Astrobiology Learning Progressions Image

Astrobiology Learning Progressions

A resource to help scientists and educators conduct learning experiences and communicate about astrobiology.


The Astrobiology Learning Progressions (LPs) are a resource to help scientists and educators—both classroom teachers and informal educators— conduct learning experiences and communicate about astrobiology. As an interdisciplinary field, astrobiology asks different questions than the earth, life, and physical sciences. There are, however, fundamental science concepts in each field that relate to the core concepts of astrobiology. These connections provide a bridge for educators to connect astrobiology to various subjects and support their lesson planning. These connections may also be useful to scientists to help link their own work in astrobiology with the formal learning their audiences may have had in earth, life, and physical science.

The content of the Astrobiology Learning Progressions aligns closely with the topics covered in the Astrobiology Primer v2.0 and the NASA Astrobiology Strategy. In terms of K-12 education, it aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). NGSS reflects a new wave of research-based, K-12 science content standards developed in an effort to improve science education in the U.S.

There are 5 major parts of the LP’s that help frame and guide education/public outreach efforts in Astrobiology:

Core Learning Questions: The NASA Astrobiology Learning Progressions are broken down into 7 relevant questions at the core of astrobiology.

Storylines: For each question, there is a series of progressed storylines for each grade band. Scientists and teachers can read the storylines above, below and at the target grade band to better understand the level of information to present to a particular audience.

Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) for Teachers: Pulled directly from NGSS, DCIs are educational standards (or performance expectations) based on key ideas that have broad implications across multiple domains of science and engineering. They are grouped into four domains: Physical science (PS), Life Science (LS), Earth and Space Science (ESS) and Engineering (E ). For example, PS1.A represents a performance expectation for students in Physical Science.

Concept Boundaries for Scientists: This section provides information to help support scientists in reaching students in a particular grade band effectively. The Boundaries serve as a rough guide to help scientists know the depth of information to present when engaging with a specific grade. Big Ideas briefly summarizes the major themes in the related storyline. Cross-cutting Concepts can help scientists and teachers highlight connections to the multiple domains of science to aid students in developing an interdisciplinary, scientifically-based understanding of the world.

Resources: Users of the Astrobiology Learning Progressions can use the Resources button to jump to a list of lessons and activities for each question.

Core Learning Questions

  1. How did matter come together to make planets and life in the first place?
    • 1.1: Are we really made of star stuff?
    • 1.2: How did our Solar System form?
  2. How did Earth become a planet on which life could develop?
    • 2.1: What was the Earth like right after it formed?
    • 2.2: How was the Sun different when it formed compared to now?
    • 2.3: Where could life have gotten started on Earth?
  3. What is life?
    • 3.1: What are the characteristics of life?
    • 3.2: What does life need for survival?
    • 3.3: What determines if a planet can have life?
    • 3.4: Why is water so important for life as we know it?
    • 3.5: How can we tell if something is alive or not?
  4. How did life on Earth originate?
    • 4.1: Where do life’s building blocks come from?
    • 4.2: What are the sources of life’s building blocks within the Earth?
    • 4.3: What are the sources of life’s building blocks outside the Earth?
  5. How have life and Earth co-evolved?
    • 5.1: How did life first emerge on Earth?
    • 5.2: How did the first cells arise?
    • 5.3: How did life become something that competes for resources and evolves?
  6. How has life evolved to survive in diverse environments on Earth?
    • 6.1: How did life on Earth come to occupy so many different environments?
    • 6.2: What types of conditions can life survive in?
    • 6.3: Are there environments beyond Earth that could be habitable?
  7. How do we explore beyond Earth for signs of life?
    • 7.1: What is a biosignature?
    • 7.2: How do we explore within our own Solar System for signs of life?
    • 7.3: How do we discover worlds around other stars?
    • 7.4: How can we identify worlds around other stars that could have life?