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Sat photos, change over time, and a sweet teaching tool

Four things:

  • Google Earth.
  • Landsat images.
  • Change over time.
  • Cool tools for instruction.

What do they all have in common?

Psst. I’ll give you a hint. They were approved last month.

That’s right! The new Kansas social studies standards and even some of the Common Core literacy pieces are asking kids to analyze change over time and to evaluate relationships between people and place. And it’s a good thing.

But are there tools floating around that I can use to help kids do that?

Yes. You can thank Google, the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and TIME. Together they have created something very cool – time lapse satellite images of just about any place on earth from 1984 to 2012.

Need a series of images highlighting melting glaciers? The spread of irrigation in Saudi Arabia? Amazon de-forestation? The growth or decline of your own city? With the new Timelapse tool, built from millions of satellite images and trillions of pixels, now you can.

You get four default views of dramatic changes on the Earth’s surface such as the sprouting of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, and urban growth in Las Vegas.

But here’s the sweet piece of the site – clicking the Explore the World tab lets you do a search for just about any place in the world. You can then zoom in and scroll the resulting map to get just the view you want. How cool is that?

Start thinking about the kinds of problems and questions you can create that kids will need to solve:

  • Why would anyone want to create their own islands?
  • What impact does deforestation in South America have on other parts of the world?
  • Why did our city get bigger (or smaller) since 1984?
  • Are some areas and cities growing faster than others?
  • How has our use of Earth’s resources benefited us? How might our use impact the lives of our grandchildren?

The Google people think these sorts of images can help us understand how we live with each other and with our planet:

Much like the iconic image of Earth from the Apollo 17 mission – which had a profound effect on many of us – these time-lapse maps are not only fascinating to explore, but we also hope they can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future.

I agree. This is literally the kind of big picture stuff that can help us support critical thinking in our kids.

And the added bonus? It’s gonna help you align your instruction with new state and national standards.

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