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The Mars Rover uses Maori Navigation techniques

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Last updated by Joy Kitt

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Have you ever wondered how they drive the Mars Rover when we are so far away?  Well, apparently they use techniques similar to those used by ancient mariners like the maori and pacific island explorers.  The rover takes a reading on the sun, they know how far and fast it moves across the sky so by watching the sun's progress and triangulating that distance and the angle between the sun and the surface of the planet then Curiosity can calculate where it is and which way to go next.

In your classroom this idea might fit in with Matariki study about traditional maori methods as well the study of astronomy.  You could explore how navigation was achieved by early sailors both western and pacific.  Exploring the world has been going on for a long time and brave men have sailed off into unknown seas using these methods.

Find out about sextants, find out how they navigated the pacific.  Find out how GPS works - how is it the same or different from those old methods.  Discuss why they used the sun or the stars to help them.  Find out what the children may have done to find their way home from a friend's place, help dad on a trip, going on a hike.

The Nature of Science you could practise is Investigating by making sextants, using compasses, making compasses, comparing navigation methods you find through research and comparing your results with what your students predict will happen when they use them.   You can also enter into productive classroom talk by helping your students ask each other questions to get a better sense of what their classmates really mean, have found out or why they hold their opinions.  Make sure they learn to use evidence to back up their opinions.