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Resource Library  |  Additional Inquiries  |  Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 9

How does Mars compare to Earth?

Above Image: Mars, Earth and the Moon © Tokarsky,


Students use a variety of sources of information to compare the physical characteristics of Mars to the physical characteristics of Earth. Students will use a Venn diagram to organize information and determine what similarities exist between these two planets. Students then consider the implications of the physical characteristics of Mars vs. Earth in terms of the challenges to overcome in preparing for a human interplanetary mission to Mars.

Inquiry Skill Development

  • To organize and summarize information from a variety of sources
  • To use comparing, contrasting and analytical skills

Concept Development

  • To identify the physical characteristics of Mars and Earth
  • To understand and appreciate the challenges that are involved in preparing for human space missions to Mars

Prior Knowledge and Skills

  • Familiarity with Venn diagrams as information organizing and sorting tools
  • Basic understanding of the planets in our Solar System

Success Criteria

  • Important characteristics of Mars and Earth are included in the Venn diagram using a good level of detail
  • Challenges-Solutions Summary is completed with five challenges identified and at least one solution per challenge outlined.

Suggested Timing

  • 30-60 minutes in class to read and view information resources (or before class, in a flipped classroom). Timing will depend upon the number of resources provided for reading or viewing.
  • 30-40 minutes class time (or homework time) to complete Venn diagram
  • 30-40 minutes class time to discuss and write out challenges and potential solutions as consolidation.


Tips for Success

  • Students make rough notes from the various videos and readings in a science notebook (or digital format), and then consolidate these notes to make the Venn diagram.
  • Provide adequate time for students to explore resources initially and to discuss potential solutions to consolidate the learning.


Why are we interested in Mars?

Step 1

Introduce students to the topic of extending human space missions to other planets in our Solar system, such as Mars.

Step 2

You may wish to provide an engaging hook to introduce this topic, such as an article or video. Here are a few examples of articles you could have your students read in class or prior to class:


Comparing Earth and Mars

Step 1

Organize students into working groups if desired.

Step 2

Have students read Earth and Mars: Comparison of Planetary Neighbours (Backgrounder on Tomatosphere™).

Step 3

Provide individual students (or student groups) with a copy of BLM1: How does Mars compare to Earth? Venn Diagram.

Step 4

Research Phase: Have students use the Earth and Mars: Comparison of Planetary Neighbours (Tomatosphere™ backgrounder) along with additional online resources (See Additional Information section) to gather information to complete the Venn diagram comparison.

Step 5

Have students summarize their research using the Venn diagram.

Implementation Option: Assign reading and research as homework to do prior to completing the Venn diagrams in class.


Considerations for a Mission to Mars

Step 1

Organize the class into working groups of 3-4 students.

Step 2

Distribute BLM2: Mission to Mars Issues and Solutions Organizer to each group.

Step 3

Ask students to use the research organized in their Venn diagram summaries to identify some of the issues (problems, hurdles) that exist that will have to be considered in order to achieve a successful human mission to Mars. This includes both getting to Mars and then surviving/living on Mars.

Step 4

Once students have identified the major issues, have them brainstorm potential solutions and/or necessary steps that must take place before a human mission to Mars is attempted.

Step 5

To wrap up, have student groups share and compare the issues and potential solutions they have identified and recorded on BLM2.

Tips for Success

  • Organizing working partners or groups prior to the lesson is highly recommended to save time.


  • Students could do additional reading and/or video viewing to inform the Consolidation portion of this inquiry. See the Additional Information list below.
  • Share completed Venn diagrams and Mission to Mars Issues and Solutions on twitter @Tomatosphere.

Additional Information

Let’s Talk Science Resources

Other online information and resources

The Tomatosphere™ team is interested in collecting exemplars and photos of our learning strategies in action. Please consider sharing with us at: