Shanghai French School on a quest to Mars

Remember, on July 30, 2020, Perseverance was taking off before landing on Mars on February 18, 2021, to search for possible past life and collect rock samples for a potential return to Earth. To make the most of this mission, two LFS teachers of Biology and Physics & Chemistry had the idea of creating an activity linked with a NASA scientific project around Perseverance and presented it to a hundred teachers during an educational workshop on February 10.

Practiced this week with students from Grade 8, the activity included two parts: the first one dedicated to visualising Martian subsoil thanks to the waves transmitted by RIMFAX radar embarked on Perseverance, the second one focused on obtaining details of the subsoil to better understand certain Martian geological phenomena.

This work implied several educational goals: taking on the schematisation and exploration of different Excel functions, including the calculations of the interface depths analysed from the waves speed in the different subsoil environments.

Combining school-based learning with real scientific projects not only allows to deepen the learning of notions taught in class but also to involve students, here on a topic similar to the research work currently led by NASA scientists. How exciting!

Making a complex topic accessible to students is a process which demands a real collaboration between researchers and teachers. This practice has been introduced to the LFS about 10 years ago; it is an excellent way to stimulate students’ motivation, curiosity, analysis, and is a good introduction to scientific research!