Life at the Limits: Earth, Mars, and Beyond

an educator workshop and fieldtrip

Other Resources

Compiled by Meredith Higbie

Astrobiology - Selected Web Sites

Fingerprints of Life
Johnson Space Center's suite of lesson plans for exploring for life beyond Earth. What does life require? Living conditions for extremophiles, etc. Teacher friendly! Great list of Web sites, links to astrobio news, list-servs, etc.

Destination Mars
Hands-on activities for students to explore the environment of Mars. Activities in lesson 5, Searching for Life on Mars, help students explore the characteristics of living organisms and perform an experiment to determine if samples are alive or not, based on the criteria for “living.”

TERC - Astrobiology Curriculum
TERC's astrobiology curriculum with sample activities. Students conduct hands-on, inquiry based activities to develop an understanding of the field of astrobiology. Cost?

NASA's Astrobiology Institute
Current research, educator and student resources, articles, etc. Note that there are several institutions included in the Astrobiology Institute - each with their own speciality.

Teacher Resource Catalog
Teacher resources on-line. Includes “ask an astrobiologist,” and profiles of astrobiologists as well as links to curriculum materials, opportunities for educator involvement, etc.
Links to several sites on the Web, articles, etc. for information on astrobiology.

Astrobiology Magazine
Collection of articles, interviews and panel discussions on varying aspects of life in the universe. The “Great Debates” section gives insight into the differing opinions among today's astrobiologists on the questions surrounding extraterrestrial life.

Astrobiology Program at Arizona State University
Research includes photogeologic search for habitable environment, life on Mars and Europa.

Pennsylvania State University's Astrobiology Program
Research includes early environment of Earth - atmosphere and oceans, sedimentary geochemistry, and planetary atmospheres.

SETI - Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence
News, info, resources about the SETI Program - the search for life in our universe. Includes “Who's Out There?” a who, what, where interactive game that leads students through the problems and processes of searching for life in space.

Life in the Universe Curriculum Guides
For purchase, Sample lessons available. Resources for elementary and middle school teachers that are designed to bring the search for life beyond Earth into the classroom. The curriculum explores many facets of how scientists are trying to answer the questions: Where did life come from? What is its future? Are we alone?

Voyages Through Time Curriculum
A standards-based one-year curriculum for a high school integrated science course centered on the unifying theme of evolution. The six modules, Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin of Life, Evolution of Life, Hominid Evolution, and Evolution of Technology, use the constructivist approach of engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate as an instructional framework.

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic
Adaptations of Fishes for Survival in Polar Environments

Activity 1 - The Effect of Cold on Characteristics Important to Fishes
Activity 3 - Fish Anatomy: A Comparison Between Temperate and Antarctic Fishes

Microbial Life in Extreme Environments

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Cold - Microbial Life in Hot Springs and Antarctic Lakes
A Breath of Fresh Air! - Oxygen Tolerance in Bacteria
Living Without Oxygen - Oxygen Tolerance in Bacteria

Life in Extreme Environments

Lakes Under Ice
Top of the Food Chain

Origins Education Forum
This NASA Education Science Forum's goal is to bring information, resources, and lessons/activities (formal and informal) to the public about the missions and research based around: Observations of the earliest stars and galaxies, the search for planets around other stars, and the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Phoenix Mars Lander
Launching in August 2007, the Phoenix Mission will land on Mars' icy polar plains and analyze the volatiles and complex organic molecules in the soil looking for evidence of past or present life.

An interactive game that explores astrobiology through astronomy, geology, atmospheres, and biology. Grades 5-8, but fun for older students and adults too! Lessons also available in PDF form.

Microbe Zoo
Learn about microbes that live in dirt, animals, food, space, and water and their important functions. Find out about using microbes on space missions and in space colonies. Citations of printed articles are provided for further information

Micro Scope – Mono Lake
A collection of slide images of the organisms at Mono Lake with related descriptions and links. Includes an educational resource page and a WebQuest guided project for middle and high school students exploring the biodiversity, natural history, and preservation of Mono Lake.

Exploratorium Astrobiology
A portal to websites that contain information on the people, explorations and theories involved in the search for life.

Biomarker Timeline
A timeline giving a concise evolutionary record of life on earth from 3.8 billion years to 1.5 billion years. “What is Astrobiology” gives the description of life in extreme environments on earth and why that is important to studying possible life beyond earth.

The Evolution of Our Solar System Timeline
Travel through time from the birth of our Solar System and the evolution of life on Earth. Stunning images and informative captions created by the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

The Correlated History of the Earth: A Poster on the Natural History of Our Planet
4.5 billion years of Earth's history, including plate tectonic maps, mountain building events, glaciations, impacts, extinctions, and the fossil ranges of plants and animals are displayed on this color poster.

And a Few Children's Books

Extremophiles: Life in Extreme Environments, from Life in Strange Places series
Breidahl, Harry (2002), Chelsea House Publications, 32 pp.

