image courtsey of NASA
When you think of NASA what do you think of? Do you think of the Hubble telescope? Or of astronauts exploring the surface of the moon? Maybe you think of exploring the possibility of life on other planets? While all of these are true, this earth day NASA came to Union Station in Washington DC to remind us that they also do a lot of work researching our own planet. At NASA Earth Day Celebration, NASA representatives came out in full force to show off the work that they do focused on earth, and maybe teach kids of all ages a little something that they may not have previously known about earth our home planet.
Using demonstrations such as building a clouding in a bottle, making UV bead bracelets, and modeling the water cycle the exhibits drew in travelers and passer-byers alike to learn something and get there passport stamped (If you got your passport stamped at each station you received some sweet NASA swag, always a great motivator for education). These demonstrations then lead to a discussion about NASA’s current projects. At one station I got to play with Lego type building blocks to build a 3D graph of the ice sheet coverage over time, which was a good way to engage the audience with a hands on activity and help to visualize data at the same time, then the NASA educator talked about the satellites that are used to collect that data and how their newest mission ICE SAT -2 the second generation of their laser altimeter will be measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics when it launches in 2017. This satellite will help give insights on how the earth is responding to a warming climate, by monitoring its frozen and icy regions as well as measuring tree heights to estimate the amount of carbon stored in the forests.
NASA also has a plethora real data that can be freely accessed and used in the classroom. Check out NASA’s Eyes on the Earth tool, which provides live data from Satellites (the exhibitor used this tool to show the crowd how the polar jet streams where carrying carbon monoxide across the globe!). Grace Satellite software lets you see a Gravity Field map that can tell you about the change in weight of different area based on the amount of water in the region ( Green land is getting lighter because of melting ice, whereas the rainforest gets seasonally heavier during the rainy season). The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.
So the next time you think of NASA, don’t just think that all have there heads in the stars, they are also very down to Earth!