Dark Life by Kat Falls

Book Info

Grade Level
Middle School, High School
STEM Concepts
Engineering, Oceanography, Marine Biology, Biosonar/Echolocation, Climatology

Dark Life is set in an apocalyptic future where rising oceans have swallowed up entire regions, the Earth’s shifting plates have fractured entire continents, and pollution has eaten away the ozone layer. On the dry land left, people live packed like sardines, stacked in towering skyscrapers where space is a rare and precious commodity. In this world, the only people with any land of their own are those who live on the ocean floor in sub-sea settlements.

Source: Scholastic


Pettee Guerrero: Engineering Under the Sea

Want to design an underwater house like the settlers in Dark Life?  Become an engineer! Northern Illinois University’s Pettee Guerrero, a mechanical engineer, describes her journey to becoming an engineer, her work with the Lego Aquabots programs, and current designs for underwater dwellings.

STEMfest 2013: Author Kat Falls

STEMfest 2013 presents Kat Falls, author of Dark Life and Rip Tide.  She talks about her background, how she comes up with her ideas, and the crazy science behind her new book Inhuman.


Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons

These questions, prompts, and short activities provide quick ways to inspire interest and explore the STEAM concepts related to the book. Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons can be used for differentiation and to foster new ideas of your own.

Download the lesson plan.

Creating Creatures of the Deep

In this art and biology challenge, students will look at examples of interesting marine creatures and discuss why they have certain features, possibly for protection, to survive in their environment, or to catch prey. Students will create their own unique Creature of the Deep by considering scientific concepts, such as species physical and behavioral characteristics, environment, atmosphere, climate, and weather.

Download the lesson plan.

Upheaval and Change

In this science and media arts lesson, students research the changes on the Earth’s surface and create an animated film depicting these processes.

Download the lesson plan.

How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?

Imagine living underwater for an extended period of time.  View Florida International University’s website about the Aquarius Reef Base, a underwater research station. After investigating, write your own version of what life would be like living underwater.

Divers: Give ‘Em a Hand

Check out the hand signals used by deep sea divers. In the novel, Ty has to communicate with people underwater on a regular basis. What are some signs that he uses that are not in the list of the 20 most common? Develop and share your own signals that you think Ty might use in his subsea life.

Where Hammers Won’t Hammer: Tools to Use When You’re All Wet

In Dark Life, many different types of tools are used underwater – some are very traditional, while others are less so.  Design a new tool that undersea inhabitants might use to defend themselves against some of the dangerous predators that live in the ocean.  Be sure to explain the scientific principles that drove the design of your tool.

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Global Warming and Our Changing Planet

There is no doubt that Global Warming is changing the face of the planet.  Read these articles on the impact of global warming on the coastline of the U.S., and then decide whether or not you believe the Topside scenario is a possibility.  Be sure to reference factual information in your argument.

Rising Sea Levels a Growing Risk to Coastal U.S. – New York Times

Climate Change Puts Atlantic Coastline in Cross Hairs – USA Today

Surging Seas: Sea level rise analysis by Climate Central

Writing Activities

In Dark Life, several of the children born subsea have gained what they refer to as “Dark Gifts.”  If you were born subsea, what Dark Gift do you think you would develop to help you survive?

We find out in the novel Dark Life that Ty has known about his sister’s Dark Gift for quite some time, but we never find out how he first discovered her gift.  Write the account of when Ty finds out about Zoe’s gift for the very first time.

Gemma is driven to live in a boarding home after life Topside has deteriorated due to Global Warming.  What do you think life is like for those Topside.  Imagine the day in the life of someone living above ground during Gemma’s time.

Video Discussion Guide

Watch the videos and then use these questions to facilitate classroom discussions about the topics presented.

Download the Video Discussion Guide.

Find additional lesson plans and discussion questions from Scholastic.com.

About the Author

Kat Falls is the author of Dark Life and Inhuman. Kat writes mostly in the realm of science fiction and calls the genre of her stories, “underwater westerns.” Kat grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland where she attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and went on to get her MFA at Northwestern University in Easton, Illinois where she now teaches. Other titles by Kat include Inhuman and Rip Tide.

Learn more at katfalls.com.