Since 2012, ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has worked to bring the humanities into dialogue with technological innovation and scientific discovery. Through creative collaboration and storytelling, we’ve created a suite of projects that imagine possible futures informed by tomorrow’s cutting edge science while providing new, unexpected perspectives on the world we live in today.
We hope you find these resources a helpful supplement to your lesson plans and would love to hear how you used them in your classrooms. Let us know your experiences and feedback by dropping us a line at Ruth.Wylie@asu.edu.
Frankenbook, a project from ASU, the MIT Media Lab, and the MIT Press is a free, online version of the original 1818 text that includes annotations, essays, short video and audio features, and interactive content that provides contemporary context to the timeless story of the creature and his creator. Built on a dynamic, open-source community platform, Frankenbook examines the scientific, technological, political, and ethical dimensions of the novel, its historical underpinnings, and its enduring legacy in popular culture. Readers can respond to more than 80 scholars and subject matter experts who contributed to the book and pen their own annotations for inclusion in the source text.
Frankenbook is supplemented by the video series Reanimation! Science Stories about Frankenstein. Featuring interviews with scientists, engineers, and technologists, this seven-part series delves into the origins of life and consciousness, toolmaking, artificial intelligence, augmented bodies and minds, and the ethics of playing God.
NISE Net Frankenstein activities
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a mainstay of high school and college literature classes. But this centuries-old tale is more than just a classic scary story—it’s themes of creation and responsibility, and the moral questions it raises, are rife with opportunities for learning and reflection.
Frankenstein200, a set of hands on activities from CSI and the National Informal STEM Education Network, takes on the challenge of supporting learning related to responsible innovation. The project uses themes from Frankenstein to examine emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, while promoting the development of 21st century skills related to creative collaboration and critical thinking. Frankenstein200 explores three important questions: What is life?, Why do we create?, and What are our responsibilities as creators, scientists, and engineers?
Lesson plan: Bringing the Ethical Debate to Life
How can teachers equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to take part in scientific and ethical discussions? In this 5E + Empathy lesson, we use a narrative around the story of Dr. Frankenstein to engage students in building foundational knowledge about genetics and then applying that knowledge to an ethical debate about genome editing (Authors, 2018). In the lesson, students create a genome, use their genome to make their own unique creation, bring their creation to life, and engage in empathetic role-playing about potential impacts of gene-editing on society. Students consider the perspectives of scientists, the public, and people personally affected by genome-editing technologies. Students practice reflective reasoning about the values and beliefs of each position in order to develop empathy for various perspectives (Owens et al., 2018). We used the 5E learning cycle (Bybee, Taylor, Gardner, VanScotter, Carlson, Westbrook, & Landes, 2006) to structure the lesson. We added a sixth E, empathy, in order to engage students in scientific imagination and empathy as needed for bioethical discussion and debate (Sun, 2017).
Drawn Futures: Arizona 2045 is a science-based comic book for 5th through 8th grade students from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Created by award-winning comics authors and advised by ASU senior sustainability scholar Dr. Paul Hirt, this original story envisions the near future of Arizona’s energy systems.
In an increasingly networked and visual culture, comic books and graphic novels are important tools for bolstering literacy, communicating with diverse audiences, and creating a space to discuss complex scientific and social topics in a meaningful and accessible way. Drawn Futures: Arizona 2045 is designed with these goals in mind and aligns with Arizona State Standards for the 6th Grade science curriculum.
Science Fiction Stories
Future Tense Fiction is a project of Arizona State University, Slate magazine, and New America (a public policy group in Washington, DC) that publishes one original science fiction story each month (about 5000 words apiece), along with a response essay by an expert in a related field (1000-2000 words) and original illustrations. The stories are free to read online, and the first 14 stories are also collected in Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow (2019), an anthology from Unnamed Press. For school contexts, a few stories that might work particularly well are “No Me Dejas” by Mark Oshiro, about brain-to-brain memory transfer; “The Starfish Girl” by Maureen McHugh, about gymnastics and human enhancement; “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz, about artificial intelligence and disease outbreaks; “The Song Between Worlds” by Indrapramit Das, about space tourism and music; and “Zero in Babel” by E. Lily Yu, about DIY genetic editing and high school trends.
Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures: A collection of gripping short stories (about 5000 words apiece), brief essays (1500-3000 words), and original illustrations about human futures in space, funded by a grant from NASA. The stories cover adventures in low-Earth orbit, explorations on Mars, asteroid mining, and the search for life on other planets. Each piece of fiction was created in collaboration with scientists, engineers, economists, historians, sociologists, and ethicists. Also features an interview with renowned science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, who the New Yorker described as perhaps “our greatest political novelist” in 2015. Free to download in a variety of digital formats; also available to purchase as a print-on-demand book. (A few of the stories include profanity; note that a profanity-free version is also available.)
Everything Change, Volume I and Volume II: Two anthologies of short stories (about 5000 words apiece) about the climate crisis and human responses to living on a rapidly changing planet. The stories were written by entrants to two global climate fiction contests, held in 2016 and 2018. Each contest drew hundreds of submissions from more than 60 countries around the world, and the anthologies feature writing from many different countries, from U.S., Canada, and Australia to Sri Lanka, Malta, and Germany. The stories range from science fiction and fantasy to literary fiction and narrative poetry, and represent a range of emotional, political, and technological perspectives on climate change and its aftermath. Free to download in a variety of digital formats.
Weight of Light
The Weight of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures: A collection of short stories (about 5000 words apiece), brief essays (1500-2500 words), and original illustrations about the transition to clean energy, with a particular focus on how transforming our energy system will also transform politics and culture. The collection emphasizes that solar technologies can be planned, governed, and marketed in many different ways—so the choices we make about ownership, aesthetics, economics, and community involvement will profoundly shape the future. The stories were created by groups comprising science fiction authors, social scientists, and energy scientists and engineers from the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies Research Center at Arizona State University. Free to download in a variety of digital formats; also available to purchase as a print-on-demand book.
Hieroglyph in the Classroom – Slow Catastrophes
Slow Catastrophes, Uncertain Revivals: A brief collection of short stories created by college students in “Slow Catastrophes, Speculative Futures, Science & Imagination: Rewriting and Rethinking Sustainability,” a course designed and taught by Dr. Michele Speitz at Furman University in South Carolina. The book is made up of “fiction with footnotes”—compelling pieces of short fiction featuring footnotes referring to actual scientific and scholarly sources that expand and illuminate the stories. The course and the stories were inspired by our work at the Center for Science and the Imagination, and particularly by our 2014 anthology, Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future, which the students read from and discussed throughout the course. We think the stories in this book are great and thought-provoking on their own, but this is also a model of how an educator used materials from the Center for Science and the Imagination in their classroom, and then worked with us to create something entirely new and exciting!