Messages from Space
The Solar System and Beyond

Grades 5—8

Written by Kevin Beals, John Erickson, and Cary Sneider

sound files available

Building on collaborative work between the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and the Lawrence Hall of Science, Messages from Space takes advantage of our fascination with extraterrestrials to catalyze study of the solar system and beyond. The activities create an exciting context for students to engage in creative learning, gaining a great deal of astronomical knowledge.

The unit begins when students attempt to decode a fictitious message from outer space. Imagining that they are SETI scientists, students begin to analyze where, in the solar system and beyond, there may be conditions favorable for life. They investigate how our solar system and other planetary systems may have formed, and consider how what we know about the solar system fits into a bigger picture of the universe. Throughout, students consider whether life could exist "out there" and, if so, how we might communicate with those lifeforms. In doing so, students also gain valuable experience distinguishing science fact from sensationalized fiction.

Messages from Space includes background information and diverse resources. Teachers do not need to have special knowledge of astronomy to present this unit successfully. All GEMS guides are thoroughly tested in classrooms nationwide and come complete with clear step-by-step instructions, assessment suggestions, literature connections, and ideas for further investigation.

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Literature Connections

Spanish Language Student Materials

What materials are needed to present this unit? See the full list.


Praise for Messages from Space:

"I must say that I enjoyed this unit more than any other GEMS unit I've used and so did my students. The underlying theme of the message held everyone's attention and was a useful hook to grasp onto throughout the unit. And the travel brochure and science fiction stories provided excellent opportunities for assessment."ñTeacher, Alexandria, Virginia

NSTA Recommends   Messages from Space
"The collection from the Lawrence Hall of Science taps into students' fascination with space and focuses on scientific methods of investigation rather than on the realm of fantasy or entertainmentÖExperienced science and math teachers will recognize the high quality and standards-based pedagogy of the GEMS guidesÖI would strongly recommend these creative, interesting, and attention-grabbing activities. The book would also make a great organizer for a summer or after-school enrichment program at the elementary level."
–National Science Teachers Association Recommends

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ISBN: Grade Level Format Price
0-924886-17-X 58 6 Activities,
192 pages
$23.00

Lawrence Hall of Science    © 2014 UC Regents. All rights reserved.    Contact GEMS    Updated June 20, 2011