Satellite Observations in Science Education
It's hard to fully communicate the value and power of remote sensing by showing students a few satellite images in a textbook, on television or from the Internet. The Satellite Observations in Science Education Web site presents NASA satellite images in the context of several interactive learning activities for students in grades 9-12 and higher.

Principles in Remote Sensing -- This activity covers basic concepts in satellite remote sensing, including the two main types of satellite orbits. Students can manipulate characteristics of a satellite's orbit and sensors, then see the impact on the amount and quality of data collected. A concluding lesson shows various image processing and analysis techniques for different real-world applications.

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

The Satellite Observations in Science Education site uses satellite images like this one of the Great Lakes Region. Image Credit: NASA

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Great Lakes Weather and Climate -- This activity begins with a primer on Great Lakes geography and how the lakes influence seasonal weather and climate. Students then view satellite images that illustrate weather patterns and environmental phenomena unique to each of the four seasons.

Water Vapor Imagery -- This activity starts with a tutorial about the fundamentals of water vapor imagery. Students then learn how water vapor images from satellites are used in weather forecasting and aviation. They try their hand at using water vapor images and other information to locate the jet stream, plot an efficient flight path and plan the launch of a weather balloon.

Hunting Icebergs -- Icebergs pose a dangerous threat to ships. This activity demonstrates how to locate and measure icebergs in satellite imagery. Students then interact with satellite images as they track the speed, acceleration, and trajectory of icebergs and identify the factors causing them to move.

Coastal Upwelling -- This activity opens with a movie showing the significance of upwelling for marine life. Students go on to learn about the conditions that lead to upwelling, both coastal and otherwise, and how satellites can be used to detect upwelling events and predict their consequences.

Each activity has three modules. Estimated completion time for most modules is 10 to 20 minutes. Throughout the activities, students interact directly with satellite images. They use drawing and other tools to trace, measure and reveal features in the images. Students also answer questions about the images. They receive automatically generated feedback about whether their answers are correct or incorrect, and why.

The Web site is a collaborative effort among the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and Division of Information Technology, the New Media Studio and the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Related Resources
Satellite Observations in Science Education Web Site   →

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies