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Satellites: Teachers

Satellite Resources from NASA

What is a Satellite? NASA provides basic information in easily understood terms for grades K-4 and 5-8.

Eyes on the Earth is an amazing resource that allows you to fly along with NASA's fleet of Earth science missions and observe Earth from a global, immersive perspective. The locations of all of NASA's operating missions are displayed in real time. Students can monitor Earth's vital signs, trace the movement of water around the globe, spot volcanic eruptions and forest fires, and check out the hottest and coldest places on Earth.

NASA's SpacePlace is a kid-friendly site full of satellite stories, animations, and hands-on projects. You may want to share these with your students: "GPS and the Quest For Pizza," "Where Do Old Satellites Go When They Die?", "Orbits R Us," "How Does GPS Work?" and "The Three Little Piggy-Back Satellites." Posters and infographics can be downloaded for classroom use.

Image: NASA Earth Observatory

Take a look at some of NASA's best satellite images, including those of tropical cyclones, melting glaciers, Amazon wildfires, and a total solar eclipse, collected by satellites and the International Space Station as they orbit our planet. For more satellite imagery, check out NASA's Earth Observatory website. Students will be captivated!

At NASA Earth missions, you'll find information on satellites that study atmosphere, climate, ice, land vegetation, the water cycle, and more. Learn more about both past and current Earth Science Missions.

Find images from "rockstar satellites" -- the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope. A fun inquiry for students is What Did Hubble See On Your Birthday?

This database provides details on satellites currently in operation, along with their purposes and countries of origin.

Lesson Plans and More

NASA has a great collection of STEM lessons that require students to use satellite data and grade-level math skills. You may want to try Tracking Water Using Satellite Data, Studying Wildfires From Space, or Satellite Solver. For an engineering challenge, take a look at Build a Satellite. These hands-on lessons are designed for grades 4-8.

Teach Engineering has two complete lessons for grades 4-6: Keep in Touch: Communications and Satellites and Where Am I: Navigation and Satellites.

CubeSats are very small satellites that carry a variety of payloads. In this series of real-world lessons for 5th-6th grades, students learn about how CubeSats are used and engage in the design process to create, test, and optimize their own CubeSat models. Be sure to view the accompanying video for teachers.

How does a weather satellite work? This student-friendly presentation from NOAA is also available in Spanish and comes with a teacher's guide.

Why don't satellites fall out of the sky? How does a satellite get launched? How do satellites forecast weather? Check out these fun animated videos from NOAA, explaining how the GOES-R series of satellites monitor storms, help with search and rescue, and observe solar activity.

Help middle-school students understand satellite orbits with this lesson.

How do satellites stay up there? The Ping Pong Challenge will help students envision the forces that keep satellites revolving around us.

Students create a model of a satellite in this lesson for secondary grades.

Boston University offers a series of 7 lessons that explore what satellites are, how they orbit, how they are launched, and what they do.

This teacher-made lesson includes a concept map comparing natural and artificial satellites.

In this lesson from the Exploratorium, students take on the role of project manager for a satellite and must convince Congress of the merits of their mission in order to secure funding.

BrainPop offers a video introduction on satellites for elementary grades.

From University of California, check out six satellite lesson plans for elementary and middle school students.

Windows to the Universe, from the National Earth Science Teachers Association, has information and extensions for your study of satellites.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, maintains a helpful student page, Scijinks: Satellites. Take a look at its video clips and animations, including "Why Do Satellites Have Different Orbits," "Saved By A Weather Satellite," "Why Don't Satellites Fall Out of the Sky," "How Do Satellites Help Save Lives?" and more.

These brief videos may be helpful as you introduce your students to satellites:

Explorations from PBS Learning Media

It can be difficult to find information on satellites for the early primary grades. The crew from Ready Jet Go! explain How Satellites Work and The International Space Station to K-2 students.

Earth System: Satellites is a good introduction to satellites for grades 5-7. You may want to use the video along with Satellites Orbiting Earth, an animation showing satellites that are part of NASA's Earth Observing System. Support materials include background essays and discussion questions.

In So You Want To Build A Satellite, explore the process of designing and building a satellite: a thorough review of the purpose, energy source, budget, risk analysis, design, testing, approval, retesting and more.

Students meet a satellite engineer in this career profile. Her enthusiasm for the future of satellite technology is contagious.

In Satellite Imagery and Biodiversity: Life From Above, scientists obtain data from satellite technology that they use to identify elephant habitat in order to protect them.

Discover how GPS works in the interactive activity GPS: Where In the World Are You?

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