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4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm w/ DIY duct tape wallet

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th graders. Eleven-year-old Bell, has spent just about all of his life on Mars. He came to Mars as a baby and has lived in the US colony along with a handful of other grownups and children. Bell loves cats and like any other curious budding tween, he has questions. Questions like, why all communication has been banned between the US and the other colonies on Mars? Why must they remain so alone? When a mysterious illness begins to hit the adults, Bell and the rest of the kids in the colony don't know what to do. And suddenly, it is up to Bell to uncover the truth and save the day.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the main themes? What is this book about?

  2. What do you think about the Mars Settlement Project and the method the countries of Earth used to populate the settlements? How are the children considered a “living experiment?”

  3. Why does Sai say the most important person on the mission the cook and why does Bell come to agree with that statement by the end?

  4. Muffins the Mouse is built a nice little habitat. Why does Phinneus tell Bell that he feels sorry for muffins?

  5. Throughout the novel, Bell makes reference to fear. Sai insists that the children be isolated from other settlements. How does this create more fear? Explain how this isolation makes the children more curious?

  6. Sai allows his personal feelings toward the French settlement influence his rules/decisions. Do the other adults agree with him? How do the strained relationships between settlements on Mars reflect the country’s relationships on Earth?

  7. When all the adults in the American settlement become ill, it falls to the children to run the Earth settlement. How do the kids deal with this responsibility?

  8. On page 293, Bell says “Did you know lions without a pride don’t live long?” What does this mean and how does it relate to the settlements on Mars?

  9. What does new frontier mean? How is the concept of the new frontier is ever-changing? What other new frontiers are humans exploring?

  10. If given the chance, would you relocate to another planet, even if it meant never going home again?

STEM Activity: DIY Duct Tape Wallet

Supplies Needed:

  • Duct Tape – Two different colors if you want contrast

  • Cardboard you can cut into sheets

  • Scissors

  • A ruler

  • A cutting board, or thick cardboard to cut on

  • A library card

  1. Build the main body of the wallet.

    1. tear off 4 strips of duct tape that are 9 inches long. Layer them sticky side up with 1/2 inch of overlap between each piece.

    2. Then, tear off 4 more strips the same length. Stick these to the sheet you just made, but start about 1/2 inch down from the top. That way, you will stagger the overlapping sections and not make the duct tape too thick to fold. For contrast, use a print for the outside of the wallet and a solid for the inside.

    3. Fold the edges over. Then, use your scissors to trim both ends of the sheet. Your finished width should be 8.5 inches, and it should be about 6 inches tall.

  2. Make one large credit card pocket

    1. Tear off two 5 inch strips and layer them. Then, stick two more 5 inch strips to the back and fold over the edges following the same procedure as the main body of the wallet. Trim the edges with the utility knife and ruler so that this pocket measures 4 inches wide.

  3. Make two smaller credit card pockets.

    1. Tear off two 9 inch strips of duct tape, and stick them back-to-back. Cut this piece into two pieces that are each 4 inches wide.

    2. Tear a strip of duct tape in half lengthwise to make trim for the top of these pockets. Fold the trim over the top of the pockets and trim off the extra.

  4. Assemble the pockets

    1. Lay the three pockets on top of each other, with the largest pocket on the bottom. The middle pocket won’t go all the way down to the bottom, and that’s okay.

    2. Use a strip of tape torn in half lengthwise to attach them.

    3. Use your library card to make sure that you have enough room in the pockets! You will probably need to have more of the tape hanging over onto the other side – it won’t be divided evenly.

  5. Assemble the wallet

    1. Lay out your main fabric with the side UP that you want to be on the OUTSIDE of the wallet.

    2. Attach the credit card pockets to the upper right with a 9 inch strip of duct tape torn in half lengthwise.

    3. Then, fold the wallet in half and secure the ends with strips of tape that have been torn in half lengthwise. Trim off the extra.

    4. Add a final strip of tape across the bottom of the wallet, and you’re done!

Some Science:

Adhesion is the main force in duct tape. It has a polymer blend that uses intermolecular forces to attract the surfaces together. Unlike glue, which is a liquid when applied and hardens when reacting chemically with the surface, duct tape's adhesive stays the same consistency before and after application.

Duct Tape Facts:

  • IT WAS INVENTED TO MEET A MILITARY NEED. The military used wax and paper tape that often came loose in travel. Roosevelt appealed to Johnson & Johnson to create something better.

  • THE NAME "DUCK TAPE" CAME FIRST. Soldiers nicknamed the material "duck tape" in reference to its ability to repel moisture "like water off a duck’s back."

  • YOU CAN’T USE IT IN DUCTS. People were using it to hold metal air ducts together, so the company rebranded the product as "duct tape" and updated it with a matching silver color made from powdered aluminum. Today, its namesake usage is one of the few things that duct tape isn’t recommended for.


How'd it go:

Overall, we had a quiet group this month. But, we also had some new faces, which was fun. We could have used some more time at the end to go through the duct tape wallet activity but I was able to send out the directions afterwards, so it was fine. Ultimately, everything went well.

That's all for now!


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