency found that the sherry triggered the gag reflex. Concern over public reaction to taking alcohol into space led NASA to abandon its plans, so astronauts drank the purchased supply while consuming their pre-mission special diet.[11]

The astronauts of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975) received samples of Soviet space food when the combined crew dined together. Among the foods provided by Soyuz 19 were canned beef tongue, packaged Riga bread, and tubes of borscht (beet soup) and caviar. The borscht was labeled “vodka“.[14]

Interkosmos (1978–1988)

Bulgarian space food

As part of the Interkosmos space program, allies of the Soviet Union have actively participated in the research and deployment of space technologies. The Institute of Cryobiology and Lyophilization (now the Institute of Cryobiology and Food Technology), founded in 1973 as a part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, has since produced space food for the purposes of the program.[15][16] The menu includes traditional Bulgarian dishes such as tarator, sarma, musaka, lyutenitza, kiselo mlyako, dried vegetables and fruits, etc.[17][18]


Today, fruits and vegetables that can be safely stored at room temperature are eaten on space flights. Astronauts also have a greater variety of main courses to choose from, and many request personalized menus from lists of available foods including items like fruit salad and spaghetti. Astronauts sometimes request beef jerky for flights, as it is lightweight, calorie dense, and can be consumed in orbit without packaging or other changes.

Rehydratable Shōyu flavoured Japanese ramen from JAXA.
  • Chinese: In October 2003, the People’s Republic of China commenced their first manned space flight. The astronaut, Yang Liwei, brought along with him and ate specially processed yuxiang pork (simp: 鱼香肉丝; trad: 魚香肉絲), Kung Pao chicken (simp: 宫保鸡丁; trad: 宮保雞丁), and Eight Treasures rice (simp: 八宝饭; trad: 八寶飯), along with Chinese herbal tea.[19] Food made for this flight and the subsequent manned flight in 2007 has been commercialized for sale to the mass market.[20][21]
  • Italian: Commercial firms Lavazza and Argotec developed an espresso machine, called ISSpresso, for the International Space Station. It can also brew other hot drinks, such as tea, hot chocolate, and broth. On 3 May 2015, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti became the first person to drink freshly brewed coffee in space. While the device serves as a quality-of-life improvement aboard the station, it is also an experiment in fluid dynamics in space.[22][23] The brewing machine and drinking cups were specially designed to work with fluids in low gravity.[24]
  • Japanese: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have developed traditional Japanese foods and drinks such as matcha, yokan, ramen, sushi, soups, rice with ume for consumption in orbit.[25] The foods have been produced in collaboration with Japanese food companies such as Ajinomoto, Meiji Dairies, and Nissin Foods.[26]
  • Korean: In April 2008, South Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, was a crew member on the International Space Station and brought a modified version of Korea’s national dish, kimchi. It took three research institutes several years and over one million dollars in funding to create a version of the fermented cabbage dish that was suitable for space travel.[27]
  • Russian: On the ISS the Russian crew has a selection of over 300 dishes. An example daily menu can be:[28]
    • Breakfast: curds and nuts, mashed potatoes with nuts, apple-quince chip sticks, sugarless coffee and vitamins.
    • Lunch: jellied pike perch, borsch with meat, goulash with buckwheat, bread, black currant juice, sugarless tea.
    • Supper: rice and meat, broccoli and cheese, nuts, tea with sugar.
    • Second supper: dried beef, cashew nuts, peaches, grape juice.
  • Swedish: Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang was not allowed to bring reindeer jerky with him on board a shuttle mission as it was “weird” for the Americans so soon before Christmas. He had to go with moose instead.[29][30]

NASA’s Advanced Food Technology Project (AFT) is currently researching ways to ensure an adequate food supply for long-duration space exploration missions.[31]


Russian space food

Designing food for consumption in space is an often difficult process. Foods must meet a number of criteria to be considered fit for space. Firstly, the food must be physiologically appropriate. Specifically, it must be nutritious, easily digestible, and palatable. Secondly, the food must be engineered for consumption in a zero gravity environment. As such, the food must be light, well packaged, fast to serve and require minimal cleaning up. (Foods that tend to leave crumbs, for example, are ill-suited for space.) Finally, foods require a minimum of energy expenditure throughout their use; they must store well, open easily and leave little waste behind.

Carbonated drinks have been tried in space, but are not favored due to changes in belching caused by microgravity; without gravity to separate the liquid and gas in the stomach, burping results in a kind of vomiting called “wet burping”.[32] Coca-Cola and Pepsi were first carried on STS-51-F in 1985. Coca-Cola has flown on subsequent missions in a specially designed dispenser that utilizes BioServe Space Technologies hardware used for biochemical experiments. Space Station Mir carried cans of Pepsi in 1996.

