Title: Naming Names on Mars315

Key Words: places, regions, culture

National Geographic Standard: National Standard 6, NH State Standard 11.10.3

Teaching Level: H

Purpose/Objectives: Students will:

Describe how places and regions are important to individual human identity and how they serve as symbols that can unify or fragment society.
Describe how people view places and regions on the basis of their stage of life, sex, social class, ethnicity, values and belief systems.

Materials: Excerpts from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, maps of NH, Teacher-created map of the planet Mars. (This is your loose interpretation of what Mars looks like from what we know. Put the features that you think Mars has on the map. The point is not to make your map look accurate but to put mountains and other features that the students could name. The July 14, 1997 issue of Time contains an article on a map of Mars.)


A. Put students in groups and ask them to list from the maps of NH five towns or physical features that have Native American names. Then have them find the names of five towns or physical locations that were named after places in Europe.

B. When the groups are finished, put two columns on the board, one for Native American and one for European. Indicate what the Native American names mean. (See Katharine Blaisdell's book Over the River and through the Years, Volume I for the meaning of some Native American place names.)

C. Discuss the difference between the Native American names and the European names for places. Discuss why the settlers might have chosen the names that they chose and why the Native Americans chose the names that they chose. Then ask why the Europeans kept some Native American names.

D. Read the following excerpts from The Martian Chronicles: "August 2001: The Settlers" and "2004-05:The Naming of Names." These are both short excerpts and could be read by the teacher or the students. Ask students to respond to the readings in a paragraph or two. What are their reactions to this interpretation of the settlement of Mars?

E. Read aloud some of the students' reactions and focus on the following questions:

How do people express an attachment to places and regions?

How do ethnicity, age, social class, values and belief systems affect the perception of a place?

How do specific places such as Arlington National Cemetery or Gettysburg take on symbolic meaning ?

F. Put the students back in their groups and pass out the Mars map. Ask students to name five places on the map and to explain how their culture and experience influenced the names of these places.

G. Finally, ask students individually to answer the following in a couple paragraphs.

What are the costs and what are the gains of our Americentric cultural identity in the development of the Martian Landscape?

Evaluation/Assessment: The final writing exercise is the main assessment tool for this lesson.

Extension/Enrichment: Martian Chronicles is an excellent way to teach settlement, ecosystems, and environmental, technological, and cultural geography lessons. It is especially timely now with the exploration of Mars by Pathfinder.

Reflections: How successful was this lesson? Did all students benefit? Were there any surprises? What might you do differently another time? Please note any changes that will make this lesson more effective and useful in the future and pass them along to the NHGA. We appreciate your comments.

Thank you.
The authors.

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