The Nature Book List


See You in the Cosmos  books

Alex Petroski is a huge fan of space and the late, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan. Like Sagan did in 1977, Alex is making a group of recordings to share what life is like on Earth. But these recordings are about Alex's life, seen through his eyes. Journey with this 11-year-old as he learns about life, family and hope as he makes recordings of his experiences for life forms in space. 


Educator notes: 

  • The combination of adult themes and a young protagonist make early high school a good target age group for this book 
  • Reference to a historic scientific endeavor (creation of the Voyager Golden Record) makes this book easy to connect to STEM 
Author: Jack Cheng Illustrator: n/a Publication year: 2017 Publisher: Dial Books ISBN: 978-0399186370 Number of pages: 320 NAAEE: Strand 2: Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems Find At Your Library


Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record  kids Authors

In 1977, NASA launched two unmanned spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2 to explore the outer solar system. Astronomer Carl Sagan was charged with the task of compiling media for "The Golden Record," a collection of images, sounds and music that expressed the human experience of life on earth to extraterrestrials who may find the record in the distant future. This book is about the experience Dr. Sagan and his team had in assembling this content, and includes a complete list of what is on the record.  


Educator notes: 

  • Book is out-of-print but can be easily found at libraries or purchased used online; it may need to be used as a reference for groups 
  • Other resources on The Golden Record including links on www.nasa.gov abound (see below) 
  • The Golden Record provides a wonderful bridge between STEM (space exploration) and the humanities (contents of the record) 
Author: Carl Sagan Illustrator: n/a Publication year: 1978 Publisher: Random House ISBN: 978-0394410470 Number of pages: 273 NAAEE: Strand 2: Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems Find At Your Library
Topic: astronomy, space travel, human/nature interaction Age: Advanced (9-12) Active Learning Strategy: Making Media

Type: Small group exercise

Title: Golden Record

Learning Objectives: The student will:

  • Investigate key elements of an informational text and website
  • Evaluate and select the most pertinent stimuli in their environment for a specified application
  • Utilize technology to record stimuli, and justify their selections


The Golden Record was an attempt to encapsulate the sights and sounds of earth as well as the human experience for extraterrestrials to decode. The team that produced it, led by Dr. Carl Sagan, was challenged with selecting the most relevant images and recordings to communicate this. This requires deep thinking about what the true nature of life on earth is. This activity enables students to make their own Golden Record and go through the same process.



  • Copies of See You in the Cosmos and Murmurs of Earth
  • Outdoor space for small group activity
  • *Means to record small samples of audio (and if possible, video)--1 per group of 3-4 students. This could be a smartphone, tablet, iPod, digital camera or digital audio recorder.
  • Classroom space and large display technology for pre/post discussions and sharing. Alternately, this can be done in a computer lab.
  • Clipboards, paper and pens



Identify outdoor space for recording/photography. Ideally, this is a space where diverse sights and sounds are present, including some that are nature-based (birds, squirrels, insects, water) and perhaps man-made as well (trains, traffic, or playground/sports sights/sounds).



  1. Students will read See You in the Cosmos, by Jack Cheng.
  2. Share with the students the text Murmurs of Earth, by Carl Sagan. This is the true story of assembling The Golden Record, as told by the person who did so directly. Since this book is out-of-print, it may not be possible for each student to get their own copy, but one or two can be used as a reference for the classroom. Select some key passages to read aloud and share. Give small groups or pairs the chance to investigate the book. Perhaps it can be loaned to a particularly interested student.
  3. Students will explore some of the resources available about the Golden Record at https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/. This can be done together on a large display format (projector or screen), or at a computer lab where each student has their own computer. Students should explore the images, music, sounds and greetings.
  4. Ask the group: If you were to make recordings of what life on Earth is like today, what would you include? Alex in See You in the Cosmos worked on this with his iPod. We will use devices to do the same in an outdoor space.
  5. Depending on the time you have available, preset some requirements for the "record" for each group. For example, 5 photos, 5 videos and one greeting.
  6. Divide the group into smaller groups of 3-4 students. Distribute devices and ensure they know how to use them.
  7. Give each group time outdoors to make their recordings. They will also need time to talk as a group about what should be included--this can be done outside as well, once they see the possibilities. When everyone is done or the time is up, head back inside.
  8. Give the group a bit of time to finalize their selections, and delete any additional recordings. The producers of The Golden Record could only fit so much on the record, too!
  9. Using the large display technology, have students share their recordings, and discuss as a class. Possible questions are:
    • What did your group select to include, and why? Did everyone agree? Why or why not? How does this compare to the team that produced the original Golden Record?
    • What did your group not include? Why?
    • Do you think a different team of students from another part of the world would include different recordings? What would be the same?
    • If you were an extraterrestrial and encountered your group's recordings, what would you think of earthlings?
  10. Wrap-up: Before the session ends, students will either write (or report verbally, round robin) a brief response to the big question: "I care why?"

Notes about this strategy:

This activity and the concept of The Golden Record provides endless opportunities for extensions, including individual work on recordings, and creative writing about the life forms that encounter the recordings. It helps encourage students to think about what all humans have in common, and what actually makes us human. Since the concept has one foot in STEM and another in the humanities, it can be taken in either direction as the curriculum requires.

*Programs without recording devices available can modify this activity to be done by groups noting on paper what they would record and discussing afterwards.