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Animals On Europa (Part 2/4)

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 
School or Organization: 

TOPIC: Planets’ environments



  • What are biotic and abiotic elements on Jupiter’s moon, Europa?



§112.16. Science, Grade 5

(B) Knowledge and Skills:

  • (9) Organisms and environments. The student knows that there are relationships, systems, and cycles within environments. The student is expected to:
    • (A) observe the way organisms live and survive in their ecosystem by interacting with the living and non-living elements.
  • (10) Organisms and environments. The student knows that organisms undergo similar life processes and have structures that help them survive within their environments. The student is expected to:
    • (A) compare the structures and functions of different species that help them live and survive such as hooves on prairie animals or webbed feet in aquatic animals.

§117.119 Theatre, Grade 5

  • (2)(B) describe characters, their relationships, and their surroundings in detail
  • 3) Creative expression: production. The student applies design, directing, and theatre production concepts and skills. The student is expected to:
    • (B) alter space appropriately to create suitable performance environments for playmaking;
    • (C) plan dramatizations collaboratively; and (D) interact cooperatively with others in dramatizations.


  • Laptops/other research materials
  • Europa Research Worksheet
  • Pencils

Created by: Ally Tufenkjian and Tonja Lopez



I’d love to get a refresher on everyone’s names and we’re going to revisit tableau to do this. Who can remind me what a tableau is?

Now think of an animal that starts with the same letter as the first letter of your name. For instance, I might choose “armadillo.” Then, I’d like you to create a tableau of that animal, which you’ll share with us one at a time. When you share, please say your name and then the animal and then freeze in your tableau. So I might say “Ally Armadillo” and then: models Armadillo tableau. Take a moment to think of your animal. When you’ve got one, please look up at me so I know you’re ready. We’ll go around and please say your name followed by the animal and tableau. I will start - Ally Armadillo. (Students go around the circle and share).

What did we notice about the choices people made with their tableaux? What made these tableaux really strong? Students might say “They were very still” or “People used strong body language.” These are great observations. I’m going to write them down so we have some guidelines for how to make really strong tableaux. We’ll be making group tableaux later on so we can reference these guidelines. (Facilitator writes tableaux guidelines on the board).

Transition: What did we do together last time? What were some of the things you learned about your animals?

Now that we’re caught up, Cynthia Hunter will be joining us again to guide our research process.

(Facilitator dons a couple costume items and jumps into role).

Facilitator in Role: Hi everyone. I’m back! Today, our task is to research the environment of Europa, Jupiter’s moon since that’s where we think humans and animals might be able to survive. But first, we need to finish our research about our animals from last time (Give students 5 minutes to complete their five research questions from last time. Facilitator checks in with everyone to make sure they’ve completed their questions).

Transition: Excellent work. Now we’re onto research phase two. We will be researching the environment of Europa, looking at both the abiotic and biotic factors (if any). Can you all remind me what abiotic means? How about biotic?



In groups, you will be assigned a different aspect of Europa to research and eventually we will present our findings to the group in a group image. If we’re trying to figure out how suitable this moon is for humans and animals to live on, what are some things we need to know about it? (Brainstorm with the group and come up with as many research questions as there are groups). Questions might be something like:

  • What are its abiotic factors (chemicals in the atmosphere, landforms)?
  • What are its biotic factors (if any)?
  • What might it feel to like to live on Europa?

(Facilitator assigns each group one research question). Work together in your groups to find the answers to these research questions. Write your group’s answer on your Europa Research Worksheet. You’ll get about 5 minutes to do this.

(Students research. Facilitator and CT circulate to assist)

Once groups finish: Let’s share out what we found out about Europa. Each group, please share the answer to your research question. As each group shares, fill in the rest of the answers to the research questions on your Europa Research Worksheet. (Groups share and fill in their worksheets).

Transition: Excellent work! We’re going to head into an activity that will help us better understand and activate what we just researched about Europa.



We’ll be exploring this research with an activity called “This Setting Needs…” We’ll be using our bodies to create a setting or an environment. We’ll be representing Europa’s environment in a moment, but to get us familiar with how this game works, we’re going to create a group frozen image of a park. Take a moment to think about the different things you might see at a park. These could be people, places and things. When you have an idea, raise your hand. When I call you, say “This setting needs…” and then freeze in the space as that thing you’ve picked. Think about a choice that you can hold for several minutes. We’ll add one person at a time into the image. We’ll stop when we have about 10 people in the image or when it feels most complete. What do you see in this setting? How can you tell what the actors in the space are or what they’re doing? If you had to title this setting, what would you call it?

Excellent work! Now we’re going to do the same thing with Europa’s environment. Take a moment to look at the research we’ve generated on the board. Think about how you would embody one of these things in a frozen image. When you have an idea, raise your hand. When I choose you, say “This setting needs…” and then freeze in your image. We’ll keep adding onto this image one by one until it feels complete.

Once image is complete: What do you see in this setting? How can you tell what the actors in the space are or what they’re doing? If you had to title this setting, what would you call it?

Transition: Thanks so much for detailed research and exploration of Europa! I’m going to take this research back to NASA so we can prepare stage three of our research process.

(Facilitator steps out of role).




  • What have you discovered about Europa?


  • What animals do you think could live on this planet?


  • Why qualities or characteristics might that animal be able to live on Europa?
Extensions/Applications : 


Placing an animal in the environmental tableaux; how would they fit into the environment?

Downloadable PDF: