Course Detail: ASTR102 - Astrophysics, Aliens and the Science of Life (Middle School)

What does it take to make a planet suitable for life? What is life? And how are we searching for life outside of our own blue planet? This dynamic course features hands-on, minds-on activities that develop STEM habits-of-mind. 
Using resources and data made available through NASA and the UMBC Observatory, students will learn exactly what alien-focused astronomers observe and how to make sense of it all. Tools such as telescopes and spectrographs will enable students to understand how these observations are made and what life might look like through these eyepieces.

The session will feature discussions on the formation of our own planet and how this has shaped what we look for in our own galaxy. Using these ideas, students will play the role of planet-builders to develop a planet that could host life. With their knowledge of astronomy tools and techniques, they will determine how their planet might look to astronomers on Earth.

No discussion on the search for extraterrestrial life could be complete without a discussion of what humans have sent into space in the hopes of one day being discovered, ourselves! We will learn about how humans have encoded messages to the stars and to the outskirts of our solar system using anything from radio signals to what looks like a golden record.

As a closing activity, students will develop fictional narratives describing how the first real hints of alien life would be received here on Earth. The session will include tours of the UMBC Observatory and drop-in meetings with current UMBC astrophysics researchers.

This course is taught only one session in the summer by: Roy Prouty, Director of UMBC Observatory!

LUNCH: Students staying for full day or for both morning and afternoon sessions can bring or buy their lunch.  All students will eat lunch on Campus in The Commons, a small food court.  

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Course Resources
Waiver - Photo and Video (PDF) (PDF Document)
Waiver - Release of Liability (PDF) (PDF Document)

Available Sessions