Beer has also been developed that counteracts the reduction of taste and smell reception in space and reduces the possibility of wet belches (vomiting caused by belching) in microgravity. Produced by Vostok 4-Pines Stout, a parabolic flight experiment validated that the reduced carbonation recipe met the criteria intended for space.[33] Barley harvested from crops grown for several generations in space has also been brought back to Earth to produce beer. While not a space food (it used the same high carbonation ‘Earth’ recipe), the study did demonstrate that ingredients grown in space are safe for production.[34]


Food tray used aboard the Space Shuttle

Packaging for space food serves the primary purposes of preserving and containing the food. The packaging, however, must also be light-weight, easy to dispose and useful in the preparation of the food for consumption. The packaging also includes a bar-coded label, which allows for the tracking of an astronaut’s diet. The labels also specify the food’s preparation instructions in both English and Russian.[32]

Many foods from the Russian space program are packaged in cans and tins.[35] These are heated through electro-resistive (ohmic) methods, opened with a can-opener, and the food inside consumed directly. Russian soups are hydrated and consumed directly from their packages.[36]

NASA space foods are packaged in retort pouches or employ freeze drying.[35] They are also packaged in sealed containers which fit into trays to keep them in place. The trays include straps on the underside, allowing astronauts to attach the tray to an anchor point such as their legs or a wall surface and include clips for retaining a beverage pouch or utensils in the microgravity environment.


Assortment of foods like those served aboard the ISS.

There are several classifications for food that is sent into space:[4][37]

  • Beverages (B) – Freeze dried drink mixes (coffee or tea) or flavored drinks (lemonade or orange drink) are provided in vacuum sealed beverage pouches. Coffee and tea may have powdered cream and/or sugar added depending on personal taste preferences. Empty beverage pouches are provided for drinking water.
  • Fresh Foods (FF)– Fresh fruit, vegetables and tortillas delivered by resupply missions. These foods spoil quickly and need to be eaten within the first two days of flight to prevent spoilage. These foods are provided as psychological support.
  • Irradiated (I) Meat – Beef steak that is sterilized with ionizing radiation to keep the food from spoiling. NASA has dispensation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use this type of food sterilization.
  • Intermediate Moisture (IM) – Foods that have some moisture but not enough to cause immediate spoilage.
  • Natural Form (NF) – Commercially available, shelf-stable foods such as nuts, cookies and granola bars that are ready to eat.
  • Rehydratable (R) Foods – Foods that have been dehydrated by various technologies (such as drying with heat, osmotic drying and freeze drying) and allowed to rehydrate in hot water prior to consumption. Reducing the water content reduces the ability of microorganisms to thrive.
  • Thermostabilized (T) – Also known as the retort process. This process heats foods to destroy pathogens, microorganisms and enzymes that may cause spoilage.
  • Extended shelf-life bread products – Scones, waffles and rolls specially formulated to have a shelf life of up to 18 months.

More common staples and condiments do not have a classification and are known simply by the item name:

  • Shelf Stable Tortillas – Tortillas that have been heat treated and specially packaged in an oxygen-free nitrogen atmosphere to prevent the growth of mold.
  • Condiments – Liquid salt solution, oily pepper paste, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.

International Robots of the Future Competition

2017 International Mars Society Convention AT University of California Irvine

Mars in the News: Kids Talk Radio Science

In just a few days, the Mars Society, the world’s largest and most influential Mars advocacy organization, will be marking its twentieth annual international convention dedicated to the study of and planning for human Mars exploration. This year’s conference will take place September 7-10 on the picturesque campus of the University of California Irvine.

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Leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government officials, members of academia and space advocates will gather to discuss the most recent scientific discoveries, technological advances and political and economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the Red Planet.


