Alien Landing: What Are Some Difficulties In Exploring New Lands?
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
- Be able to describe more than one kind of explorer.
- Be able to name some of the difficulties faced by the New World explorers and some of the motivations that brought them to the New World.
- Create an imaginary journal of exploration, integrating social studies with language arts skills.
- Read a skill-level-appropriate biography of an explorer.
- Overhead projector, chart paper, or blackboard
- Large U.S. map (classroom pull down map if you have one)
- Alien Landing Reports to the Commander (PDF)
- Log Rubric (PDF) for Day 26 Space Exploration assignment
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare an overhead of the Alien Landing.
- Either practice the short scene about Columbus with some students or practice reading it aloud.
- Xerox copies of the scoring rubric for the space exploration assignment.
Step 1: Introduction
Four aliens have landed on Earth. Each one is responsible for making a report to the mother ship concerning the possibility that this planet can be successfully colonized. The reports from the aliens are as follows:
Put up the overhead of "Alien Landing Reports to the Commander" (see PDF link above) and read it to the children.
- Write on the board (or chart paper) what each alien saw and reported back.
- Pull down a large U.S. map and ask where each alien might have landed. Have students discuss in small groups.
- Have the groups report out to the class, explaining where each alien might have landed and what information supports this decision.
- Discuss why the aliens might have had such divergent views.Tie this into the findings of the early explorers. (i.e., Early maps show California as an island.)
- Brainstorm and web what might have motivated the aliens.What about the early explorers? (Link the students' comments to headings such as economics, adventure, national glory, and increasing knowledge).
Teachers may act out the following with students or fellow teachers, or they may read to the class this story about Columbus.
Several people are seated around a table. They include nobles of the court of Queen Isabella of Spain, as well as Christopher Columbus. The nobles are making fun of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, as well as the difficulties involved in his explorations. Their comments indicate jealousy as well as ignorance of what it is really like to explore.
"Anyone with half a head and a compass could have done it," they say. "Just get a good ship and sail west till you hit land. What could be easier?"
Columbus takes a hard cooked egg and asks whether anyone at the table can make the egg stand on end. Each of the guests tries to do so but fails. Columbus finally takes the egg and forcefully strikes the bottom against the table, causing it to stand on end.
Once again the nobles begin to whine, saying, "We could have done that. All we had to do is crack the egg."
Columbus nods and replies, "Anything is easy, once you know how to do it."
Discuss with the children what point Columbus was making. What makes it difficult to explore? What made it difficult for the aliens when they were exploring? List the difficulties on a chart.
Review the chart listing the difficulties of exploration.
Ask, "Why are we exploring space today?"
Cluster students' answers on chart paper or the blackboard. Group their comments so that you can lead them to the major reasons for exploration (increasing knowledge, economics, national glory, and adventure). Here are some examples of responses we have gotten. "Because it's interesting." "We want to know about Mars." "There might be gold or diamonds there." "The U.S. was first to the moon and we still want to be first." "It would be fun to discover new things and meet new creatures in space."
Point out that the students have identified the same motivations for exploring space as the aliens had for coming to Earth or early explorers had for coming to the New World. The basic motivations for exploring remain the same for us today.
Tell students, "Today you're going to use your imagination and become an explorer. Choose one of the reasons (economics, increasing knowledge, national glory, or adventure) we discussed and imagine you are now the head of an exploring expedition to Alpha Centauri.Your space journey will take at least two years, each way. You have no maps. Several days a week you write down what has happened in the spaceship's log book. You are at day 27. All known space is one week behind you. You face the complete unknown.
Your job now, is to make a log entry for day 26 of the expedition. Answer some of these questions within your entry: What is your motivation for going to Alpha Centauri? What has happened? Are you lost? Are you still on course? Have you had any unusual experiences? Has your equipment held up? Have you met any intelligent native populations at any of the planets along the way? What do you anticipate/foresee happening a year from now? Speculate about the outcome of your mission.
Explain and distribute copies of the scoring rubric for this assignment.
Students are to use the writing process to write their log entries. After these are competed, have the students share their entries. Discuss the motivation they chose and the difficulties they encountered. Link to the explorers' difficulties (no maps; equipment that didn't work; unknown native populations, some helpful, some hostile; unknown environments; etc.)
Log entry: You might want to allow Language Arts time to write the log entry and combine writing the entry with the language arts skills you want to develop (writing process, descriptive words, full paragraphs, etc.)
- Do the students understand the motivations to explore?
- Can they use what they know about the difficulties to "become" an explorer?
- What part of this lesson was most enjoyable for the students?
- Were they involved in the discussions and writing the logs?
- What would I change next time I do this lesson?
Use the scoring rubric for the log entry to evaluate student understanding and writing skill.