David Black once saw a UFO.
At least that’s how he draws the attention of his students before revealing that it was just a sun, a bright light caused when the sun’s rays refract through ice crystals in the atmosphere.
Investigating most famous accounts of UFO sightings and alleged alien abductions with students is the science teacher’s way of spending the summer. And with the federal government’s report on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” or UAP, expected to be released in the coming weeks, they’ll have grainy new videos to analyze and discuss.
When Donald Trump signed a $ 2.3 billion funding bill in December, educators were looking at the $ 54 billion in relief funds included for the school’s reopening. But hidden in the more than 5,500 pages of the legislative text was a proposal sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio. provision directing naval intelligence to discover what they have been tracking in the skies. The bill called for detailed reporting from the UAPs and knowledge of whether “a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities” that could harm the Earth, or at least the US. The report, combined with the Navy pilots recent accounts of planes showing unusual movements provide new material for teachers who find questions about extraterrestrial visitors to be a great way to engage students in science.
According to the New York Times, senior officials in the Biden administration briefed on the report were told that intelligence authorities had found no evidence that the strange movements were alien spacecraft, but apparently did not rule it out.
The next release of the report is perfectly timed for the extraterrestrial intelligence search unit that Black teaches every summer at New Haven School, a private girls’ boarding school in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Engage students with stories of close encounters and use hands-on projects and 3D models to explore the mathematics and physics involved in aliens traveling tens of thousands of years to reach Earth.
Your students learn the Drake equation, a formula for the probability of finding intelligent life in another part of the universe. They read news reports about alleged sightings, such as one per Travis walton, a lumberjack whose 1975 account of being abducted by aliens appeared in the 1993 film Fire in the Sky. They then present the side of the skeptics, offer their own opinions, and lead their peers in a discussion.
UFO conspiracy theories teach students to have an open mind, “but also to have a skeptical filter,” said Jeff Adkins, a astronomy teacher at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, California, near Oakland.
He has students consider the size of the universe when deciding whether extraterrestrial life forms would bother to conduct experiments on humans or interfere with the military’s radar systems.
“I still have a childhood fascination for aliens,” said Dennis Gavrilenko, a senior in Adkins’ space exploration and astronomy course this year. But Gavrilenko adds that he now awaits “solid evidence to support the aliens before he actually believes they are real.”
Physics professor Kevin Knuth of the University of Albany in New York believes that there is something, or someone, watching us from above. He is one of the UFO researchers who have shared his experience with high school students.
His suspicions began when he was in graduate school at Montana State University. In 1988, two cows from a nearby herd were mutilated with surgical precision, and one professor mentioned that UFOs often interfered with nuclear missile systems at Malmstrom Air Force Base three hours away.
Years later, UFO researcher Robert Hastings held a press conference with air force officers who addressed the events in Malmstrom. It was then that Knuth was convinced. He believes the report to Congress will only tell part of the story.
“Now we know that the government has been studying these things for decades and has not told anyone,” Knuth said.
An article that Knuth co-authored in 2019 focuses on well documented sightings of “unidentified aerial vehicles” displaying “technical capabilities far exceeding those of our fastest aircraft and spacecraft.”
Knuth’s calculations of speed and acceleration are also good high school physics problems, said Berkil Alexander, who teaches at Kennesaw Mountain High School outside Atlanta. His fascination with UFOs began when he saw Flight of the Navigator, a 1986 film about an alien abduction.
On the last days of each school year, it holds an ET exoplanet symposium in which teams of students, assuming the roles of astronomer, astrobiologist, historian, and Pentagon researcher, compete with each other to present a case using the evidence they provide have collected. .
Alexander believes that the truth has been hidden for decades because it could cause panic. But now, he thinks, “people are pretty well prepared to handle anything.”
‘Children get into it’
Teachers who touch UFOs can find a place for the topic when they introduce students to the solar system in elementary school. Space science gets even more attention in high school.
At Coles Elementary in Virginia’s Prince William County Schools, aliens showed up at an after-school “cryptozoology club” in which students studied crop circles and interviewed a UFO researcher from Roswell, New Mexico – the site of the alleged UFO crash in 1947.
How to report a UFO sighting and whether there are extraterrestrial babies are some of the questions students asked the experts, said Tara Hamner, one of three teachers who started the program four years ago. Like the other cryptids they study, including Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, he believes the club is a fun way for students to learn how to collect evidence, evaluate online sources, and interact with scientists.
In high school, independent astronomy classes are not common and are generally offered as optional. But after Alec Johnson, a Morgan County high school teacher in central Georgia, led a school trip to see the solar eclipse in 2017, his students pushed for a separate astronomy class. The possibility of extraterrestrial life is the topic that they are most passionate about, perhaps because of the stereotype that UFO sightings they are more common in rural areas like yours.
“Kids get involved, especially if you don’t take sides,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes to share unpublished images and photos from the government report with his students.
Bennett Evans, a senior who took Johnson’s astronomy class this year, said his teacher’s enthusiasm for the topic rubs off on students.
“His class made me more aware of science in general,” Evans said, recalling an image Johnson uses to get students to think about whether aliens exist. “If you drink a glass of ocean water, we know there are whales in the ocean, but we can’t tell from that glass. That’s like our universe. “
Georgia science standards require students to study whether there are other “habitable” zones and planets besides Earth. But Johnson does his best, enhancing his lessons with The X-Files themed music and classroom decor.
“Any self-respecting astronomy professor should have a Fox Mulder poster on the wall,” he said.
This report was first published by the 74, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news site covering education in the United States
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism