Grade 3-5

Destination: Mars

Updated: August 6 2015,
Author: Abbejean Kehler


spaceshipHave you ever thought what it would be like if we lived in outer space? Think about what types of things you will need to survive in space. Will they be similar to what you need to survive here on earth or different?

It is quite possible that some of you sitting in the classroom today will not be living on Earth tomorrow. But, even if you slip the bonds of Earth’s gravity, you will not leave scarcity, choices, opportunity costs, money or resources behind. There will be a continued need to develop human capital though education, good health, exercise, motivation and healthy work attitudes.

It is nearly impossible to predict: what jobs will be in demand, which skills most needed, what entrepreneurial opportunities will exist, or what resources will be necessary to sustain life in space. Once the present uncertain challenges and opportunities are recognized, the importance of education will become even clearer to you.

By building a strong foundation of critical thinking and economic reasoning, we are helping all students to reach for the stars, whether they will be living in space or here on Earth. Teachers are in the best position to nurture those dreams. In the words of Christa McAuliffe "I touch the future, I teach."

Task List

You have been selected to travel on a special mission to Mars. But before you go, you must decide what to pack. The amount of space for cargo is extremely limited. Space engineers have collected what they believe to be the most useful items; however the list is still not cut down – you only have space for 10 additional items. Discuss this with your group, make your selection and mark the quantity of each you decide to take with you. Prepare your extra cargo list. Then you will use a scenario to see how well you decided. Be sure to note that scarcity can exist in many different forms and many choices need to be considered. After you are finished selecting which items to keep you will be able to recognize that setting your criteria can increase or decrease you chances for success.


  1. A group of 3-4 of you will have a "Cargo List".
  2. boy in space

  3. You will be divided into groups, and each of your groups will represent a country. Together, your group needs to name your country, elect a leader, elect a secretary (records your group’s final choices) and a reporter (reports to the class your group's selections and the reasons for those selections).
  4. Scenario – Follow these guidelines:

    Each country will be entering a "space race": a race to see whose spacecraft will be the first to reach the planet Mars. In this lesson your countries will prepare for your trip.

    During their quest you will experience a condition called scarcity. Scarcity is the condition in which people are not able to have all of the goods and services that they want. Because of scarcity, people are required to make choices about using productive resources to satisfy their wants. In this case, space on the ship is extremely limited, you will be selecting additional items to take aboard. Some of the items will be of greater use than others. Consider each carefully by developing criteria which can assist in making your choice. Some choices will have greater payoffs than others. It is up to you to determine what items are more important for their survival.

    Wants are satisfied by consuming goods and services: goods and services are made with productive resources.

    Productive resources – natural (land), human (labor), capital and entrepreneurial resources (entrepreneurship).

    Space program coordinators have determined the supplies that they believe are necessary for this trip and have already put them aboard your spacecraft. However, a small amount of space remains and your countries may have additional cargo they wish to include. This cargo can be used to satisfy other wants of the astronauts. These wants are economic wants, which are desires that can be satisfied by consuming a good or a service.

    Due to the limited space in the module (cargo space is scarce), you will be allowed to choose only 10 additional items to take along.

  5. boy in space

  6. Assemble into your groups and cut out one set of the "Game Cards". Shuffle the cards and lay them face down on a desk in front of the room. Then have your Leader step forward, select a card and read it aloud. Each team who has the item will be able to add the points on the card. If not, each team without the item will deduct the points. You may conclude the game by which ever team reaches the highest number of points after all cards are read, or returning cards to the deck and randomly selecting cards until a team reaches 100 points.


Many students dream of going into space and exploring. It is a highly competitive career field. Whether they may find themselves in the outer space of Mars or elsewhere, however, they will need to take along knowledge and skills for use in making decisions.

Assessment Activity

In this activity you will write a letter to a favorite astronaut or create a postcard. On one side the postcard should show a picture of a rocket ship, astronaut or some other space related item – on the back side you should write about that item to a friend or family member.

Using the and develop a letter to the space station astronauts that asks the astronauts to prioritize a list of resources (similar to the game) that students suggest. You will be following up the game with a decision-making activity (complete with the grid) where you rank a list of 10 items (students can obtain these from the ) that might be needed in the space station.

Extension Activity

In order to be an astronaut, individuals must prepare themselves – education is one of the most important components.