Learning environments

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ACTIVITY 5.2.2 Young People and Science

European Commission Science in Society program



Life in the universe

Original design team: Kristianstad University

Intended student ages: 15-19 years old

Languages of the LE: English, Swedish

Length of the enactment: 20, 40/70-minute lessons

Topics covered: Physics, Astronomy, Biology

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Scenario: NASA has published the first image of a planet orbiting a star – an Exoplanet. Does it mean that there is hope of finding Life? I can’t sleep when I think of the possibility of life on other planets, elsewhere in the Universe. Earlier today I was discussing with a friend about life in the Universe. I am very sceptical about alien life, but on the other hand ... if we say that universe came to be and started to grow ... and became immense – infinite. Then there simply has to be another galaxy or star with a planet like ours, where life might have evolved. But, can it be proved? I get confused by this issue, because even if I do not believe in God directly, I find it hard to believe that humans just evolved and came to be in several places. But, if you can find planets around our stars it might be a breakthrough. It raises a lot of questions... Are we alone? Where can life be found? Would it be possible for humans to move to another planet? Are there ways to find out about this? Who should do it? Should we do it? Do we want to know? What would it cost? I now want your help in answering the basic question: Should we look for, and try to contact, intelligent extraterrestrial life? Before you decide you need to review scientific data on stars, planets and possible life in the universe. You need to study the scientific, social, economical and ethical aspects of this question ib order to give an evidence-based answer to this. (The scenario has been adapted from a Swedish blog)

Teacher's guide: Download the English version of the teacher's guide. 

Classroom enactments: We have developed the learning environment (LE) “Life in the Universe?” with Swedish teachers and enacted it in Sweden. The LE has been discussed and accordingly revised after a second implementation in Sweden and a third in Cyprus. The LE was enacted with 30 students in the last year of compulsory school (15-16 years old). The number of lessons was 13 including three lessons with the detective story. Most of the student groups decided that humans should not look for extraterrestrial life, and neither should they try terraforming Mars. We have seen that students, in their statements, put forward different kinds of arguments. Many of them relate to science, for example, risks, chances of success and practical problems. Also, in many groups, economical and social arguments are identified. Ethical arguments are used but to a limited extent. 

Students liked working on the STOCHASMOS platform. They liked the collaborative tools. They shared and commented on pages orally and in text. The enacting teacher observed an increase in students’ motivation and found it fruitful to be able to comment on students' pages. Students liked using computers during science lessons as they are familiar with them.

Contact information:

  • Professor Andreas Redfors, e-mail address 
  • Link to the LWG website
  • Download a one-page leaflet here.
  • Interested Swedish teachers can find project information here.


  • Please cite the teacher's guide as: Redfors, A., Hansson, L., Rosberg, M., & Lundh, I. (2009). Astrobiology in a socio-scientific framework. [Teacher’s Guide]. Retrieved from http://www.coreflect.org

  • Please cite the learning environment as: Redfors, A., Hansson, L., Rosberg, M., & Lundh, I. (2009). Astrobiology in a socio-scientific framework. [Computer software]. Sweden: Kristianstad University. Retrieved from http://www.coreflect.org

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