Windows into Wonderland

Please Note:

We have updated the Windows Into Wonderland website for a better user experience. Because the eTrips were created with older technology, we have had to include some of the videos and activities outside of the eTrip. Please make the students aware that the affected videos and exercises are listed by page number below the eTrip. The student should use the links below the eTrip on the listed pages rather than the outdated links in the eTrip. Thank you!



The extreme environments of the thermal areas of Yellowstone are rich in microorganisms. These tiny life forms, existing in complex ecosystems, offer scientists clues to the origin of life on our planet. This electronic field trip allows students to explore the dangers and wonders of the hidden worlds of Yellowstone's hot colors.

Due to the complexity of this material, we advise instructors to review this eTrip prior to introducing it to students.

We suggest your students read the Yellowstone National Park Orientation before taking this electronic field trip.

For a list of education standards applicable to this field trip, see the Lesson Plans or National Standards.

Key Concepts Explored in this eTrip

  1. Yellowstone's geothermal features are a product of underlying geological activity, and their heated waters are habitat for diverse thermophilic life forms that we are only beginning to understand.
  2. All organisms are composed of cells and the great majority of living organisms are unicellular.
  3. Microorganisms have affected the Earth's system by affecting the composition of the atmosphere, contributing to the weathering and decay of rocks, plants, and living matter, and through the production of byproducts.
  4. Populations of microorganisms exist in conditions considered extreme to humans.
  5. Some microorganisms draw their energy from sunlight; other microorganisms draw energy from chemicals.
  6. The number and type of microorganisms within a hot spring ecosystem depends on environmental factors such as the quantity of light, the ranges of temperatures, pH levels, and the presence of various gasses and metals. Microorganisms are adapted to microenvironments.
  7. All life on Earth can be categorized into a Tree of Life that shows relationships among various species and illustrates a common ancestry. This tree consists of three domains and is based upon differences in DNA.
  8. Fossils provide evidence of past life on Earth, illustrate similarities to present life on Earth, and may be important clues to life on different worlds.

Lesson Plans



More Information


Life in Extreme Heat (Thermophiles) - Yellowstone National Park



Return to the Hot Colors - Windows into Hidden Worlds eTrip