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Lesson Title: A World of Change
May 11, 2012

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Remote Sensing

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Technology,Mathematics and Geography

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 4 hours

Complexity: Basic to Moderate

Keywords: satellite imaging, impact craters, water pathways, comparing planets, change over time


Paint By Numbers:
Transparent grid
Paper grid
Picture of house
Original activity to download graphics for duplication and specific procedures
Down to Earth

Quantifying Changes in the Land Over Time
Student activity directions:
Landsat Activity
Phoenix Landsat Movie
Phoenix Landsat Image 1991: 3,2,1 Bands
Phoenix Landsat Image 2000: 3,2,1 Bands
Phoenix Landsat Images 1991: 7,4,2 Bands
Phoenix Landsat Images 2000: 7,4,2 Bands
Transparency Grid
Grid on white paper - one per team
Washable fine point markers
Any additional images or resources that provide information on the Phoenix area

These activities will introduce students to Earth's remote sensing tools and changes observed from space over time.

Students will:
• Simulate how light collected from a space object converts into binary data and reconverts into an image of the object.
• Experience the practical value of remote sensing at an introductory level.
• Interpret, assess and predict changes in the nature and spatial extent of land use at the landscape (regional) scale, using land remote sensing images.
• Analyze the extent of urban development and the impacts on natural resources as land cover changes.

First page of A World of Change

Lesson Guide
A World of Change Lesson
[114KB PDF file]



Professional Development Training Module for This Lesson

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Lesson Activities and Sequence

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
• Science as inquiry and the abilities required to do scientific inquiry.
• Evidence, models and explanation.
• Change, constancy and measurement.
• Earth in the solar system.
• Processes that shape the Earth.
• The nature of technology and science.

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, NCTM
• Abilities of technological design.
• Understanding about science and technology.
• Number and operation.
• Patterns, function and algebra.
• Measurement.
• Data analysis, statistics and probability.
• Communication.
• Connections.
• Representations.

National Geographic Society, NCGE
The World in Spatial Terms

National Technology Standards, ISTE
• Understand cultural, social, economic and political effects of technology.
• Ability to use and maintain technological products and systems.
• Understand, select and use.
• Medical technologies.
• Agricultural technologies and biotechnologies.
• Energy and power technologies.
• Information and communication technologies.
• Transportation technologies.
• Manufacturing technologies.
• Construction technologies.
• Perceive a regional (landscape scale) context for local change.
• Develop skills of visual analysis of remote sensing images.


  1. Paint by Numbers
    This lesson is drawn from the Space-Based Astronomy Activity Guide for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. This activity is a paper and pencil introduction to the concept of collecting data from spacecraft as binary numbers and converting these numbers into the image they represent.
    Working in student pairs, one student interprets the data of the house image based on the observations of the other student on the team. In a second phase of the activity, a finer grid pattern is used to make the same comparisons for the planet Saturn. (See page 84 in the guide.)
    Keywords: binary system, satellite technology, satellite imagery, Hubble Space Telescope, pixels, grids. remote sensing

  2. Quantifying Changes in the Land Over Time
    Students learn to identify kinds of land cover (e.g., roads, fields, urban areas and lakes) in Landsat satellite images. They decide which land cover types allow the passage of water into the soil (are pervious) and which types do not allow it (are impervious). They consider some effects of increasing impervious surface area on ecosystem health.
    Students then make land cover maps using two Landsat satellite images taken about a decade apart. They quantify the change of land cover from pervious to impervious surface during that time period. They make predictive maps of what they think the nature and extent of land cover change in the area will be in the year 2025, and speculate about the consequences for the availability of water for people and ecosystems. Students justify their predictive maps and their thoughts about the consequences of change in writing.
    This activity uses Landsat images of Phoenix, Arizona. Additional resources are available to permit teachers to download images of their regions through the USGS website provided in the resource section.
    Keywords: LandSat, satellite imagery, space-based observations, geography, remote sensing, technology, environmental quality, scientific inquiry, mathematics, Earth processes, light wavelengths, electromagnetic specturm, satellites, infrared wavelengths, percentages, rate of change, directional terms, pervious and impervious surfaces, watershed
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