Hands-on science investigations for primary school children aged 5 - 11 years old


Show me content for... +

Show me content for...
Professional development
Families & teenagers (aged 12+)
Families (children aged 12 & under)



Register with us and you can....

  • Sign up to our free e-communications
  • Become a member of the Association
  • Create your own web account, & post comments
  • Be part of British Science Festival
  • Save your favourite items


Keep up to date with the latest news from the British Science Assocation. Sign up to our RSS feeds and take us with you when you are on the move.

You are here

Children Challenging Industry

Five of the activities in this CCI resource pack have been accredited at SuperStar level, 3 of which can be combined into a MegaStar project. The activties are based upon the quest to discover more about our solar system through space projects such as the European Space Agency Aurora programme, and NASA’s Curiosity mission, seeking to gather evidence of life on the planet Mars. The activity lets children take on the role of space scientists or space engineers to discover more about Mars.

There are 9 activities in total, organised into three themes: Life, Landscape and Landing. Themes can be taught independently and teachers can select the ideas in a particular section according to the interests of their pupils. The investigative activities and images in each theme provide a sequence that helps the children to explore features of the planet Mars in practical ways involving the use of key skills. They introduce the children to a range of challenges each requiring the use of enquiry skills, discussion and problem solving consistent with UK curricula requirements. It is intended that children develop their own ideas, and methods of recording and presenting their results and conclusions. Hints and facts, and ideas for investigation and recording are provided, to be adapted by teachers to suit the needs of their children.

Activity 1: Martian soil (SuperStar)
One day, space scientists hope that real samples of Martian soil will be brought back to Earth. In this activity, students will simulate the work of space scientists investigating ‘mock samples’. The Space Agency has given each group three different samples of ‘soil’ and through observations and tests they must decide which might be most like Martian soil. Students must decide what evidence they need to collect and how they might record their observations, measurements and conclusions, before carrying out various tests on their samples.

Activity 2: Looking for evidence of microorganisms (SuperStar)
One of several signs of life scientists search for is the exchange of gases in respiration or fermentation, as modelled in this activity. In this activity, students test soil samples for the presence of life by adding dissolved sugar to soil samples. If the microorganism yeast is present it will be detected by its producing carbon dioxide.

Activity 4: Investigating craters (SuperStar or MegaStar)
Students begin by investigating the effects of dropping various masses, such as marbles, into a tray of sand, using a tube through which to drop the objects to direct them safely to the tray. Various variables are introduced to see their effect on the formation of craters. Children are encouraged to discuss air testing, how the speed, density, size of the projectile is important, and how and why this affects the size of the crater produced.

Activity 5: Investigating powdery surfaces (SuperStar or MegaStar)
In order to simulate what may happen to the surface and underlying layers of Mars when a meteorite impacts, a tray is prepared to represent the Martian surface using layers of different surface types. The children choose suitable ‘meteorites’ and drop them on to the surface. After one or two drops, the children are encouraged to look at the pattern produced. The children continue to investigate dropping meteorites of various sizes and from different heights.

Activity 6: Investigating muddy surfaces (SuperStar or MegaStar)
The children are challenged to predict what patterns might be produced if meteorites had landed onto a wet Martian surface. They can prepare a mix of soil and water which is placed into the middle of a large sheet of paper or card. The children drop a variety of ‘meteorites’ into the mud from different heights and observe the patterns produced. They measure the distance travelled by the mud ejected on impact.

Download the free activity pack