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By Anne McDonald

Biological Inquiry in the "Raiders of the Future" NSTA/TAPESTRY Project

Type of Entry:

  • Project

Type of Activity:

  • Simulation

Target Audience:

  • Life Science
  • Biology

Notes to Teacher:

TEACHER NOTES: Students performed a blood typing lab earlier in the year during a unit on human genetics using the WARD'S Simulated ABO Blood Typing Activity Kit. For the Martian Mummy lab, chemical solutions replace the simulated blood. "Agglutination" in the Martian lab is actually the formation of precipitates during a chemical reaction that occurs as two solutions are mixed.


In "Raiders of the Future", futuristic scientists have sent a spaceship to Mars for research and exploration. While collecting geological samples for analysis, explorers discover the ruins of an ancient civilization and six mummified bodies! Science classes become research teams, analyzing the ruins according to the subject matter being taught: chemistry classes test for metal in tools and pigments from pictoglyphs, physics classes develop robotics for sample collection, and biology classes identify morphological and physiological aspects of the mummies.

For biology, a "Martian Blood Typing " lab used clear solutions as Martian blood and sera that precipitated into a colorful display when mixed, a DNA gel electrophoresis lab compared "Martian DNA" to "Earthling DNA," and a "Digestive System Content" lab ran biochemical assays of mummy stomach, intestinal, and fecal contents for the presence of glucose, starch, protein, and fat. (Martian feces? Why, biodegradable packing pellets made from starch, of course!!) Labs from Merrill's BIOLOGY: LIVING SYSTEMS were adapted and the computer program "Mystery Fossil " was used to run a comparison of Martian (actually Australopithicus) skull, teeth, and pelvic bones to human ones, and the cranial capacity and bipedalism of the mummies was determined. Students made hair analysis comparisons with a pre-assembled kit, and a karyotyping activity entitled "Creature Feature" by Jon Hendricks and Joe Ruhl was modified to fit the Martian scenario.

In a culminating activity, "He's Not Martian, He's My Brother," students determined overall characteristics of the mummies, sketched portraits, and created cartoons depicting Martian life. Students kept journal writings and a portfolio of their "research experiences" for assessment, produced "video magazines" of research methodology and results, and held a community "open house."


The premise of the "Raiders of the Future" project was the exploration of Mars by an international team of space explorers from Earth. During the collection of soil samples by one member of the team, an ancient archeological site was uncovered, along with the graves of six Martian inhabitants. The explorers, who were ill-equipped to perform the proper scientific tests due to time and space limitations, were forced to "beam down" their artifacts Star-Trek style to their research colleagues on Earth (our science classes).

Although chemistry and physics classes, containing college-prep students, used a rotating, lab station format, biology and physical science teachers opted for a more traditional, one-lab-at-a-time format as we moved through the simulation. We felt that the minimal science backgrounds and experiences of some students, along with being a younger, less mature group having many ability-level differences required more teacher direction than did students in the upper-level classes. Because we designed a fictional scenario, each lab was prefaced with a creative writing assignment which gave the students an indication of the purpose of the activity and the problem to be solved.

Preparation time for the simulation involved many hours of forethought and planning, departmental meetings, and creativity to modify standard lab activities into "Martian" labs. Day-to-day preparation of labs, however, was no more laborious than normal. The "Raiders of the Future" project spanned a four to six week time frame near the end of our school year. Several discovery activities obtained from NASA were done in the first few days to familiarize students with the climate, terrain, atmosphere, and geography of the planet, and class discussions were held about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

This project was extremely successful because students couldn't wait to see what lab activity they would do next! Those who were weak in science, but who excelled in art, creative writing, communication skills, or imaginative thinking had an opportunity to display their talents effectively in a "Martian Newsletter" distributed monthly to all science classes. Hands-on lab activities and working in cooperative groups enabled students at every learning level to participate in all activities and to perform "real science" without preconceived ideas as to outcome. Conceptual learning, not "the facts," was stressed throughout the implementation of the program.

A published article about using simulation activities in the classroom, and examples of chemistry and physics activities performed during the "Raiders of the Future" Project at Sam Houston High School, can be found in the November 1994 issue of The Science Teacher. The article, entitled "Motivational Mysteries: Using Simulations to Make Interdisciplinary Connections." The article was written by Linda J. Wygoda, the grant writer and project leader, and Arlene Vidaurri Cain.



