Jan 25-May 07, 2021
Credit: 3 graduate
Instructor(s): Sanlyn Buxner and Elise Bostic

Course Description

Registration begins on October 26th - please register for CRN 33785.
Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and destiny of life in the universe. It defines itself as an interdisciplinary science at the intersection of physics, astronomy, biology, geology, and mathematics, to discover where and under what conditions life can arise and exist in the Universe. The course topics will cover the discovery of planetary systems around other stars, the nature of habitable zones around distant stars, the existence of life in extreme environments. These concepts will serve as a foundation to study possible extraterrestrial ecosystems on places in the solar system like Mars and Europa. Students will also investigate the methods used in the ongoing search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) and search for Earth-like planets. The overarching theme of the course will be to help participants gain a fundamental conceptual understanding of the central topics of astrobiology and to empower teachers to bring these topics into their classroom by proving experiences using the instructional activities aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, Framework for K-12 Education, and the NASA Astrobiology Strategy.

Meeting Place and Times

Teachers login to the course at a time of day that best fits their schedule. It is necessary to connect at least 4 - 6 times per week and spend 9 - 12 hours each week the course is in session, working on course requirements, to stay current and successfully complete this 3 credit course. The time estimate above includes both the time teachers will spend on-line participating in group discussions and the time spent off-line working on assignments and projects.


Sanlyn Buxner, PhD. is an Education Specialist and Research Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and has worked in space science education and public outreach since 1996. Over the last twenty years she has worked in formal and informal education in science museums, outdoor schools, and universities. Between 2005 and 2009, she worked as the Education and Public Outreach Specialist for the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer and NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander. In these positions, she conducted classroom outreach, curriculum development, teacher workshops, public tours, summer camps, and public and research presentations in the US and abroad. In addition to her work at PSI, she teaches science and research methodology courses at the University of Arizona. Her current research interests include examining issues related to scientific literacy; how to measure it and investigating how it is changed by education, outreach, and online media. Additionally she investigates how science research experiences can be used to improve both science understanding and empowerment of teachers and students.

Elise Bostic, MA. Elise received her BA in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Biological Sciences from Arizona State University in 2008. In 2011, she received her MA in Teaching and Teacher Education from the Teachers in Industry program at the University of Arizona. Through this program she worked at Raytheon Missile Systems, University of Arizona Bio5 Institute, and Ventana Medical Systems. She continued to work as a teaching assistant for the Teachers in Industry program from 2012-2016. Since 2008, she has been a full-time high school science teacher. She currently teaches high school Biology and Earth Science in Denver, Colorado.


(1) a bachelor's degree, including college level biology or college level physics or astronomy (2) one year of experience teaching science (3) must be currently teaching science at the middle or high school level.

Target Audience

The course is designed primarily for Certified Science Teachers with two years of teaching experience who are currently teaching science at the middle or high school level. Exceptions are made on a case by base basis, please contact the instructor if you would like to take the course and do not fit the above description.

Time Commitment:

9-12 hours per week. If you are unfamiliar with this field of study and/or method of delivery, you may require more time.

Tuition and Fees

If you are accepted into a qualified online program, see the appropriate MSU Online Only Tuition and Fee table below:

  • Go to the Student Accounts page.
  • On the left navigation bar, click "Tuition & Fee Charts--Current & Historical."
  • Then click "Online Programs Only."
  • Click the link appropriate to your semester and status as a student.

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedules.

Required Books/Materials

  • Life in the Universe, 4/E
    ©2017 • Pearson
    Life in the Universe, 4/E can be purchased from Pearson.
    Only the text is required for the course - none of the extras. Pick the best option for you. Here are two popular inexpensive options
    Digital: Life in the Universe (Subscription), 4th Edition - $39.99 | ISBN-13: 978-0-13-408032-1
    Print: Life in the Universe, Books a la Carte Edition, 4th Edition - $95.99 | ISBN-13: 978-0-13-428762-1 - "This edition features the same content as the traditional text in a convenient, three-hole-punched, loose-leaf version. Books a la Carte also offer a great value—this format costs significantly less than a new textbook."

    Life in the Universe, 3/E will also do
    ISBN-10: 0321687671 • ISBN-13: 9780321687678
    Used copies from at various prices.

    Prather, Offerdahl & Slater, Activities Manual for Life in the Universe. Pearson, 2nd edition.
    ISBN-13: 9780805317121
    Activities Manual for Life in the Universe can be purchased from Pearson.
    Approximately $60, or, used copies from

  • NASA's Astrobiology Strategy:
  • A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012): (free download)

Computer Requirements:

  • Internet access
  • A device and browser that pass the system check for Brightspace LE, MSU's learning management system.
  • Adobe (or other) PDF reader
  • Word processing software
  • Other free software that will be tested during the first week of class

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

For More Information

about the course content contact Sanlyn Buxner at

For questions regarding registration, please contact NTEN/MSSE at

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN number. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.