Mission Survive

Habitat Extremes

Habitat Extremes

If your class could design the most extreme habitat they could imagine, what would it look like?

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Space , Living things and their habitats

You will need:

A box, craft materials, plasticine, paint, paper, card

If your class could design the most extreme habitat they could imagine, what would it look like? Think about a solution – and put your ideas to the test!

Run the activity

1.  Explain that today you will be setting your class a mission: if they could create a habitat for an extremophile, what would it look like? What challenges might the extremophile face?

2. Can the class determine what might work without building it? Here are some ideas for their creations:

  • What are the most extreme living conditions they can think of?
  • What sorts of living conditions would pose a threat to animals you know?
  • Could a human live in your habitat? If not, why not?
  • How might an animal need to adapt in order to live there?

3. Decide on a few ideas and incorporate them together. Give the class a timeframe of 15-20 minutes to build their creations! 

Background science

Scientists are looking to see if they can find signs of life on Mars, one of the most extreme environments imaginable. As well as looking for the correct conditions for life to exist, they are looking to see if there are signs of extremophiles - organisms that can survive in the harshest of conditions. They thrive in extreme habitats that other organisms could not inhabit, so extremes of temperature, areas with high levels of salt, acid or alkaline, areas of toxic waste, organic solvents, heavy metals, or in several other habitats that were previously considered inhospitable for life.

The image featured is Wadi Rum, a desert in Jordan. It has been said that it resembles the Mars landscape, but with very different challenges. 

A team from NASA’s Astrobiology Programme has developed the Ladder of Life Detection, a guide for researchers where each rung represents a key attribute of life. These are known as biosignatures, features that all living things need such as water, energy and the building blocks for life.


The ExoMars mission is looking for signs of life on Mars. We've got lots of activities to support your own Mars exploration. Read more on our blog! 

Take it further

Now make an extremophile animal for the habitats you've built! How are they adapted to cope with such a harsh environment? Find out more about extremophiles with this STEM Learning clip

Watch and see how the desert rose has adapted to life in the driest of places or imagine if Humans lived Underwater! Talk about the most challenging habitats on planet Earth in Tricky Living.

Image credit: Dave Bromley via Shutterstock SL