Mysteries of Space: Launch Lesson

Introduce extremophiles and have students consider what it would take for an organism to thrive on another planet or moon in our solar system.

Grades 6-8 75 min Resource by:

“Where would you search for life in space?” Students will learn about extremophiles, a diverse set of organisms on Earth that can thrive in extreme environments—ones that would be inhospitable for most life as we know it. Students analyze data to classify the planets and moons in our solar system by their defining characteristics in a sorting activity.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about the diversity of life and life-supporting environments on Earth, and possibly beyond.
  • Use data about planets, moons, and dwarf planets to understand the similarities and differences of objects in our solar system.
  • Analyze planetary data to understand the relative size and scale of solar system objects.

What You’ll Need


  • All materials are embedded in the lesson.


  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Exploration
  • Problem-solving

This project-based learning (PBL) lesson is designed to spark curiosity and invite students to learn about the forces that shape our solar system and the nature of planets and moons shaped by these forces. This lesson has been adapted from the PBL unit, Mysteries of Space.

If you are planning to use this lesson independently of the unit or in a remote learning setting, we have included suggested adaptions throughout the lesson in bold, red font in the “Teacher Guide” section.

Using the categories from the activity, what can you say about the makeup of planets and moons in our solar system?

Use two or three pieces of evidence from your sorting tables to support your claim.

This lesson can be taught alone, but it is intended to be taught before Mysteries of Space: What Is the Scale of Our Solar System?

This lesson has been adapted from an Educurious project-based learning unit, Mysteries of Space. In this short capstone unit, students explore the question: “Where would you search for life in space?” Project teams gear up to design an organism capable of thriving on a particular planet or moon by analyzing data about the diversity and nature of our solar system, constructing a scale model of the solar system, and designing a gravity well model to visualize generalizable principles related to mass, distance, and gravity. When they’re ready to address the design challenge, students conduct research on their planet or moon’s environmental conditions and consider examples of extremophiles that thrive in similar environments on Earth. Project teams present their organisms for evaluation at a Life in Space Discovery Challenge.

To explore more, please visit the “Project-Based Courses” page at Educurious.