Habitability and life on earth:

Classroom activities

The activities in this section will give students the opportunity to develop an understanding of habitability and life on Earth. The list contains links, suggested grade levels, and short descriptions. For more detail, click on the title of each activity.


Adopt a Microbe  

  • This curriculum blends concepts from Earth sciences and biology, focusing on scientists conducting research in the oceans to understanding the importance of microbial life there.

Microfossils in Blake’s Nose   

  • This activity allows students to access online data and generate graphs that illustrate distribution changes in marine microfossils preserved in ocean sediment cores. Students will retrieve data for several microfossils and generate a graph that illustrates the geologic period of time in which the organisms existed. After graphing the data, students will observe and compare their findings with the class.

A Tale of Two Teeth 

  • Students use different tooth fossils to study climate change in a story telling / socratic seminar format.

Understanding Sea Floor Spreading with Nannofossils  

  • Students interpret data from an early leg of the scientific ocean drilling program to determine how scientists solidified their understanding of seafloor spreading.



Expedition to the Sea Floor  

  • Using GoogleEarth, students study seafloor spreading by analyzing the ages of microbes in sediments at different distances from the mid-Atlantic ridge.

Impact Craters and the k/T Boundary  

  • Students investigate meteorite impact craters and analyze evidence for the K/T boundary impact in particular.

Investigating Sea Floor Sediments  

  • Students investigate the question “What makes up the seafloor?” using equipment to analyze sediments and test hypotheses. They use the Science Flow Chart to reflect on their process.

Mohawk Guy and His Band of Neogene Planktic Foraminifer Friends  

  • In this extensive investigative activity, students use Bio Cards with authentic fossil data from forams to unlock ancient history stored within sediment cores from the western equatorial Pacific.

Tagging a Microbe  

  • Students will tag, identify, and study microbial diversity found deep below the sea floor.


GRADES 9-12, undergraduate

Biodiversity of Hydrothermal Vents at Brothers Volcano

  • Students will calculate and compare microbial species diversity at two sites at Brothers volcano.

Exploring Seafloor Data  

  • Students look at data sets of microbial phyla from the deep biosphere in order to identify patterns then form and test multiple hypotheses about the questions they generate. Students also reflect on the elements of “doing science”.

How Old is it?   

  • First, students beome micropaleontologists to learn how to use microfossils to obtain ages for cores. Next, they learn how paleomagnetism is used to accurately date cores of rock onboard the JOIDES Resolution.


JOIDES Resolution