The various elements of the CYGNSS mission provide a wide range of learning opportunities related to fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In the Education section of the LANDFALL website, we present a number of educational activities that address some of the most basic STEM concepts the play an important role in the CYGNSS mission. These modules include:
Most students know what a “satellite” is and the fact that they are place high above the surface in “space”. However, students tend to have little understanding as to just how high above the surface satellites are place. In reality, satellites are placed over a wide range of heights for a variety of reasons that are driven largely by the requirements of their missions. The CYGNSS microsatellite observatories have been placed in “Low Earth Orbit”, approximately 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. In the Scale of the Earth-Moon System educational module, we used to easily observable celestial bodies (the Earth and Moon) to help the students understand just how high the CYGNSS constellation of satellites are above the Earth’s surface in comparison with high the Earth’s moon is above the surface!
Once launched, satellites do not simply continue off into deep space, but rather they continue to orbit around the Earth at a constant height above the Earth’s surface. One very simplified way of looking at this is to say that the satellites move in such a way that they continually fall around the Earth. What keeps the satellites from simply continuing off into deep space? Gravity. In the Which Way is Down? educational module, we use a variety of different videos and activities to understand the tricky properties of gravity!
When listening to weather reports about hurricanes and other tropical cyclones, commonly reported characteristics are “minimum sea level pressure” and “maximum sustained winds”. In Why Strong Winds?, we explore the relationship between these two characteristics. One key lesson from this module is that it is not the magnitude of the minimum sea level pressure which determines the wind speed, but rather the change in sea level pressure with horizontal distance the helps to determine the speed of the winds in a hurricane or other tropical cyclone. Using the atmosphere around us as a laboratory, this educational module engages students in making observations of pressure, winds and associated weather outside their classroom windows. The students will become aware of how general changes in atmospheric pressure impact the day-to-day changes in the weather they observe. Additionally, by utilizing maps that show how the pressure changes across their state, they will be able to obtain a better understanding of how pressure gradient and wind speed are related.
For younger children, we have created a couple of activities that are simple, fun and introduce them to the CYGNSS mission and some basic terms associated with satellites, in general, and the CYGNSS mission, in particular. So, visit our Just for Kids page and have fun introducing younger children to the world of satellites using our“CYGNSS Connect-the-dots” and “CYGNSS Word Search” activities.
In recent years, a variety of educational activities have been developed which provide an introduction to hurricanes and tropical cyclones for students of all ages. Visit our Other Resources page for a few of the resources that you and your students might enjoy. If you have your own favorites that you feel other teachers, students and citizen scientists might enjoy, please feel free to share them with us and we will consider adding them to our list! Enjoy!