“But the film is a saddening bore”: Sci-fiction and memes to discover Mars

The idea

Have you ever considered to use memes and science fiction mistakes as tools to address spatial science in the classroom and ignite your students’ curiosity for Astrophysics?

Could a popular movie inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists?

Would it be possible to transform the memes’ creation from students as a task in a STEM lesson on Mars?

From Orson Welles’s radio adaption of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds on October 1938, the Martian glamour has developed rapidly and enormously with Hollywood’s support.
The red planet’s allure is still a fact for young generations.

So, why not watch a good blockbuster film to teach some serious science since even NASA has dedicated a section of its website to the science fiction film industry?
That’s what we thought when we watched the 2015 Ridley Scott’s film “The Martian”: the film, approved by NASA, offers some very interesting insights that could be easily adressed in the classroom to convey STEM content.
The idea of using memes came from the many maths and scientific memes shared on social media: there are a lot of groups on the internet dedicated to memes on maths, science, and other STEM subjects.

Asking students to design a meme means involving them in a playful and creative activity that can be also linked to the curriculum topics: in this case, the meme’s realization would be aimed at learning the STEM concepts and not just for fun.

After having watched “The Martian”, facilitated by the teacher, students detect the mistakes and missteps that occurred in the movie, the most unrealistic features far from the effective Mars science.

All the mistakes are in depth analyzed and corrected. From the mistakes, students catch the idea for creating the meme by an online meme generator tool: the funniest are collected in a padlet.

One of the meme created from students


Man has been loving stories since he was born. f these stories are also well-packaged (as usual Hollywood does) and entertaining, then it is even more enjoyable to listen to them.
Using films to teach STEM (and Mars) through the investigation for the most paradoxical and amusing mistakes, is a recreational activity only on the surface, it enables solid and structured learning indeed.
If the film critical watching is accompanied by the creation of funny memes, then the game based approach allows for spontaneous and natural acquisition of the content.

Another meme created from students

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About emmaabbate

I’m a teacher of Latin - History- Art and Geography in English since 1998/9, an expert in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). I teach in Cambridge International IGCSE® High School A. Diaz (Caserta), I'm trainer and author of digital content and free-lance researcher. I cooperate with the University of Naples L’ Orientale as an expert in CLIL Masters courses and I gained specific expertise in Erasmus+ project management as coordinator of several projects funded by the EU. I hold a BA in Literature, Latin, History and Geography teaching, MA in e-Learning and CLIL, and Ph.D. in History (University Federico II-Naples). I attended several master's degrees in teaching methodology and use of ICT, a Specialization Master in teaching students with special needs at the secondary level, and a Diploma for teaching Italian as a Foreign Language, both held by Orientale in Naples. I have far-reaching experience in continuous Professional development for teachers, teacher trainers, Headteachers (e-learning courses, blended courses, on-the-job, workshops) in the Italian context and also in international communities of peers on CLIL, Language Teaching, Technology Enhanced Language Teaching (TELL). I have presented papers at national and international conferences and published articles in peer-reviewed journals. Areas of expertise: Transnational cooperation, international project planning, and management, higher education, school education, CLIL, ICT, Historical research, e-learning, language learning, languages for specific purposes, Italian as a Foreign Language, blended learning, TELL, CALL, EFL, MALL, teacher training, school innovation.