University of Arizona

Project Description

Identifying Alternative Conceptions about Water on Mars Held by Middle School Science Teachers

Project Abstract

The current Mars Exploration strategy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is to �follow the water� in hopes of finding past or present life. This study will use a sample of the general public to determine if there are alternative conceptions about water on Mars. Southern Arizona middle school science teachers have been selected as the study population because earth science and phase changes are part of state education standards for middle school in Arizona.

The purpose of this study is to identify any alternative conceptions about water on Mars which may exist in order to inform space science educators. This study is not sponsored by NASA, but the PI has involvement with NASA Education and Public Outreach (EPO) opportunities through her participation in the HiRISE (a high resolution camera currently operating around Mars) Science Team. The study will assess understanding of four main concepts: carbon dioxide versus water ice, recent versus ancient water, the phases of water, and how scientists know about water on Mars.

Participants will be recruited from middle schools in southern Arizona. They will anonymously fill out an online survey consisting of a few non-identifying logistics and questions relevant to understanding water on Mars. Key concepts that will be targeted include: 1. Carbon dioxide vs. water ice, 2. Ancient vs. current water, 3. The phases of water, and 4. How scientists know about water on Mars. Upon completion of the survey, participants will be provided with a brief description of scientists� current understanding of water on Mars, a sampling of space science education-related links, and a link to the study�s webpage where participants may view results.

The results of this study will have implications for how NASA and other space science institutes should direct their education and public outreach efforts in order to be accessible to the most lay people possible. Future expansion of this project could include surveying a larger number of subjects and using the results to develop and test an EPO activity.

Surveys released for this project:
Investigating Understanding of Water on Mars 34
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