3–5


Get up close to our planet and its processes with these resources that explore the systems and interactions of land and water on Earth. Through satellite images, scientific data visualizations, and beautiful simulations, you and your students will experience geological phenomena—including landslides, precipitation, earthquakes, and erosion. Resources include support materials such as background essays, activities, teaching tips, and student handouts.

  • Precipitation on the Planet

    Learn about factors that influence precipitation and see how it moves across Earth in these narrated and unnarrated NASA animations based on measurements gathered by a constellation of satellites. An international group of space agencies, collaborating in the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, operates the satellites. The animations reveal rain and snowfall patterns around the world as well as show how temperature and wind influence precipitation and the movement of storms.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handouts, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • One Year in the Life of Earth

    Watch a year in the life of Earth from 1 million miles away in these narrated and unnarrated videos that capture images taken by NASA’s EPIC camera. Earth is a very watery place: about 71 percent of its surface is covered in water. These time-lapse videos show water in its different states in the vast oceans, the North and South Poles, and in the changing cloud cover.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handout, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • EPIC Earth

    Observe seven views of Earth as captured by NASA’s EPIC camera aboard a satellite that is one million miles from our planet. This annotated video shows spectacular sights, including the moon crossing over Earth, storms in an ocean, and smoke from a wildfire. Water in its three phases is represented in the oceans, the North and South Poles, and in the clouds.

    To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this video, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Taming the Mississippi

    Learn about the mighty Mississippi River, its delta, and the extensive Mississippi River Watershed with these NASA satellite images and animation. Rivers naturally change course over time as flowing water wears away at the landscape. Ever since settlements have existed along the river, humans have tried to control the Mississippi’s natural course to prevent floods and to keep it flowing toward port cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Management of the river helps protect homes and businesses, but is also leading to the loss of land in the Mississippi Delta.

    To view the Background Essay, Vocabulary, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • The Sun and The Water Cycle

    Learn about the stages of the water cycle as powered by the Sun through this adventure of two inquisitive sisters in “The Sun and the Water Cycle,” a story offered by NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory Outreach. Older sister Sofia helps younger sister Marisol understand how water cycles above, on, and through the earth constantly and all over the globe. This story includes a review of water as a solid, liquid, and gas as well as a glossary and labeled illustrations.

    To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this story, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Global Landslide Catalog

    This NASA video describes the Global Landslide Catalog that NASA actively maintains as it tracks landslides triggered by intense rainfall worldwide. The accompanying map shows the distribution of these landslides that occurred globally from 2007–2013. Scientists use this up-to-date inventory of landslide data to improve understanding of locations and causes of this destructive natural hazard.

    To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Landslide Animation

    In this animation from NASA, observe how rainfall over a slope causes ground saturation that triggers a landslide. The accompanying annotated image calls attention to features of a rotational landslide. Continual heavy rainfall becomes problematic for areas of lower elevation when an upper portion of the ground gets saturated with water and becomes unstable. Gravity causes the saturated soil to move down the slope, creating a landslide. As mud and loose rocks move forcefully downward and outward, they alter the landscape, knocking down trees, tearing apart roads, and damaging everything in their path.

    To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • North American Rivers and Their Widths

    Observe the varying sizes of rivers in North America, their distribution, and how they are connected in this map of river widths based on data from NASA satellites. River widths are useful to scientists who study water’s properties, movement, and distribution. Students can use the map to analyze the distribution and relationship among rivers in North America.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handout, and Teaching Tips for this map, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Atchafalaya Bay Deltas

    See how deltas have formed at the mouths of the Atchafalaya River and Wax Lake Outlet with video created using NASA satellite images collected over 31 years. Land growth at these places is extraordinary because other areas along Louisiana’s coastline are retreating. Levees installed to control flooding have altered the natural process of delta formation at the mouth of the Mississippi River, while some natural and human-influenced factors are contributing to exceptional formation of deltas in Atchafalaya Bay to the west of the Mississippi.

    To view the Activity, Background Essay, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Global Earthquake Activity and Seafloor Features

    Observe the location of global earthquake activity from 1980–1995 in this NASA animation as well as the location of seafloor features, such as ridges and troughs, in this NASA world map. Comparing the locations of earthquakes and seafloor features reveals patterns that appear to coincide. These patterns provide information for further study in middle school on how the ridges and trenches formed and why earthquakes occur.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handouts, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Band of Volcanoes in the Pacific

    Notice the location of volcanoes on this map and observe the physical features of volcanoes in this gallery of images from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Volcanic eruptions on land and underwater shape and continue to reshape the surface of our planet. Observing the locations of volcanoes on Earth reveals a pattern.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handout, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Linking Vegetation Growth to Rainfall

    Observe global vegetation growth and global rainfall totals over the course of one year through maps and videos based on NASA satellite data for the year 2015. This data set offers a specific example of how Earth’s biosphere and hydrosphere interact. Visualizing and comparing information on the amount of precipitation and vegetation enable students to observe patterns and reveal cause and effect relationships.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handout, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Hurricane Matthew Causes Weathering and Erosion

    Observe the visible effects of rapid weathering and erosion caused by Hurricane Matthew in this series of before and after images. Students can observe evidence of the effects of rapid weathering and erosion on land caused by powerful waves, wind, and heavy rainfall due to a strong hurricane. In early October 2016, Hurricane Matthew moved through parts of the Caribbean and up along the southeastern coast of the United States. Clear examples of erosion are visible in its wake in these before and after aerial photographs of Florida’s coastline, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and in NASA satellite images of a river in Haiti.

    To view the Background Essay, Student Handouts, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

    Grades: 3-5

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