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Mystery Images from Space Educator’s Guide Summary: Students learn core concepts in Earth science by exploring photographs taken by astronauts. This web-based program presents the images as mystery stories, with helpful maps, hints and sparking questions. The images are organized into themes like rivers, weather, glaciers and aurora. Teachers can use individual images as a brief lesson, or use the themes to cover major topics.
Topic: Earth science Grade Levels: middle and high school Time: 30 min/image; 40+ images currently available Web sites: Mystery images: http://spacestationexplorers.org/explore/earth/training/ Space Station Explorers: http://spacestationexplorers.org Windows on Earth: http://www.windowsonearth.org Earth science themes: 1. Beauty of the Earth 2. Scott Kelly’s tweets 3. Cities 4. Rivers 5. Land 6. Islands 7. Agriculture 8. Clouds 9. Aurora Learning goals: Earth system science • Earth as a dynamic, global system • Interactions among land, ocean, atmosphere, life • Weather, clouds and storm systems in unprecedented?? • Planetary stewardship from a global perspective Human geography • Human presence on Earth • Urban development as revealed through nightlight images • Agricultural patterns • Water use and challenges Scientific thinking • Image and data analysis • Pattern recognition • Recognizing change over time Space science • International Space Station as platform for Earth observation • Astronauts as essential to Earth observation & photography
Astronauts take hundreds of photos every day
Astronauts on the ISS have taken over 2,000,000 photos. They reveal the incredible diversity of Earth, from the vast Sahara to the deep aqua colors of the Bahamas, erupting volcanoes, spectacular Himalayas, gorgeous aurora, and the human presence revealed in the lights of cities at night. We can’t overstate the visual appeal, engaging mysteries and educational power of these images – and how they help us rethink home planet Earth. Even from our ground-based views, we see Earth is an endlessly changing, amazingly varied environment. From above, astronauts get a panoramic view revealing new insights into the planet and our human impact on it. We see ourselves as occupants of this one Earth; a planet floating in Space. These photos also gain power from the humanity of the photographer – that an astronaut’s heart and mind saw an amazing view, framed and composed the picture and picked the decisive moment. These images serve as sparks for curiosity, illustrations of fundamental principles, evidence of Earth’s interconnectedness, images for creative expression, and insights into human history and development. Astronauts know the transformative power of this perspective. They take hundreds of photos every day to capture their awe. The power of these images can be visually stunning and intellectually engaging. We see the beauty of color, texture and shapes; we see the bright lights of our cities; we see volcanoes erupting; lightning strikes; forest fires burning, smoke spreading across the land. Every image is unique, and each has value both as an image and as a source of data. The astronauts are humanity’s designated representatives in Space. They look out the cupola at planet Earth and take these marvelous pictures, right from the heart. Through this treasure trove, the astronauts invite us to Space, joining them on this journey of exploration and discovery about home planet Earth.
Rich Educational Power
Teachers and students use these images in so many ways. Topics including climate change, geography, atmospheric science, geography, oceanography, urban planning, anthropology—the list is nearly endless. They can cover multiple learning goals, for elementary, middle, high school, college and adult learners. Through this archive, educators and students have a continuously evolving resource for exploring cities, agriculture, glaciers, aurora, flooding, volcanoes, weather patterns, and a multitude of other themes around earthly and atmospheric topics. They also learn how photos are taken aboard the ISS, downloaded, reviewed and made available to view and share. Students explore these images using two web-based tools: 1. Mystery Images – selected images with annotations, maps and questions 2. Windows on Earth – the full archive of images, updated daily Students use the Mystery Image system to explore selected images that highlight key features and themes in Earth science. New images and themes are added throughout the year. Students use the Windows on Earth system to extend their learning and exploration, with a more open-ended access to the full archive of images, including daily updates. Students meet some key learning goals in the Next Generation Science Standards: 1. Core Ideas – many topics in Earth system science 2. Science & Engineering Practices – such as working with images and technology 3. Cross-cutting Concepts – such as Earth as a system, and interaction of systems Students achieve these goals by engaging in inquiry, exploration and discovery. This embodies a driving vision of education – that we all learn best when we’re active, curious and engaged. These photos provide that engaging context, and bring to life the basic concepts they learn in middle and high school Earth science classes.
