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Areology: The Study of Mars

This activity is adapted from Mission to Mars materials from the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, and Adler Planetarium. Submitted to Live from Mars by April Whitt and Amy Singel, Adler Planetarium. Teacher's Edition created by ASU Mars K-12 Education Outreach Program.


  1. Examine a simulated Martian surface core sample.

  2. Learn how an unknown core sample can be identified by matching it with a known sample.

  3. Discover how surface core samples can tell us about the history and make-up of Mars.

  4. Consume the core sample at the end of the exercise!

What You Do

  1. Distribute one candy bar to each student (use candy at room temperature, or a bit warmer.) Instruct students not to show their brand to anyone else. Ask each student to unwrap their bar and record observations about its surface: color, texture, composition, etc.

  2. Have students take a "core sample" by carefully and steadily drilling a straw into their candy bar. Then ask them to record the number and thickness of layers, as well as color and texture of layers. What are the layers made of? Any repeated layers?

  3. Have the students use knives to cut candy in two, so the layers can be viewed more easily in a cross-section. Discuss which layers were made first. How were the layers made?

  4. Have the students make a second core sample using the other straw. Two students then exchange core samples. Can they identify a new sample by comparing it with one that is known?

  5. Finally, allow the students to consume the samples.

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  What You Need

For Each Student:

  • "fun or bite size" candy bar (Snickers, Milky Way, Mounds, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, etc)
  • two 3" long section of clear plastic soda straw
  • paper plate
  • plastic knife
  • graph paper or small ruler
  • wet wipes (optional for hand clean-up prior to activity, since edible material is involved)

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Teacher Edition

Student Worksheet