Curious camp snake pic

Curious campers observe movement of a hognose snake this week before designing their own Mars rover. From left: Maddox Hickman, Siena Link, and Max Dearman watch intently as biologist Neil Ford displays the snake.

While Perseverance explores Mars, Curious kids are observing animals near home for different ways to move over the red planet’s difficult terrain. 

The first through fourth-grade students are using biomimicry — or copying nature — to design a rover that can move over the sandy, rocky terrain of Mars and perform two experiments 215 million miles away.

To teach the campers about movement, some unusual guests — two snakes and three crayfish — visited this week to show off their moves.

Neil Ford, who recently retired as biology professor from the University of Texas at Tyler, brought the animals to demonstrate the physical principles of movement patterns like slithering, sidewinding, crawling and paddling.

Though NASA’s engineers don’t need help designing a Mars rover this year, they will need engineers who can in the future as space exploration becomes more important.

The students are also learning about unique physical conditions on the red planet that make exploration particularly challenging. 

Curious Director Lucinda Presley opened the lesson by reviewing what they learned the day before. Campers responded one by one.

Mars has very little oxygen,” said one.

There’s frozen water under the ground,” said another.

Mars has lots of solar radiation,” said another.

Too much for humans and animals,” Presley reminded them.

Unless they’re wearing a space suit,” another child said. 

Few concepts are too far out for Curious campers to understand. 

One more Curious camp occurs next week, June 14-18, for students in grades third through sixth. For information about the museum, visit

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