The truth is out there. But with the new UFO report set to land soon, discussions of alien life are also becoming more common in science classrooms nationwide.


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David Black once saw a UFO.

At least that’s how he catches the attention of his students before revealing that it was just a sundog – a bright light caused when the sun’s rays refract through the ice crystals in the atmosphere.

He will spend the summer researching more famous accounts of UFO sightings and alleged alien abductions with students. And with the federal government‘s report on “unidentified aerial phenomena” – or PAN – expected as early as this week, they will have new grainy videos to analyze and debate.

“If you have a hot topic that comes up, as a teacher you want to fit it in,” said Black, who teach science at New Haven School, a private girls’ boarding school in Saratoga Springs, Utah.

When former President Donald Trump signed a $ 2.3 trillion fundraising bill in December, educators were looking at the $ 54 billion in relief funds included for the reopening of schools. But in the more than 5,500 pages of legislative text was a text sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio. disposition direct naval intelligence to find out what they tracked in the sky. The bill called for detailed reports on NAPs and whether “a potential adversary could have achieved revolutionary aerospace capabilities” that could harm Earth, or at least the United States. recent accounts planes displaying unusual movements provide fresh material for teachers who find questions about extraterrestrial visitors a great way to engage students in science.

Highly trained military pilots admit they take sightings of these unusual planes seriously – and believe others should too. With both Republicans and Democrats Interested in the report’s findings and respected news shows like “60 minutes” depending on the topic, the possibility of otherworldly beings patrolling our atmosphere is no longer just the business of sci-fi movies and paranormal conventions.

The report’s upcoming release is perfectly timed for the alien intelligence research unit that Black teaches every summer. It hooks students with stories of close encounters and uses hands-on projects and 3D models to explore the math and physics involved in the journey of aliens for tens of thousands of years to reach Earth.

His students learn the Drake’s equation, a formula for the probability of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. They read reports on alleged sightings – like that of Travis Walton, a lumberjack whose 1975 account of alien abduction was featured in the 1993 film “Fire in the Sky”. Then they present the skeptics’ point of view, offer their own opinions and lead a discussion with their fellow students.


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“Studying these things for decades”

UFO conspiracy theories teach students to be open-minded, “but also to have a skeptical filter,” said Jeff Adkins, a professor of astronomy at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif., near Oakland.

Acton, Calif. Astronomy professor Jeff Adkins uses an illustration showing the scale of the universe when he discusses with his students the possibility that aliens have reached Earth. (Jeff Adkins)

He asks students to consider the size of the universe when deciding whether alien life forms would bother performing experiments on humans or jamming the military’s radar systems.

“I still have a childhood fascination with aliens, but now I know there has to be… strong evidence to support aliens before I truly believe they are real,” said Dennis Gavrilenko, a senior of Adkins’ Astronomy and Space Exploration course this year. “I find it unlikely that aliens have traveled thousands of light years to get to Earth just to fly super fast and not make themselves known.”

Deer Valley High senior senior Dennis Gavrilenko said he had a “childhood fascination” with UFOs and aliens, but said he was waiting for solid evidence. (Courtesy of Dennis Gavrilenko)

But physics professor Kevin Knuth of Albany University in New York City believes there is something – or someone – watching us from above. He is one of the UFO researchers who shared their expertise with high school students.

His suspicions that UFOs are more than a hoax began while he was a student at Montana State University. In 1988, two cows from a nearby herd were mutilated with surgical precision, and a professor mentioned that UFOs often interfered with nuclear missile systems at Malmstrom Air Base three hours away.

Years later, a UFO researcher Robert hastings held a press conference with Air Force officers talking about the same events in Malmstrom. That’s when Knuth became convinced, and he thinks the report to Congress will only tell part of the story.

“We now know that the government has been studying these things for decades and not telling anyone about them,” Knuth said.

An article co-authored by Knuth in 2019 focuses on well documented observations “unidentified air vehicles” that display “technical capabilities far exceeding those of our fastest planes and spacecraft”.

Knuth’s speed and acceleration calculations are also good physics issues in high school, said Berkil Alexander, who teaches at Kennesaw Mountain High School near Atlanta. His fascination with UFOs began when he saw “Flight of the Navigator”, a 1986 film about an alien abduction, and in 2019 he was chosen to participate in a NASA program focusing on increasing student engagement in STEM.

Berkil Alexander gives a rocket lesson at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Georgia. (Kensaw Mountain High School)

During the last days of each school year, he organizes an “ET Exoplanets Symposium” in which teams of students, assuming the roles of astronomer, astrobiologist, historian and Pentagon investigator, compete to present a case using the evidence they’ve collected.

Alexander believes the truth has been hidden for decades because it could cause panic. But now he thinks “people are pretty well prepared to handle anything. “

“Don’t take sides”

Teachers who tackle UFOs might find a place for the topic when they introduce students to the solar system in elementary school – think of colorful styrofoam balls hanging from wire hangers. Space science is getting even more attention in college.

At Coles Elementary schools in Prince William County, Virginia, 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.

The Welcome to Roswell sign welcomes visitors to the outskirts of Roswell, New Mexico. (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc / Getty Images)

How to report a UFO sighting and whether there are alien babies are among the questions students asked 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, she believes the club is one of a kind and a fun way for students to learn how to collect evidence, assess sources in online and interact with scientists.

The group has not met this year due to the pandemic, but Hamner said she was sure the government’s report would prompt further questions from students in the fall. “We love when we have current news to use our inquiry-based learning to investigate,” she said.

In high school, stand-alone astronomy classes are not common and are usually offered as a a choice. Those who teach the subject may have a personal interest, but didn’t study it in college – like Alec Johnson, who requested a day off in 2017 to watch the solar eclipse but ended up transforming the expedition. in a school trip with 150 students and 20 adults.

Georgia Professor Alec Johnson in Gun Hall 4 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida before SpaceX commercial teams started using it for launches. (Courtesy of Alex Johnson)

Subsequently, his students at Morgan County High School in central Georgia requested a separate astronomy class. The possibility of extraterrestrial life is the topic they are most passionate about, perhaps because of the stereotype that UFO sightings are more common in rural areas like theirs.

“The kids are getting on with it, especially if you don’t take sides,” Johnson said, adding that he was eagerly awaiting the government’s report including unseen footage and photos to share with his students. “It makes the History Channel and the teachers happy. “

Bennett Evans, a senior who took Johnson’s astronomy course this year, said his teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject rubbed off on the students.

“His class made me more aware of science in general,” Evans said, recalling an image Johnson uses to make students wonder if aliens exist. “If you take a glass of ocean water, we know there are whales in the ocean, but we can’t tell from that glass. It’s like our universe.

Georgia Science Standards require students to investigate whether there are other “habitable” areas and planets besides Earth. But Johnson goes all out, enhancing his lessons with the musical theme and classroom setting of “The X-Files”.

“Any self-respecting astronomy professor should have a Fox Mulder poster on the wall,” he said.


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