Three-phase Process “Mystery Images from Space” has a three-phase approach. The activities: 1) hook learners with clear and engaging entry points, 2) use maps and hints to help students figure out the location depicted, and 3) provide prompting questions to explore further. This combination enables learners to start at the level most appropriate for their knowledge and experience, revisit for more activities, and continue their learning well beyond the base. 0. Select Images
The image above on the left shows the home page, highlighting a featured image. Students can simply click on that image to proceed to the next steps. Alternatively, students can select a theme from the sidebar. For each selected theme, students see several images, as in the “Rivers” example on the right above. Students then select one of those images. 1. Examine Closely
In this first phase of the image review, students look closely at the image. They try to figure out what features it shows (such as rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, clouds in the image above). They should spend a few minutes studying it. They may have an idea of the location, but for now focus on closely examining the image. You could even have students draw it to help.
2. Where is this?
To continue, students click on “2 - Where is this?” at the top of the page. This takes them to phase 2: location analysis. Determining the location is tricky, because the picture can show almost anywhere in the world! They see a large interactive map centered on that location. Students use the plus and minus signs on the lower right to zoom in and out. In the left sidebar, they can request hints. Select “location on map” and they see a marker on the world map. Click “night lights” to overlay the lights of cities. Click “image with labels” and they see the answer (image on the right above). Click “Open Google maps” and they open a new window showing google maps centered on that location. All of this lends itself to deeper discussion about the location shown, that region of the world, and use of maps and atlases, both print and online. Note that the image may or may not have the familiar orientation of north up, since astronauts can point the camera in any orientation. 3. Explore More
For phase 3, students click on “3 - Explore More”. The image now includes sparking questions, like “How long did it take to fill Lake Powell?” Some questions can be figured out (by a smart and inquisitive student) by looking closely at the image. Other will require a bit more research.
On the right, students see a discussion, more questions, and some hot links that can help them figure out the answers. A successful investigation is a beginning not an end. These images reveal insights about Earth, and yet also spark new questions – not just the questions labeled on the images, but new questions that emerge from looking at the image and learning more about the region. For example, in the image above, students might wonder why the whole area is colored brown, red and orange? Or they might wonder why the Powell Dam was built in that specific location on the Colorado River? Or what impact this dam has on fish and other life in the river, both above and below the dam? These images should inspire and engage students to pursue these further explorations. They also help the teacher make connections across the Earth science curriculum. Students can further explore the designated images – or explore more through two web sites: http://WindowsOnEarth.org with its full archive of images, including daily downloads. http://SpaceStationExplorers.org has many more ways to explore Earth and the ISS.
Themes The images are organized by theme. To help students learn and explore themes, each has images, ideas, questions and resource links. They show how the image location and features support learning about that theme. These examples just scratch the surface of what is possible! Explore Windows on Earth to find other images to help you achieve your learning goals. 1. Beauty of the Earth
These images illustrate beautiful views of Earth, helping students begin with awe and appreciation for our home planet. 2. Scott Kelly’s tweets
Astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted over 1,000 photos – here are some of the most popular (by public vote). They illustrate the diversity, and help students connect with the individual astronaut who took the photo. 3. Cities
Cities revealed at night by their spectacular lights, and in the day by their grey color. In both cases, they help students learn about the scale and diversity of cities, and help students think about why cities are located and grow in the context of the land and features around them – as well as the cultures of the people who live there.
Rivers sculpt the land, and are an essential part of life on Earth. These photos show the range of rivers, varying by location, shape, color and sculpting process. 5. Land
Land is a broad category, and these four images just get students started. Students see volcanoes, mountains, islands, valleys and so many other features! 6. Islands
Islands form in the ocean through volcanic and tectonics processes, coral reefs, glacial deposits and many other ways. Students develop analysis skills to figure out how each island formed. 7. Agriculture
What an incredible diversity of agricultural patterns around the world. Pivot irrigation, small personal farms, large agri-businesses . . . all embody a series of factors of land, water, government, finance and so on.
Someone once said “Clouds are sky poems”. Clouds are the most dynamic feature on Earth changing constantly, revealing atmospheric dynamics, storm systems, and interactions of land, surface water and the atmosphere. 9. Aurora
Astronauts love to photograph aurora, and these images show why. Such a beautiful shimmering dance of lights in the sky! Students can learn what causes these glorious lights. Earth is an amazing planet, and astronauts have the best way to enjoy and explore it. We are all so appreciative that they photograph and share this global perspective with us. What a great way for your students to see Earth with new eyes!