This week my third graders and I will jump into one of my favorite little adventures – imaging our Earth from Space. I don’t have a spacecraft capable of bringing my 90 or so third graders up into orbit, nor has our funding request to the school district come through for the Panda I satellite. Fortunately, the combined efforts of NASA and the wonderful folks at the Sally Ride Foundation give us an opportunity to task a camera peering down from the ISS’s Cupola down upon our beautiful planet.
I’ve shared this opportunity with my students, usually 3rd-5th graders, for the past 6 years or so and we have a completely different and completely amazing experience each time. If you are reading this today (Monday, Oct 21 2013) go and sign up quick to do this with your students. If not, you can sign up as an educator and they will let you know when the next mission is taking place. Either way, go to http://earthkam.ucsd.edu and get your name in.
So this week I’m going to document the process my students and I go through. The EarthKam site has great manuals and guides to get you and your students going with the technical aspects of the process. My blog is going to focus more on what my students and I do to participate in the project and how we integrate the images we take into other learning. With my third graders, working with EarthKam for the first time, we are going to use the images and the process of taking them to learn some geography. We are starting today before the imaging begins with continents, oceans, and the basics of latitude and longitude. We isn’t really accurate, I’m not at school today so a substitute is running all of the 3rd graders through the EarthKam Oceans and Continents lesson, available on their site.
Tuesday is the first day we will begin imaging. I’m going to ask the students to find places near the boundaries of continents and oceans, like coastlines and mountain ranges that separate continents. We will identify the features in images, along with whatever landforms, climates, cities, and anything else we can find in the images once they are taken, along with identifying where on a world map they were taken. The goal is to give these 8 year olds a better idea of the size and diversity of our world. In an educational environment where the politicians, state DOE officials, and other “leaders” have determined that math and reading can only be learned by ignoring social studies and science until middle school, this is a rare opportunity for students to learn about the world outside of our school building.