Looking for Life in the Universe
Jackson, Ellen (2002), Houghton Mifflin, 64 pp.

Other Media

"Aliens of the Deep"
An IMAX(r)3-D production, explores the possible correlation between organisms living in extreme conditions on the ocean floor and organisms that may exist in outer space. Based on principles of astrobiology, it is a visually stimulating film that is sure to motivate the study of life in the extreme. Check your local IMAX theaters.

An accompanying educator's guide has good background information and many classroom activities fro grades 5–8 that guide the inquiry of what is needed for life. There are also links to oceanography sites, hydrothermal vent expeditions and space exploration sites.

Tori Hoehler consulted on Aliens of the Deep. He commented that the hydrothermal vent information also connects directly with some of the hot spring interpretation we did (how the sulfur oxidizing bacteria we found at the little Hot Creek mud pit also form the base of the hydrothermal vent food chain).

NOVA/PBS Origins
A four-part television series exploring "Origins: Earth is Born," How Life Began,” Where are the Aliens?" and “Back to the Beginning.” Accompanying website has extensive resources such as interviews, web-interactives (including “A Brief History of Life” timeline), slide shows, teacher guides, and links. Grade level 7+. VHS/DVD available for purchase.

Life at the Limits: Organisms in Extreme Environments
Wharton, David A. (2002)
(sound recording on CD). Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 1 sound disc.

MARS – Selected Resources

Allan's Mars Maps Page – description and access to many mars maps
A compilation of different maps (in Hemisphere and Mercator projections) of general properties of Mars in consistent sizes and format. Clicking on the thumbnail image of each map will display it at ~ 2 pixels per degree, a fast download. Each description has links to any higher-resolution images that are currently available.

Exploring Mars
Provides access to a variety of educational products about Mars that have been developed at the Lunar and Planetary Institute including classroom activities, image collections, slide sets with descriptive text, and references for further study.

Exploring Planets in the Classroom - Hands-on Activities
This site contains Mars landform identification pages for teachers, student activity sheets and photographs of Mars to be used in the lesson. A Mars fact sheet from Mars Team Online includes a chart containing key facts and basic information about Mars and Earth.

Mars Quest Online
On this site you can launch an interactive spacecraft to Mars, explore its volcanoes and canyons, solve mysteries about the search for life on Mars and explore the latest rover images.

The Mars Millennium Project gives you the tools to make a village for 100 transplanted Earthlings on Mars in the year 2030. This official White House Millennium Council Initiative is an interdisciplinary learning project for students of grades K–12.

Reaching for the Red Planet
This site provides a multi-purpose curriculum for a Mars colony project . It entails learning general facts about the planets, and the Earth's environment. The students will use drawings, creative writing, research skills, teamwork, math, and the scientific method to explore their own environment, and design an artificial one for Mars.

Probing Below the Surface of Mars
Students will use models of a near surface ice-rich and near surface ice-free Mars to examine how the ice content of the Martian soil will affect the rate at which a heat probe will warm it. These lessons for grades 5 through 8 allow students to record and graph temperature data and see how the properties of a material affect the transfer of heat.

The History of Mars Exploration
This site displays the history of Mars exploration and gives information related to the most mystifying questions: Did life exist on Mars in the past or present? Was water present on the planet? If so, in what form? Could Mars be used to tell us more about the evolution of both Earth and our solar system?

Mars Daily
This site contains the latest news and information pertaining to Mars along with other general space news.

Mars Society Official Website
This site provides Mars conference and convention schedules along with the latest articles, information and news pertaining to the Red planet. Includes Mars picture of the day.

The Mars Millennium Project
This site compares geology and weather on Earth and Mars. Written at beginner or advanced levels and are in PDF format.

Field Trip to Mars - Just for Kids Site Map
This site leads students on a virtual field trip to Mars. The topics section highlights various geological features and supplemental material.

Life on Mars?
A brief introduction to the evidence supporting life in the Martian meteorite ALH84001.

Mars Image Sites

Mars Global Surveyor -
Mars Orbiter Camera

Mars 2001 Odyssey THEMIS
(Thermal Emission Imaging System):

Allan's Mars Maps Page
(see description above)

Mars Unearthed
Mars Global Surveyor high-resolution 3-D images are provided along with comparisons, animations, and movies.

The International MarsWatch site is for both amateur and professional astronomers. Here you will find images of Mars, tools to aid you in planning your own Mars observations, current and past issues of the International Mars Watch Electronic Newsletter, and links to other Mars-relevant sites on the Internet.

Slide Sets

The Red Planet: A Survey of Mars
Kiefer, Treiman, and Clifford. Copyright 1997 by the Lunar and Planetary Institute. 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77058-1113.

Ancient Life on Mars
Pat Dasch and Allan Treiman. Copyright 1999 by the Lunar and Planetary Institute. 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77058-1113.


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