The Odds of Alien Life Lesson Plan: Drake Equation Game

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore the odds of alien life beyond our solar system. Students will explain the principles of The Drake Equation and use information from the online interactive Drake Equation game to form a hypothesis about life in other galaxies.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Discuss the odds of intelligent life beyond our solar system.
  2. Explain the principles of The Drake Equation.
  3. Use information from the online interactive Drake Equation game to form a hypothesis about life in other galaxies.

Materials:

  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • LCD projector and/or interactive whiteboard
  • Computers for students to use individually

Vocabulary:

solar system; extraterrestrial; microbial; milky way; light-year; SETI; radio telescope; extrasolar planet; UFO; abduction

Preparation:

Familiarize your self with the Aliens movie and the Drake Equation Game and plan how they will best fit into your unit of instruction.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Pose the following question to students: Is there intelligent life beyond our solar system? Ask students to talk with a partner or group about their thoughts and reasoning.
  2. Display the Graphic Organizer and use it to frame a class discussion around the topic. Encourage volunteers to share their ideas and type them directly into the form.
  3. Continue building background knowledge by showing the BrainPOP movie Aliens. You may want to return to the Graphic Organizer afterward and allow students to add to their previous ideas or make corrections.
  4. Tell students that in the 1960's, a man named Francis Drake created what he called "The Drake Equation" to help us understand the odds of life beyond our galaxy. Explain that they will have the chance to explore his thoughts through an interactive game called The Drake Equation.
  5. Use the game as a teaching tool and go through each question together with students. Read the first question to students, then give a signal to indicate that they should discuss it with their partner or group until they hear the same signal sound again. Walk around as students talk to facilitate their thinking.
  6. Give the signal to indicate that students should end their discussion, and click on the "Ask!" button, which provides a short sentence about scientific understandings on the topic. After reading this, have students raise their hands or use interactive whiteboard clickers to indicate their answer choice.
  7. Select the answer in the game that most students choose. As the graph fills in, compare the class' choice to those of other website visitors.
  8. Continue with this process through each of the 5 questions in The Drake Equation game.
  9. Read the final page which comes at the end of the game which tells how many other possible worlds in the Milky Way galaxy that there might be for us to interact with (based on the responses the class chose).
  10. Then click "See How You Compare" to see how other people similar to your students answered. You can change the gender, age, and location variables on the final screen as many times as you want to see how people from different demographics responded.
  11. Give students 5-10 minutes to explore the game on their own and experiment with different responses.
  12. Have students continue their exploration on this topic using more online tools. Challenge students to research the findings of scientists or to explore information about possible life on other planets such as Mars. Encourage students to present their findings to the class and formulate their own hypotheses about the probability of life on other planets and/or in other galaxies.

Extension Activity:

Have students complete the Advanced Activity and explore the other activities from both the Alien Earths unit and the Educator Resources from SciGames. You might also want to integrate other Science Games featured in GameUp.