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More Lessons from the Sky


The Satellite Educators Association (SEA) Lesson Plan Library presents standards-based, K-12 lesson plans using satellite-related technologies and satellite-based remote-sensing environmental data. The lesson plans have application in science, mathematics, and geography instruction as well as engineering and technology arenas. Some have been used in teaching language arts. Lesson topics address Next Generation Science Standards in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Earth & Space Sciences, and Engineering & Technology. Most lessons include inquiry, scientific investigation, quantitative reasoning, and use of mathematics. All lessons plans are written by knowledgeable educators experienced in the use of satellite technologies in the K-12 classroom. SEA also endeavors to spotlight and support effective lesson plans already published in other forums.

Each SEA lesson module has two main parts, the Teaching Notes and Student Activity pages provided in portable document format (PDF). To display, read, or print downloaded PDF files, an appropriate PDF reader such as Adobe Reader or equivalent is required. The Student Activity pages are also supplied in Microsoft Word document format (DOCX). The teacher is free to modify and adapt the Student Activity pages to best fit the needs of the students, the curriculum, and the classroom situation. Users are free to modify lessons to address other standards. All changes must include citation(s) of lesson originators and the Satellite Educators Association, Inc. as providers of the lesson plan.

Teaching Notes consist of the following sections:

The Student Activity pages contain some or all of the following as needed for the individual lesson:

All lesson plans list the Next Generation Science Standards addressed. Some of the lessons also list National Science Education Standards addressed. To quickly identify which lessons address specific standards, use the Library's convenient online search tools. You can search for lessons addressing specific Next Generation Science Standards science & engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and/or disciplinary subject and grade level. Some lessons are also listed by specific National Science Education Standards addressed. Once a lesson is identified, its documents can be read online, downloaded and printed. Many lesson plans are easily adaptable to grade levels other than those listed in the Teaching Notes.

The SEA Lesson Plan Library is curated. Each lesson plan module is reviewed and, if needed, revised and updated to reflect latest information and provide valid links. Every attempt is made to accomplish such updates annually.

The Using Satellites in Education section of this Web site offers comprehensive guidelines for incorporating appropriate tools and strategies for using satellite-based data in the K-12 classroom. Additionally, the SEA Lesson Plan Library's Analysis Toolbox contains and succinct documents about most commonly used tools. Specific resource documents, databases, video clips, imagery, and more supporting individual lessons are accessible through the Library's Resources page.

A teacher once said, "The best time to write a lesson plan is immediately after delivering the lesson." While it is fresh in the teacher's mind -- thoughts of what worked, what did not, rearranging for better timing or greater clarity, changing strategies, adding different material, accommodations for those who finish rapidly and those who need more time, objectives and assessment techniques, student reactions -- all facets of the lesson presentation. Then file it away for use the next time the lesson is presented.

At the SEA Lesson Plan Library, we appreciate knowing what worked for you and what changes we could implement to make the library and its lesson plans more user friendly and effective. When you use a lesson from this Library, it would be of tremendous help to us and future users if you would share your thoughts with us. The simple and quick feedback form online is encrypted and secure and takes only minutes to complete. Your responses are completely confidential.

Simply click FEEDBACK in the menu bar at the top of the screen to get started, and THANK YOU.

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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were authored by a consortium of 26 states and published in 2013. The standards document was the culmination of a project jointly undertaken by the National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and facilitated by Achieve, Inc. The standards are based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas which was released in 2011 by the NRC, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

The NGSS are standards, or goals, that reflect what a student should know and be able to do; they do not dictate the manner or methods by which the standards are taught. Every NGSS standard has three dimensions which are tied together by a Performance Expectation (PE). The three dimensions are:

Science and Engineering Practices
According to the NRC, students cannot fully understand scientific and engineering ideas without engaging in the practices of inquiry and the discourses by which ideas are developed and refined. At the same time, they cannot learn or show competence in practices except in the context of specific content. The eight practices of science and engineering identified in the Framework are listed here:

  1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations (for science) ad designing solutions (for engineering)
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The practices are guided by these principles: students in grades K-12 should engage in all eight practices over each grade band; practices grow in complexity and sophistication across the grades; each practice may reflect science or engineering; practices represent what students are expected to do and are not teaching methods or curriculum; practices intentionally overlap and interconnect; performance expectations focus on some but not all capabilities associated with a practice; engagement in practices is language intensive and requires students to participate in classroom science discourse.

