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Narrated by astronauts, the only persons to have had the opportunity to see our home planet from space, the National Geographic documentary One Strange Rock addresses a very fundamental question raised by humankind’s exploration of the Cosmos: Why is the Earth, the third rock from the sun, so very different from the rest of our solar system?

This documentary tells the story of Earth’s history as seen from a planetary perspective. Within our solar system, planet Earth is utterly unique among the planets, moons, and dwarf planets found there. The inner four planets are rocky, and the four outer planets are large gaseous bodies, with little or no true surface on which to stand. Pluto, with its solid surface made of methane, rocky debris, and water ice, is now relegated to the status of a “dwarf” planet and appears to have been captured by the sun’s gravity. Only Earth has a breathable atmosphere, the ability to “heal” itself following planetary bombardment in its early history and more recent “extinction events,” and very large amounts of liquid water on its surface.

Earth is unique because this is where life has developed and is sustained. The evolution of life over time has terraformed a once barren rock into a paradise perfect for life. The past and present state of the Earth’s biosphere has made our home planet into our only home. One Strange Rock tells Earth’s story from its very violent and fiery beginning, 4.5 billion years ago, through the development of microbial life 3.9 billon years ago, to its present state, hosting millions of living species. Fasten your seat belts—you and your students are in for a very exciting and educationally stimulating ride.

The One Strange Rock documentary consists of 10 episodes, each 50 minutes long, ideal for use in multiple class periods or as potential homework assignments. The documentary draws on the experiences and individual stories of eight astronauts who bring insight and emotion to the telling of the Earth’s amazing story. A dynamic mix of exciting new science and dramatic videography, One Strange Rock weaves a compelling case for the way our space program has revolutionized our understanding of the Earth and of our place in the universe.


Journeys in Film lessons were designed to support and amplify the many stimulating educational opportunities and concepts raised by the One Strange Rock documentary. No single lesson is matched to any one episode, but rather, each lesson addresses several of the themes introduced by the documentary. We’ve included some suggested lesson and episode pairings within the guide.


Lesson 1: A Tour of the Solar System (Earth Science, Geology, Biology, General Science)

Lesson 2: The Goldilocks Planets (Earth Science, Geology, Biology, General Science)

Lesson 3: The Soil Is “Alive”: The Gaia Hypothesis  (Biology, Earth Science, Chemistry)

Lesson 4: Mighty Microbes (Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry)

Lesson 5: The History of Life (History, Geology, Biology, Chemistry)

Lesson 6: Seeing Earth From Space (Creative Writing, English, Social Studies)

Lesson 7: The History of the Space Program (History, Physics, Social Studies)

Lesson 8: The Air We Breathe (Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, Social Studies)

Access all slideshows for our curriculum here

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One Strange Rock

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Julie Farhm, Joanne Goelzer, Michael Handwork, Joel Kutylowski, Patricia Lawson, Richard Levergood, Beth Mennelle, Brandon Michaud, Barry Rock, Andrew Wallace

Project Coordinator

Barry Rock, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Natural Resources and EOS (Institute for the Study of Earth, Ocean, and Space)
University of New Hampshire


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