Leigh Davidson Leigh Davidson

Space: The Final Frontier
Upper-Intermediate to Advanced level


In this lesson, Ss will discuss space and space exploration, both arguing for and against the exploration of space, as well as analyzing pop culture's portrayal of space travel, as depicted through science fiction movies. A series of video clips will guide Ss to analytically view how science fiction (presented in the cinema) has both inspired, as well as muddied our understanding of space and the future of space travel. This lesson would be a great warmer for the 'Strange and Mysterious' Part 2 LP, on aliens.


Abc Questions About Space

Main Aims

  • To provide Ss with the opportunity for freer-speaking practice on the topic of space and space exploration.

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide Ss with the opportunity to practice their gist and detailed reading skills on the subject of the movie 'The Martian' and its scientific inaccuracies.


Warmer/Lead-in (8-12 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Write on the WB GREATEST EXPLORERS IN HISTORY. Elicit from the WC who they consider great explorers of Planet Earth and why. Write the Ss answers on the WB. If little information is coming from the WC, you can also project some images of your examples. Potential Answers: --Marco Polo (13th Century Italian explorer who traveled too Asia and helped to establish trade b/t Europe and Asia [i.e. the Silk Road]) --Magellan (15th/16th Century Portuguese explorer, first to navigate the Pacific Ocean and to circumnavigate the world) --Ibn Battuta (14th Century Moroccan explorer who traveled the Islamic regions of Africa, Asia, and SE Europe) --Christopher Columbus (15th Century Italian explorer who connected Europe with the Americas and helped colonize the 'New World') --James Cook (18th Century British explorer who discovered the Pacific islands--Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii) --Jacque Cousteau (20th Century underwater explorer) Write on the WB PIONEER. Elicit from the WC the meaning of this word and how it connects with exploration. (T Answer: a person who did it first.) T Examples: --Amelie Earhart (first solo female flight across the Atlantic Ocean) --Junko Tabei (first woman to climb Everest and all 7 summits) --Felix Baumgartner (first space diver who jumped from a helium balloon 21,818 m above planet Earth) Write on the WB NEIL ARMSTRONG. Elicit from the WC how they would classify this astronaut (as an 'explorer' or a 'pioneer').

Productive Task: Why Explore? (18-20 minutes) • To provide a model of production and to jump start practicing target productive skills

Write on the WB WHY EXPLORE? Elicit from the WC some reasons for why humans have explored planet Earth. (Possible answers: for resources; for land; for adventure; for knowledge/understanding/to learn) Write the Ss' answers under a column labeled PLANET EARTH. Reference the previous discussion in the Warmer, on historic explorers. Elicit from the WC why they think those historic figures risked their lives to explorer the world. Build on the discussion further by focusing on space exploration and the reasons why humankind would want to explore space. Write some of the Ss' answers under a column labeled SPACE. --"Why are people so fascinated with space?" --"What are (were) the reasons for sending people to the Moon?" --"What are the reasons for sending robots to Mars--or satellites to Pluto and beyond?" --"What would be some of the reasons for sending people to Mars?" Distribute the HO on 'Questions About Space' and instruct the groups to read through and discuss some of the questions from each list. Instruct Student A to ask 5 of the 7 questions from their list; Student B will ask 5 of the 7 questions from their list as well. Emphasize that both Student A and Student B should ask 'why' follow-up Q's to the 5 Q's that they select. Following GW discussion, bring the Ss together for WC FB and a response to each other's thoughts.

Productive Task: Arguments For/Against Space Exploration (12-15 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Write on the WB ARGUMENTS AGAINST SPACE EXPLORATION. Elicit from the WC some arguments for why humans should NOT be exploring space (and, more specifically, exploring Mars). Write the Ss answers on the WB. Possible Answers: 1) We should SOLVE THE PROBLEMS ON EARTH (like global climate change; pollution; overpopulation; etc.) before devoting all of this money and energy on space exploration. 2) ROBOTS can explore space better than humans. 3) We would CONTAMINATE other planets with our own bacteria (like what happened to the native populations [mass genocide] during the Age of Exploration). In their groups, have the Ss discuss these points. "First, discuss with your partner whether you agree or disagree with these reasons against the exploration of space? And second, try to come up with some counterarguments for each of these points." Following GW discussion, bring the WC together for FB.

Productive Task: Cinema in Space (18-22 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Write on the WB MOVIES IN SPACE. Elicit from the WC any movies they are familiar with that deal with space and space exploration. Write some of the Ss' answers on the WB. Elicit from those participating Ss whether or not they enjoyed their movie examples and why. Refer to the pre-lesson reading task. "There's a realistic understanding of space and then our imaginative concept of space. As the article you read states, space exploration portrayed in the cinema can be quite different from reality." Inform the Ss that before discussion of the pre-lesson reading task, you are going to show them a series of clips from some famous science fiction Hollywood movies that occurred in space [Prometheus; Interstellar; Gravity; Sunshine; Armageddon; Star Trek; The Right Stuff; A Hitchhiker's Guide]. Instruct the Ss to watch the clip and take notes on how space and space travel is 'portrayed' in the movies. "What does space and space travel mean for the characters in these movies? How do you feel when watching these clips of space and fictional space travel?" YouTube: Space-Movie Mashup-HD [5:30] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y50g9qtis2g Possible Answers: Space as the final frontier [the final place to discover and explore]; a place where we can connect with the gods; the answer to our question of where we came from; a place that will save humanity; a place of hope; the biggest adventure of all time; the future. Following a viewing of the clip, allow the Ss time in groups to discuss their notes and observations. Following GW discussion, bring the WC together for FB. Elicit from the WC whether they agree with any of these interpretations of space and space travel. Focus specifically on 'space: the final frontier.' Elicit from the WC whether any of the Ss are familiar with Star Trek. If not, present and explain Gene Roddenberry's (the creator of Star Trek) concept of space--a place that creates an equal community (like a hybrid version of socialism), where possibilities are endless, there is only room for science and the devotion to explore, and each lifeform in the galaxy is provided the space and time to evolve independently before contact (no species is more important than the other). Elicit from the WC their thoughts on this type of future in space. Do they think it is an inspirational vision of our future in space? Do they think it is a realistic vision of our future in space?

Productive Task: Pre-Lesson Article on 'The Martian' (10-13 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Reference the pre-lesson reading task. Elicit from the WC their answers to the associated questions. 1) "What does the article mention as scientifically inaccurate about 'The Martian'?" 2) According to the article, how would a manned human expedition to Mars realistically look like? Why would it look different from how it is depicted in 'The Martian'?" Focus on NASA's 'Journey to Mars' program. Currently, since 2017, NASA plans on sending humans to take samples from an asteroid by 2025, and then to Mars by 2030--a similar timeline to what is mentioned in the article and hinted at in 'The Martian.' Elicit from the WC their thoughts and responses to the program's goals. Are these goals ambitious? Are they realistic? Are the Ss optimistic or pessimistic about the future of manned space travel and space exploration?

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