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Exploring Earth with EarthKAM
Who are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The student thinking about El Niño. The scientist studying climate. And the farmer looking at satellite pictures. All of these people are Earth Explorers. They're all curious about how the Earth works. This is a story about NASA Earth Explorers.

Harry Swan sitting at a computer
Image above: Harry Swan sitting at a computer
You don't have to be an astronaut to take a picture of Earth from space. You don't even have to work for NASA.

Don't believe me?

Then believe Alice Shaw and Harry Swan. Alice and Harry are in eighth grade at Brunswick Junior High School in Maine. They are both on the school's ISS EarthKAM team.

ISS stands for the "International Space Station." EarthKAM is a camera in the window of the ISS. Kids like Alice and Harry take pictures of Earth with the camera. Then they do projects using the pictures.

Alice Shaw, Diane Bowen and Ben Hauptman looking at a lithograph
Image above: Alice Shaw, Diane Bowen, and Ben Hauptman looking at a lithograph
Harry says that EarthKAM has taught him a lot about pictures from space. "Now I know just how specific the photos can be," he said.

Diane Bowen is a science teacher at Brunswick. She leads the school's EarthKAM team. There are more than 30 students on the team. It meets once a week after school.

Ms. Bowen says she likes EarthKAM because it's like doing real science. "How many students can say that they've taken photos of Earth from their own school library?" she said.

Lithograph of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Image above: Lithograph of Buenos Aires, Argentina
How do students take the pictures? First, they find out what parts of Earth the ISS will be flying over. They also look at maps and weather forecasts. Then they go to the EarthKAM Web site and request their picture. Pictures are placed on the Web site when ready.

Students look at the pictures and think about what they see. Then it's time to do their project. They might look up facts about a river or mountain in the picture. Or they may try to answer a question about the picture.

"The neatest thing about EarthKAM is seeing the pictures after they have been taken," Alice said.

Ben Hauptman and Alice Shaw putting information on a board
Image above: Ben Hauptman and Alice Shaw putting information on a board
The Brunswick team is helping out a new team in Canada. The two teams have told each other about where they live. They even met over live video. The next EarthKAM mission is in May. It will be the first for the Canada team. The Brunswick team will answer any questions the Canada team has during the mission.

Anyone can look at EarthKAM pictures at the EarthKAM Web site. The site also tells how teachers can start an EarthKAM team. There's even a game on the site called Earth Images Bingo.

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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies