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Lesson Title: Search for Life on Other Worlds - What is Life and What Does it Need to Live?
May 11, 2012

Unit: Life Science - Search for Life

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science and Mathematics

Teacher Prep Time: 2 hours

Lesson Time Needed: 4 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: define life, aliens, physical features of the body, habitation requirements

Materials:

Astrobiology Activity Guide
What is Life?
One Activity Guide (page 9) for each student
Pairs of objects (see Step 1) for each group:
• two hand lenses
• three jars
• hot tap water in a container
• 150 mg sand
• 15 mg sugar
• half a packet of active dry yeast
• one fizzing-style antacid tablet
What Does Life Need to Live?
One Activity Guide (pages 16 and 17) for each student
How to tell what's growing in your environment (page 19) key for each group
One to two sets of environment cards (page 15)
Materials for the 12 environments (see page 14, Teacher notes on the 12 environments for growing organisms):
• Seeds: Quick growing seeds, damp paper towel or soil and plastic baggie
• Pond Environment: Open container with pond sediment and loose materials from a local pond, such as sticks and plants.
• Apple: ½ apple in an open bowl
• Grapes: slightly crushed grapes in water.
• Brine Shrimp: Brine shrimp eggs available at pet stores and online. Container as described in the directions with the eggs.
• Yeast: 5 g of yeast (new package), 50 ml water and 5 g sugar
• Bread: Moist bread in a plastic baggie
• Dried beans: Select dried beans, and 200 ml water
• Cheese: Cottage cheese, yogurt or cream cheese
• Lettuce: Lettuce in plastic baggie
• Cornstarch & Rich Soil: 5 g cornstarch, 95 g soil and water
• Hay: Handful of hay and water
• *Student observations will be greatly improved if hand lenses and/or a microscope are available for use.
 

Description
These two activities will lay the conceptual groundwork for understanding questions fundamental to the field of astrobiology. The students will examine the nature of life, what it requires, its limits and where it might be found as well as learn important ideas related to the search for extraterrestrial life.

Objectives
Students will:
• Compare real and fake or live and dead objects and brainstorm ideas about what life is.
• Refine the definition by playing 20 Questions to identify an object or organism.
• Test the definition by comparing "mystery" samples.
• Grow organisms in 1 of 12 classroom environments and identify common requirements (e.g., water, nutrients and energy).
• Design a mission to identify habitable places by searching for water, nutrients and energy.


First page of Search for Life on Other Worlds: What is Life and What Does it Need to Live?

Lesson Guide
Search for Life on Other Worlds: What is Life and What Does it Need to Live? Lesson
[78KB PDF file]

 

 

Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. What is Life?
    Compare real and fake - or live and dead - objects and brainstorm ideas about what life is. (Page 5)
    Keywords: real, dead, fake, alive

  2. What does life need to live?
    Students will create small environments for microbes to thrive to gain a better understanding of life's needs for water, nutrients and energy. (Page 11)
    Keywords: water, nutrients, energy

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Understanding of the nature of science.
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
Life Science
• Characteristics of organisms.
• Organisms and environments.


 

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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator