The Habitable PlanetHabitable Planet home page

About This Course

Course Audience // Course Overview // Course Components // How to Use This Course // How to Get the Course Materials // Award

Course Audience

The Habitable Planet was designed for teachers, educators, and adult learners with a science background who want to learn more about current issues in environmental science. College or graduate students, advanced high school students, or even professional scientists may also find this course useful. We welcome their use of these materials.

The materials are designed for various uses. While this is not a curriculum for use in a high school classroom, some materials may be used to supplement existing curriculum. Some individuals may want to learn about a single topic and study parts of one unit on their own. Some may join in facilitator-led groups, such as professional development workshops or in-service sessions. Information on how to use these materials to facilitate a professional development workshop is available in the pdf downloadable Professional Development Guide. Graduate credit is available to those who choose it. For information on earning credit, go to:

Course Overview

The Earth is probably unique in our solar system—a rare platform for complex life forms. The conditions present on Earth are maintained within a reasonable range by a series of global cycles linking geological systems with diverse forms of life present in almost every available niche. This course asks: What makes Earth unique among planets? How are life forms, namely human beings, sustained by the Earth's overall ecosystem, and, in turn, what effects do humans have on its natural systems? What does Earth's future look like? Given current trends, what can be predicted and what might be expected if we acted in concert to mitigate our impacts on the planet itself?

Course Components

The Habitable Planet is a multimedia course consisting of 13 units. Each unit is composed of a thirty-minute video and an online text chapter. The web site acts as a home base to begin study, a place to organize the course materials. It provides access to all the course components plus additional resources, which include:

  • 5 Interactive Lab Activities
  • Visuals: A compilation of animations and images used in the videos and textbook chapters
  • Scientist biographies, and edited transcripts from each of the video case study interviews
  • Professional Development Course Guide
  • A navigable glossary

How to Use This Course

The videos and online textbook chapters can be used independently. When using both, it is possible to start with either one. We suggest users read the chapter first, and then watch the video. The lab activities should be completed after watching the related video and reading the related chapters to give users a practical, applied experience.

How to Get the Course Materials

The Habitable Planet is available beginning Fall 2007. You may watch the free videos on demand via broadband streaming at, with Course Guides available as downloadable PDFs on this web site, or purchase DVDs and a Course Guide from our online catalog.


Habitable Planet Web site Wins AAAS Science Award

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Science magazine have awarded The Habitable Planet Web site its SPORE prize, the science prize for online resources in education. The prize recognizes freely available online materials that enrich science education. The Habitable Planet was one of 12 selected from an international field by a panel of 16 scientists and nine teachers. Science's Editor-in-Chief, Bruce Alberts, writes that the prize was started because "being an outstanding science educator is as demanding and valuable to society as being an exceptional research scientist." More info

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