What Does Life Need to Live?

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
In this astrobiology activity (on page 11 of the PDF), learners consider what organisms need in order to live (water, nutrients, and energy). Learners select an environment at random and identify what they must provide in order to keep their organisms alive. Learners then create the growing environment, make predictions about growth, and observe the environment for ten days. This lesson guide includes background information, handouts, and a math extension. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 4 weeks

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Activity Guides (page 16 & 17 of PDF)
  • 1-2 sets of environment cards (page 15 of PDF)
  • Seeds (radish, grass, bean, squash, or alfalfa)
  • Damp soil or damp towel
  • Plastic bags
  • Pond water, sediment, and material (sticks or plants)
  • Open containers
  • Half an apple
  • Open bowl
  • Water
  • Grapes
  • Container or plate for grapes
  • Brine shrimp eggs in container
  • 5 g yeast in container
  • 50 mL warm water
  • Sugar
  • Slice of bread
  • Dried beans
  • Spoon or other crushing tool
  • Cottage cheese, yogurt, or cream cheese
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 5 g cornstarch
  • 95 g soil
  • Handful of hay
  • Pens or pencils


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Oceans and Water
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Earth's History
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
      • The Moon
      • The Planets
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
    • Chemistry
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Randall, Chris


  • Public domain, ,

Funding Sources:

  • NAI Lead Teams at NASA Ames Research Center and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • TERC's Astrobiology Curriculum Project