Pioneering Mars: Turning the Red Planet Green with the Earth’s Smallest Settlers ( provides a partnership model for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning that brings university scientists together with high school students to investigate whether cyanobacteria from Antarctica could survive on Mars. Funded by NASA, and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, this work engages high school students in every aspect of the scientific method, culminating with students designing and implementing experiments in a university lab – experiments that will be replicated on board the International Space Station. Beyond the potential scientific breakthroughs it may produce, Pioneering Mars provides a STEM education model for project-based learning using university and school partnerships. Our team consists of a university marine science professor, a STEM education researcher, four high school science teachers, and 85 high-achieving students. The model can easily transfer to leaders and learners across the United States who will be able to replicate and extend this effort in their own educational settings.

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