Investigating GRACE water storage data using video, essays, and data analysis tools.

Thursday 3:20pm-3:40pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Teaching Demonstration

Session Chair

David Randle, American Museum of Natural History


Participants will read samples of the essays and view parts of the videos. They will also analyze water storage data using the visualization and investigate polar ice sheets using the graphing tool.


The focus of this session is to support the analysis and interpretation of data in the classroom and help teachers to engage students in the study of climate change. NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) is a mission to track the movement of water, including ground water and polar ice, from space. The satellites can detect where water is accumulating and drying up on a grand scale. Data from GRACE is available from NASA, but is difficult to interpret and the story of how the satellites collect data can be hard to grasp for students. Using video, data visualizations, and essay resources produced by the American Museum of Natural History, participants will engage in an exploration of the GRACE mission. The GRACE Teaching Case is organized into four sections: background, how scientists are collecting data, what we are learning from GRACE, and the implications of these discoveries. A short video and a reading that includes reflection questions and possible literacy strategies supports each section. Data analysis is supported by visualizations of water storage anomalies overlaid on global and regional maps. A graphing tool allows users to graph ice mass data from Greenland and Antarctica.


This activity can be used with Middle or High School Earth Science students. At AMNH we have used it extensively in teacher professional development. In our teacher programs we use a version of the essays appropriate for adult readers, however we have versions of the essays with a lower lexile level available for use with students.

Why It Works

The readings and videos provide a means for learners to contextualize large sets of data, such as the data from the GRACE mission. The story of how the satellites work and the questions that scientists are investigating makes the investigation of the data more meaningful. The visualizations and graphing tool make analysis of the data possible without the use of spreadsheet software that can be complicated for some students to use.

Presentation Media

ppt GRACE (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 6.5MB Jul21 16)