Why do you think people are so interested in finding extraterrestrial life forms?
Do you think people should spend their time and money searching for life on other planets or do you think they should focus on solving problems here on Earth? Why?
According to the article, famed physicist Stephen Hawking has warned against sending messages out into space. After all, there's no guarantee that any life forms we might find would be nice. And if we discovered a more advanced civilization, it could destroy life as we know it on Earth. Do you think this concern is great enough to heed Hawking's warning? Why or why not?
In the article, Douglas Vakoch, president of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence, said that the majority of people believe that intelligent life is widespread in the cosmos. Do you? If so, what sort of life forms do you think exist? If not, why do you doubt that other intelligent beings are out there?
- Remind the class that in the article the writer explored the possibility of an alien encounter from the Hollywood, scientific, sociological and theological points of view. While these perspectives are vastly different, they do share a common concern: If people ever do make contact with extraterrestrials, they have no idea what to expect.
- Tell students to imagine that they are the first person to ever make contact with an intelligent life form from another planet. Encourage them to brainstorm ideas about what would happen.
- Point out that the details of this encounter could vary greatly depending upon their role in the experience. For example, a scientist and a theologian could have very different points of view. Setting is another important consideration. Are they visiting another planet or did the aliens come to Earth? They must also think about the different types of life forms that could exist and the intentions of these beings as they make contact with people on Earth.
- Instruct students to write a first-person narrative describing their encounter.
Invite students to share their finished stories with the class. Encourage listeners to identify what they liked most about each story. After hearing all of the narratives, challenge students to summarize what the class thinks is most likely to happen during the first alien encounter.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Have students write their stories in small groups. Then instruct students to answer three questions about each story: 1) Was the story written from the first-person perspective? 2) From what viewpoint was the story told? 3) Were there enough details for listeners to clearly understand what happened during this initial alien encounter?
Instruct each student to write a story and have students share their stories in small groups. Tell groups to ask questions as they evaluate how well their fellow authors told this tale from the first-person perspective. Encourage them to offer suggestions for improvement.
Instruct each student to write a story and have students share their stories in small groups. Tell groups to ask questions as they evaluate how well their fellow authors told this tale from the first-person perspective. Challenge students to identify details that might have been different if the writer had taken on a different role in the story.
Instruct each student to write a story and have students share their stories with a partner. Then instruct partners to write a brief account of their partner's story from a third-person point of view. Challenge partners to identify key differences in the two versions of each account.
A century ago, Douglas Mawson saw his two companions die and found himself stranded in the midst of Antarctic blizzards. Read this Smithsonian article to learn how he survived.
On this website from the National Museum of Natural History, students can explore historical, cultural and archaeological contexts for the Vikings. The site includes a bibliography, teaching guide, explanation of runes, description of a Viking board game, maps and a glossary.
With this online exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, students can explore Earth using satellite imagery and learn how this technology is being applied today. The exhibit includes pictures documenting satellite data, information on satellite technology, a resource list and lesson plans for grades 5-12.
Watch this Smithsonian video to hear the Apollo 11 astronaut share his views on the importance of traveling to Mars.
Explore the history of Lewis and Clark’s expedition through this website from the National Museum of Natural History. The site includes an extensive retelling of the expedition, Lewis and Clark maps and other primary resources, related activities and lesson plans and biographies of historic figures.