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Mentor's Guide Overview

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Review the life-support system note for background information on Mars, potential system solutions and issues to consider that might help direct your discussion with students.

Air Supply



Food Production

Health and Recreation

Temperature Control


Waste Management

Water Supply



Canadian National Marsville (CNM) is a unique programme derived from the Challenger Learning Center's Marsville programme. Students practice problem solving techniques through the study of the systems necessary to sustain life on Mars.

Students are assigned to teams within their school and each team is assigned one of nine life-support systems to design and build. Over a three month period (January to April), students work cooperatively to clarify the requirements for their systems, brainstorm solutions and construct working models. Life-support systems include; air, communications, energy, food, health and recreation, temperature, transportation, waste, and water. Special teams also work to develop a remotely-controlled rover.

Students also take part in other space-related science and engineering activities. They may share their results and challenge other teams through their team blog.

Teams come together on Link-up Day to share their findings, build a Martian community and communicate with sites from across Canada via videoconference. There are no judges and no competition - the message is cooperative problem solving!


Mentors are assigned to teams to assist with the execution of the programme. The mentor acts as a general support person for the teacher - an enthusiastic programme cheerleader.

Students look to the mentor as a role model - a person in the field that they can look up to. The mentor's role is to lead teams through problem solving by asking questions:

  • What would happen if... ?
  • Have you thought about... ?
  • What materials would work best?
  • Where could you get more information?

They also help students stay on task and they inject reality in the programme with demonstrations and/or presentations.

Expectations for On-line mentors

  • Study the Mars material and the information for the system that has been assigned to your team.
  • Become familiar with the Canadian National Marsville website.
  • Interact with student teams and respond to email inquiries.

Expectations for In-class mentors

  • Study the Mars material and the information for the system that has been assigned to your team.
  • Support your teacher and your teams as they work through science and engineering activities.
  • Visit each team or group of teams within a school. Usually two visits will suffice. A session can range from an hour to a half day, depending on teacher schedules, availability, and length of travel.
  • Optional: Attend Link-Up Day and assist wherever required to ensure a rewarding experience for the students.

Issues to Consider

  • Activities will vary greatly from teacher to teacher and more importantly, from team to team. Mentors may have to lead some teams through challenges, while other teams will present completed solutions. Be prepared and react and adapt to each individual team.
  • Remember, nothing is impossible - some things are just more practical. If you are presented with material that does not meet all the system requirements, lead the team through a question and answer session so that they can arrive at a different conclusion. Then lead them back through the problem solving steps to develop an alternative plan.


November - orientation session for teachers and mentors
January - program kick-off
February though April - mentors visit schools (1 or 2 sessions)
April - Link-Up Day