What on Earth is this THING?




You are alone in the park. You see this Thing. You just look at it.
Is it alive?
Is it a machine with something alive inside it?
Is it a robot?
How do you know?
Can it see you?
Is it friendly?
Is it dangerous?
How do you know?
When you get home, you want to tell someone about the Thing. How will you
describe it so that they have a clear idea of what you saw?

You meet Thing again. You are not scared. You want to have a chat, but Thing
cannot speak English.
How do you communicate?
How does Thing communicate?
What do you ask each other?
What do you tell each other?
Your friend Thing sends a message to his/her/its home. The message is about the
visit to Earth, the park, and you. How does Thing describe all these to
extra-terrestrial beings far, far away? Remember, they have never seen a human
being and they do not have words like tree, person, girl, boy, face, hair, arm,
clothes, etc.
Wait, there’s more....
Your friend Thing now understands English, and has asked you to write to
his/her/its progenitors. They want to know what you look like. They do not
understand English, so Thing will write a translation. You are sending a
photograph, that’s easy, but...
How will you explain your face and your:
mouth?
nose?
eyes?
ears?
How will you explain what they are for?
They do not know about hair. How will you explain what it is?
They do not know about fingernails and toenails. How will you describe them?
On Thing’s planet, they grow only items that are useful. How are you going to
explain the “usefulness” of hair and nails?

You are not sure if Thing’s progenitors have any emotions.
How will you explain:
happiness — being glad about something?
sadness — being upset when you lose something or somebody?
anger — being annoyed?
love — being very fond of someone?
When Thing first saw you, he/she/it was confused when your face kept changing
its appearance. How will you explain:
smiling?
laughing?
frowning?
weeping?


Adapted by Brian Barratt from his book Challenges: Activities for Gifted
Children
. May be freely copied for use by teachers and school students.

You can investigate another Thing here: Another Thing

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