  1. Add 3 g sodium iodide to 100 mL distilled water and stir until dissolved.
    Pour the solution into dropper bottles labeled anti-H serum.

  2. Add 3.4 g silver nitrate to 100 mL distilled water and stir until dissolved.
    Pour the solution into amber dropper bottles labeled anti-J serum.

  3. Add 6.6 g lead nitrate to 100 mL distilled water and stir until dissolved.
    Pour the solution into dropper bottles labeled Mummy #6.
    (This will represent type H blood.)

  4. Add 4.2 g barium chloride to 100 mL distilled water and stir until dissolved.
    Pour the solution into dropper bottles labeled Mummy #4.
    (This will represent type J blood.)

  5. Add equal amounts of lead nitrate and barium chloride solutions to dropper bottles labeled Mummy #2.
    (This will represent type l blood.)

  6. Pour 100 mL distilled water into 2 different dropper bottles -- labeled Mummy #1 and Mummy #3.
    (This will represent type L blood.)



Human blood can be classified according to the presence or absence of certain proteins that are attached to the surface of the red blood cells. A person whose red blood cells have only protein A present on their RBC's has type A blood, whereas a person whose red blood cells have only protein B present has type B blood. People who have both A and B proteins on their red blood cells have type AB blood. Those whose blood cells have neither A nor B proteins have type O blood.

Inheritance of the ABO blood groups occurs by the presence of multiple alleles. There are 3 genes for blood type in the human population: the A gene, the B gene, and the O gene. A and B are co-dominant to each other, and the O gene is recessive to both A and B.

In this lab, you will investigate the blood types of the mummified beings found on Mars. Martian blood is colorless!! When the bloods of several of the Martian beings were mixed together, strange things began to happen!! Some of the blood that was colorless changed to yellow or white! Biologists on board the USS Bronco have determined that there are four different blood types in the beings they discovered, and have been able to extract two kinds of antibodies.

The 4 blood types they discovered were: L, J, l, H

The 2 antibody types they discovered were: anti-H and anti-J

PROBLEM: Could the Martians that were buried together be from the same nuclear family?

HYPOTHESIS: Next to the symbols for Martian Blood Type, write the Human Blood Type that you believe will show the same inheritance pattern:


Type L			

Type J	

Type l				    

Type H                                    

MATERIALS (per group):

  • microscope slides, safety goggles, "anti-J" solution, "anti-H" solution

  • Martian blood samples:

    Mummy #1, an adult female
    Mummy #2, an adult male
    Mummy #3, a four-year-old child
    Mummy #4, a one-month-old infant
    Mummy #6, an adult male


  1. Put on safety goggles. Place 1 drop of the solution in the dropper bottle labeled Mummy #1 on each end of the glass slide. To the left drop, add 1 drop of "anti-H serum". To the right drop, add 1 drop of "anti-J serum".
    CAUTION: Use caution when working with laboratory chemicals. If a laboratory chemical comes into contact with your skin, wash the area with water immediately.

  2. Examine the substances on each end of the slide for a color change. If a color change occurs only on the left end of the slide, this simulates the presence of type H blood. If a color change occurs only on the right end of the slide, this simulates the presence of type J blood. If a color change occurs on both ends of the slide, this simulates the presence of type l blood. If no color change occurs on the slide, this simulates the presence of type L blood. Record your observations in the appropriate places in the Data Table.

  3. Based on your results, determine the blood type of Martian Mummy #1. Record this information in the appropriate place in the Data Table.

  4. Carefully wash and dry the glass slide thoroughly.

  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 using the solutions which represent Martian Mummy #'s 2, 3, 4, and 6.


Mummy        Color change on       Color change on         MARTIAN
Number       Left of Slide?        Right of Slide?         BLOOD TYPE






Method of Assessment/Evaluation

  1. How is the inheritance of Martian blood types similar to that of human blood types?

  2. Based on blood type, can the adult female mummy #1 be the mother of the 4 year old, mummy #3? The baby, mummy # 4? Explain.

  3. Can the male adult mummy #2 be the father of the 4 year old, mummy #3? The father of the baby, mummy #4? Explain.

  4. Can male adult #6 be the father of either of the mummy children? Explain.

  5. Draw one or more possible pedigrees showing familial relationships, if any, based on blood types, between the remains of the six Martians found by the Mars Explorers.

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