Some of the speakers will include:


+ Anousheh Ansari, First Female Private Space Explorer (banquet speaker)

+ Dr. Dava Newman, Former Deputy Administrator, NASA

+ Dr. John Grotzinger, Former Project Scientist, Curiosity Mission, NASA

+ Dr. Scott Moreland, Member, Mars 2020 Rover Team, JPL

+ Dr. Mohamed Nasser Al-Ahbabi, Director-General, UAE Space Agency (via Skype)

+ Dr. Robert Pappalardo, Project Scientist, Europa Clipper Mission, JPL

+ George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic

+ Vera Mulyani, CEO, Mars City Design

+ Cast Members, NatGeo  MARS  Series (via Skype)

+ Bob Barboza, Founder/Director, Barboza Space Center High School Fellowship Programs

+ Dr. Robert Zubrin, President & Founder, The Mars Society

Additional Middle and High School Announcements:

Bob Barboza will be announcing the National and International Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Robots of the Future Competition and the 2018 Barboza Tiger Team

Fellowship Programs.   2018 Barboza Space Center Fellowship Program will be held on the campuses of USC, California State Universities Long Beach and California State University,  Dominguez Hills.  For more information visit:

Additional Information:

Kids Talk Radio Science

Great Collaboration Ideas

What Constitutes an Effective Collaborative Team?

Matt Larson, NCTM President
July 14, 2017

Over the past year, I have frequently referred to the importance of teachers of mathematics working collaboratively to improve teaching and learning. Over this same time period, many members have asked me what I think characterizes an effective professional learning community or collaborative team.

Experts in professional learning communities often emphasize various features, behaviors, or actions of effective collaborative teams. In this message I offer the perspective and characteristics of effective mathematics collaborative learning teams that I, along with colleagues, have promoted for the better part of a decade.

When I visit a school district or make a presentation at a conference, I usually ask teachers in attendance if their school has professional learning communities. The nearly unanimous answer is yes. Next, I ask teachers if they believe that their collaborative teams are effective. For example, are their collaborative teams (grade level or subject based) focused on instructional improvement, and do they respond to evidence of student learning to support each and every student? Typically, over half the hands in the audience go down. As is often the case, how something is done is as important as what is done.

Professional collaboration is critical to instructional improvement. Simply put, in too many schools teachers continue to work in isolation. One danger of working in isolation is that it can lead to inconsistencies in instructional practice that in turn can contribute to inequities in how students experience mathematics in the classroom, students’ opportunities to learn, and ultimately student learning outcomes. If one is committed to equitable outcomes as well as high learning outcomes for each and every student, then working within effective collaborative teams is essential.

The Professionalism Principle in Principles to Actions emphasizes teachers collaborating on instruction. In too many cases, professional learning communities are little more than cooperative groups of adults who meet periodically, often simply because the administration tells them they have to. Too often, this time is spent discussing trivial administrative issues or dividing up routine tasks to reduce teachers’ burdensome workload.

Effective professional collaboration is critical for changing how we think about our own continual development and improvement as teachers and for driving school improvement. Evidence indicates that differences in instruction and student learning within a school are often twice as large as differences between schools. Collective professional expertise, when leveraged through professional collaboration by teachers in a grade level or subject-based team, has the power to dramatically impact the practice of all teachers and the effectiveness of the school. This movement away from the “superhero teacher” model to one of continual and collaborative growth can work to diminish the access and equity issues that arise from the random assignment of students to teachers.

To improve instruction and student learning, collaborative teams must focus on planning and improving instruction, as well as responding to individual student needs in a timely manner. I believe this is best accomplished by breaking the instructional planning task down into three phases. Specific questions to discuss, agreements to reach, and actions to take before, during, and after each unit of instruction, should guide your collaborative team’s work.

Before the Unit

Effective instruction rests on careful planning, and much of this planning needs to occur before a unit of instruction begins. Here are some critical questions your collaborative team should discuss and reach agreement on before each unit of instruction begins:

  • Do we have agreement on the essential learning standards of the unit? Do we have agreement on pacing for the unit? This is related to research-informed instructional practice establish mathematics goals to focus learning from Principles to Actions.
  • Do we have agreement on the mathematical tasks we will use in this unit, including the level of cognitive demand? This is related to research-informed instructional practice implement tasks that promote reasoning and sense making from Principles to Actions.
  • Have we developed and agreed to use common formative assessments to determine student learning in the unit? This is related to the assessment principle from Principles to Actions.
  • Do we agree on how we will score the common assessments? This is related to the assessment principle from Principles to Actions.
  • Do we agree on how we will handle homework? This is related to research-informed instruction practice elicit and use evidence of student thinking from Principles to Actions.

