Monsters, the alien movie that was made on a shoe-string budget (reportedly around $200 000) is released in UK cinemas tomorrow. It may lack the eye-popping special effects of its predecessors but what it lacks in this department it may make up for in a realistic plot. Is this movie more science-fact than the usual science-fiction movie?
The back-story of the plot is this: 6 years ago NASA sent a probe to Jupiter’s moon Europa where it discovered alien life and collected spores. Great news! Unfortunately the probe crashed on re-entry and spores were splattered all over Central America where they grew into giant tentacle waggling organisms and took over an area of Mexico – not so great.
Okay – I admit not quite as realistic as maybe my opening paragraph suggested but this is a movie about aliens – how real-life can you get? And remember -- scientists have speculated for some time that the most likely place for finding extra-terrestrials in our Solar System is under the icy crust of Europa where we might find liquid water.
For a physics lesson on the Solar system you can show the trailer of the film and then ask the students to explain what a ‘probe’ is. After explaining that the probe was carrying alien spores you can ask the students to speculate where in the Solar System they might have come from.
You can also use the movie in a biology lesson on habitats and adaptation. The aliens resemble octopi and are about 10–20 metres high, float in the air and ‘see’ by using phototropic (light-seeking) tentacles. They usually live in the water but come onto land to lay eggs on the bark of trees in what look like luminescent bracket fungi. From this information can students conclude anything about their eating habits or their natural habitat?
An alternative is to explain to students what we know about Europa (or ask them to do their own research on the internet – a good starting point is shown in the weblinks below) and ask them to design an alien that would live on this moon.
The Monster aliens PowerPoint is a resource that combines these two ideas and contains two slides that could be used as starters or plenaries to lessons on adaptation. The first is more suitable to KS3 classes, whereas the second is more detailed and suitable for KS4 biology.
What movies have you used in lessons and how did you use them?
Website for the Monsters movie
Information about Europa and evidence to suggest why it might harbour life in easy to understand language