Who Can Live Here? Life in Extreme Environments

Overview

Students explore the limits of life on Earth to extend their beliefs about life to include its possibility on other worlds.

Learner Outcomes

In this activity, the learner will:

  • explore the environments of several mammals and birds.
  • complete tables regarding different characteristics of mammals and birds.
  • investigate three hypothetical environments and the bacterial life forms that could exist on Earth.
  • match bacterial types with their more extreme environments.
  • read on-line written materials about life in extreme environments.
  • answer reflective-questions designed to probe his/her understanding of the limits that are placed on both the organism and the environment.
  • read a handout that describes an extreme environment found in our Solar System and design a hypothetical life form that could live in that environment.

National Science Education Standards

Materials and Technology

Scientific Background

Teacher Lesson Plans

Activity 1: Complete tables that describe the characteristics of animals and their environments.

Activity 2: Given three hypothetical environments and three bacterial life forms that could exist on Earth, decide which bacteria could live in which environment.

Activity 3: Read on-line written materials about life in extreme environments and answer questions about the limits that are placed on both the organism and the environment.

Activity 4: Read one of five handouts that describes an extreme environment found in our solar system and design a hypothetical life form that could live in that environment.


Teacher Lesson Plans

Activity 1: Exploration - Why Do They Live There?

Activity Page One allows students to explore the environments of several mammals and birds in order to better understand how living things and their environments interact and depend on each other. This part is designed to illustrate that the kinds of animals found in different parts of Earth are related to the climate and environment there.

Activity 2: Concept Introduction - Who Lives Where?

Activity Page Two allows students to match bacterial types with their more extreme environments. Students discover that an environment's temperature, salinity, pH, and sources of carbon and energy are important for what can live there.

Activity 3: Extreme Life Styles - What Are the Limits?

Activity Page Three provides students with readings on life in extreme environments that cover the latest scientific findings in this field. Students answer reflective questions designed to probe their understanding of the limits that are placed on both the organism and the environment.

Activity 4: Concept Application-Who Can Live Here?

With their new understanding of the limits for life on Earth, students are asked to explore environments on other planets and moons in our Solar System on Activity Page Four. Like true astrobiologists, they are challenged to imagine what type of organisms could live in these extreme environments.


Assessment