Teaching Notes

Example Output

NASA's Aura Mission satellite nitrogen dioxide data displayed in Google Earth.
Example Output
Aura data showing January 2010 nitrogen dioxide concentration for the United States, in Google Earth.

Grade Level

This chapter is appropriate for students in grades 7-12.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:


Google Earth is a free tool that captures the interest of students because of its dynamic nature. Activities such as the one presented here enable teachers to link relevant science with what is going on in the world today. This activity illustrates how data can be imported into Google Earth for visualization and interpretation. Similar explorations can be performed with other datasets. Many other activities related to geography, topography, industrialization, and surface cover are possible with data that have been made available in KML (Keyhole Markup Language) format. Google Moon and Google Mars are also available, and these can extend students' abilities to explore beyond Earth.

Background Information

Information about nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and regional air quality:

Information about the NASA Aura mission:

Information about Google Earth:

Learning Contexts

This lesson is designed to provide users with an introduction to air quality as it relates to population density and topography. It can be utilized as an application-level lesson encompassing air circulation and transport, atmospheric chemistry, physical geography, and environmental science.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 5-8

8ASI1.3 Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics, will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware and software designed for these purposes.

8ASI1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description - providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standard requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

8ASI2.4 Technology used to gather data enhances accuracy and allows scientists to analyze and quantify results of investigations.

8EST2.4 Perfectly designed solutions do not exist. All technological solutions have tradeoffs, such as safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance. Engineers often build in back-up systems to provide safety. Risk is part of living in a highly technological world. Reducing risk often results in new technology.

Grades 9-12

12ASI1.3 Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. A variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring instruments, and calculators, should be an integral component of scientific investigations. The use of computers for the collection, analysis, and display of data is also a part of this standard. Mathematics plays an essential role in all aspects of an inquiry. For example, measurement is used for posing questions, formulas are used for developing explanations, and charts and graphs are used for communicating results.

12ASI1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Student inquiries should culminate in formulating an explanation or model. Models should be physical, conceptual, and mathematical. In the process of answering the questions, the students should engage in discussions and arguments that result in the revision of their explanations. These discussions should be based on scientific knowledge, the use of logic, and evidence from their investigation.

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:

1. How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.

3. How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface.

4. The physical and human characteristics of places.

14. How human actions modify the physical environment

Time Required

Approximately 1 hour.

Other Resources

These Google Earth files are for use in the chapter. Teachers may want to download and save them before class to save time. There are specific instructions within the chapter for downloading the original files, these files serve as back-up files.

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