For my son’s third birthday, we held a Curiosity the Mars Rover Party. My son loves geology and robotics and the Mars rover theme let him share his excitement for them both with his friends.
In advance of the party, my son and I made Mars Rover costumes that he designed. They are white t-shirts that he dictated to me how to draw the various rover components that he rovers that he liked best, such as lasers and sample analyzers. As they arrived, each child was given an identical rover shirt and headlamp (as working lasers or cameras depending on the child’s imagination).
The night before the party, it rained unexpectedly. So instead of making the yard into Mars, we turned the living room into Mars. My mom and I ran to the thrift store and bought everything red or brown in the bedding section. We washed it all and staged the living room as “Mars.” My husband borrowed a projector from work and projected a landscape of Mars along the rear wall of the living room. The pictures don’t do it justice. It was a rainy day and the kids really imagined they’d landed on Mars.
The children were given a brief explanation of how the Mars Rovers explore Mars geology by taking rock samples and photographs and sending data back to Mission control. Then the kids ran around the living room collecting rocks on “Mars” and bringing them to “Mission Control” for analysis. At “Mission Control” my parents had a table set-up with a key and some information about the rocks that the kids were finding. It was like an Easter egg hunt, only instead of eggs the kids were collecting rocks and learning about them. The huge antennae was a pretend parabolic dish antennae for collecting the signals from the rovers.
We had hidden a set comprised of four types of rocks: obsidian, granite, pumice and basalt. There was a key for them at mission control for the kids to match their rocks to. By the end of the party, most of the kids could accurately recognize those types of rock.
Some of the kids got curious about what the rocks looked like inside, so my mom (a retired science teacher) took out chisel, hammer and safety goggles. One at a time, the children who were interested got to crack open various rocks that they collected so she could talk about them in a little more depth.
I baked a Curiosity the Mars Rover cake. It was red and chocolate marble cake inside with chocolate icing and decorated with Mars rocks (a variety of chocolate candy and crumbled cookies as rocks) and Curiosity on top.
The “little rovers” also got to play with and eat homemade chocolate gears dusted with gold luster-dust.
After cake, we used the projector to show the kids a video about Mars rovers landing on the surface of Mars. Then they had a chance to build their own rovers out of Legos and try to land them safely. We put out an array of balloons, tape, parachutes, coffee filters etc. and we let them experiment with it for a while.
Building the rovers:
Testing the landing gear:
I have no photographs of my favorite part. Right at the end of the party, when all of the kids understood what the game was about, they used a blanket was a part of the Mars staging as a tent and they had a lively game of pretending to be Mars rovers.
Very tired rovers resting on Mars… Little rovers were sent home with their costumes, a bag of mars rocks that they’d collected and a link to more Mars Games for home.