During the Unit

During the unit of instruction, we need to work collaboratively to implement our unit plans, monitor student learning, and make needed adjustments to our planned instructional tasks and activities to support the learning of each and every student. Here are some critical questions your collaborative team should discuss and reach agreement on during the unit:

  • As a collaborative team, are we deeply planning one lesson, or a short series of lessons on a concept, for this unit? This is related to the professionalism and teaching and learning principles from Principles to Actions. You likely don’t have time to engage in this level of planning for every lesson, but your goal should be to do this for a critical lesson or concept in each unit.
  • Are we effectively implementing the tasks we agreed on before the unit at the intended level of cognitive demand? This is related to research-informed instructional strategy support productive struggle in learning mathematics from Principles to Actions.
  • Are we using in-class formative assessment processes to monitor student understanding and guide our instruction? This is related to the research-informed instructional strategy elicit and use evidence of student thinking from Principles to Actions.
  • Are we monitoring our classroom environment? Are we cultivating on the strengths of students? Are we cultivating positive student mathematics identities for each and every student? This is related to the access and equity principle from Principles to Actions.

After the Unit

For effective collaborative teams the work doesn’t end when the unit ends. Both student and teacher learning should continue. Here are some critical questions your collaborative team should discuss and take action on after a unit of instruction ends:

  • How did our students do on the common formative assessment? How are we supporting students in using feedback from the assessment to continue their learning and deepen their understanding? Who needs an additional opportunity to learn and demonstrate their learning?
  • How effective were our instructional plans, activities, and assessments for the unit? What adjustments do we need to make in advance of the next unit? What adjustments do we need to make before teaching this unit again next year?

Participation in a collaborative team provides an effective structure to relentlessly and deliberately study, reflect on, and improve one’s practice. The questions and actions recommended here can support your collaborative team not only to focus on continual improvement of instructional practice but also help ensure that you respond to each and every student’s instructional needs in real-time, lesson-by-lesson, and unit-by-unit.

As you work collaboratively in your teams, I encourage you to take advantage of the new NCTM grade-band series Taking Action: Implementing Effective Teaching Practices. The Taking Action series provides case studies that your collaborative team can discuss to deepen your understanding of effective instructional practices. The series also connects the instructional practices in Principles to Actions to equity-based instructional practices to advance the learning of each and every student.

If you are not currently working in subject-based or grade-level collaborative teams, I challenge you to start doing so this next year. If you are already working in collaborative teams, great! Then I challenge you and your colleagues to ask yourselves the questions outlined here to ensure that your collaborative team focuses on continual instructional improvement, supports each and every student in learning more mathematics, and encourages the development of a positive mathematics identity and high sense of agency in each and every student.

We need soil samples from around the planet Earth: Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Project-Based Learning

High School students working at the Barboza Space Center are working on growing better plants for Mars.

We need a test-tube size sample of soil from your country for experiments we will be conducting in July, 2018 in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California.  We want to collaborate with other high school students from around the world.   Our project is the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures.  

Contact: Bob Barboza at (562) 221-1780 Cell.

Soil Sample Mars Project.jpg

Martian soil

Curiosity‘s view of Martian soil and boulders after crossing the “Dingo Gap” sand dune (February 9, 2014; raw color).

Martian soil is the fine regolith found on the surface of Mars. Its properties can differ significantly from those of terrestrial soil. The term Martian soil typically refers to the finer fraction of regolith. On Earth, the term “soil” usually includes organic content.[1] In contrast, planetary scientists adopt a functional definition of soil to distinguish it from rocks.[2] Rocks generally refer to 10 cm scale and larger materials (e.g., fragments, breccia, and exposed outcrops) with high thermal inertia, with areal fractions consistent with the Viking Infrared Thermal Mapper (IRTM) data, and immobile under current aeolian conditions.[2] Consequently, rocks classify as grains exceeding the size of cobbles on the Wentworth scale.

This approach enables agreement across Martian remote sensing methods that span the electromagnetic spectrum from gamma to radio waves. ‘‘Soil’’ refers to all other, typically unconsolidated, material including those sufficiently fine-grained to be mobilized by wind.[2] Soil consequently encompasses a variety of regolith components identified at landing sites. Typical examples include: bedform armor, clasts, concretions, drift, dust, rocky fragments, and sand. The functional definition reinforces a recently proposed genetic definition of soil on terrestrial bodies (including asteroids and satellites) as an unconsolidated and chemically weathered surficial layer of fine-grained mineral or organic material exceeding centimeter scale thickness, with or without coarse elements and cemented portions.[1]

Martian dust generally connotes even finer materials than Martian soil, the fraction which is less than 30 micrometres in diameter. Disagreement over the significance of soil’s definition arises due to the lack of an integrated concept of soil in the literature. The pragmatic definition “medium for plant growth” has been commonly adopted in the planetary science community but a more complex definition describes soil as “(bio)geochemically/physically altered material at the surface of a planetary body that encompasses surficial extraterrestrial telluric deposits.” This definition emphasizes that soil is a body that retains information about its environmental history and that does not need the presence of life to form.