Disciplinary Core Ideas
The disciplinary core ideas contain the content ideas for each grade band. Rather than encompassing "all the facts," they provide the foundational core knowledge upon which future learning can take place. Like the practices, the DCIs grow in complexity and sophistication across the grades. The DCIs are organized into four content areas:

Crosscutting Concepts
The Framework identifies seven crosscutting concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, uniting core ideas throughout the fields of science and engineering. Their purpose is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and develop coherent and scientifically based view of the world. The seven crosscutting concepts are listed here:

  1. Patterns
  2. Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity
  4. Systems and system models
  5. Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
  6. Structure and function
  7. Stability and change
  8. Connections to Engineering & Technology
  9. Connections to the Nature of Science

Performance Expectations
All three dimensions are meant to be taught together in support of a performance expectation. The performance expectations (PE) tie together all three dimensions. It is important to remember that they are written in a way that expresses the concept and skill to be performed while leaving curricular and instructional decisions to states, districts, schools, and teachers. The PEs do not dictate curriculum; rather, they are coherently developed to allow flexibility in the instruction of standards.

When comparing the Next Generation Science Standards with the older National Science Education Standards and Science for All Americans (and subsequent documents from the American Association for the Advancement of Science), it becomes apparent that, in addition to the traditional content areas of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Earth and Space Science, all of these documents address scientific inquiry as well as the engineering concerns of problem definition and solution design. However, NSES includes these areas as a series of individual standards that are easily bypassed during curriculum design and implementation in favor of the traditional content ideas; Science for All Americans describes overarching themes from a perspective different than eith NGSS or NSES. NGSS strive to integrate practices and crosscutting concepts with content ideas through the performance expectations.

NGSS also places greater emphasis on global change and the influence of humans, individually and collectively, on the Earth's systems. There is considerable room in the way the NGSS were constructed for teachers to extend instruction to advanced work in sciences and/or adapt instruction to meet the varying degrees of student abilities and needs.

For the sake of brevity, clarifying information appearing parenthetically in the original standards document has been omitted from the information in the overlay windows accessed from this Library's search routines. Please refer to Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States for complete text of each standard.

Most of the above was adapted from the Introduction to Volume 1 and from Volume 2 of Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. The entire text can be downloaded in PDF without charge or purchased in hard copy or e-book from the National Academies Press. These volumes are based entirely on A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas which can also be downloaded or purchased from National Academies Press. For more information, please visit the National Academies Press by clicking one of the document titles above.

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The historical development of the National Science Education Standards (NSES) began in 1989 and continued until the document's release in 1995 by the National Research Council (NRC), the operating arm of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering. The contents are based in large measure on Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy, both works from the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061.

The entire document includes much more than just content standards. It begins by laying out a set of overarching principles that underlie the vision of science literacy for all students. These principles, as well as definitions of key terms, provide the conceptual basis for the standards. The document includes standards for teaching, assessment at various levels, and professional development to help guide teachers and other science educators. It also offers program standards and system standards to help clarify the responsibility of policy makers and communities.

The content standards include in-depth explanations and examples of best practices. The content standards are divided into three grade bands: Grades K-4, Grades 5-8, and Grades 9-12. Each grade band organizes standards into these subject area categories:

This description was synthesized from Chapter 1 of National Science Education Standards. The entire text is available in hard copy for purchase from the National Academies Press. It can also be read online or downloaded as a PDF file without charge. For more information, please visit The National Academies Press at

For more information about Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and other works from Project 2061, please visit the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061 at All titles can be purchased in hard copy. Many can be read online without charge.

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First step --> SELECT SEARCH TYPE...

Search lessons addressing NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS...

To search for lesson plans addressing a specific Next Generation Science Standard set (including science & engineering practice and crosscutting concept), follow these steps:

  1. On the Library Home page, select a GRADE LEVEL from the drop down list or ALL GRADE LEVELS.
  2. Select a content SUBJECT AREA from the drop down list or select ALL SUBJECT AREAS.
  3. Select a SCIENCE & ENGINEERING PRACTICE from the frop down list or select ALL SCIENCE & ENGINEERING PRACTICES.
  4. Select a CROSSCUTTING CONCEPT from the drop down list or select ALL CROSSCUTTING CONCEPTS.
  5. Click SEARCH.
  6. View lessons meeting those criteria.
  7. In the lesson description, click a standard code to see the NGSS performance expectation with all three supporting dimensions.
  8. To access the lesson, use the green buttons to download the entire lesson in PDF or download only the Student Activity pages in Microsoft Word DOCX format.

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To search for a specific lesson title, follow these steps:

  2. Notice lessons listed alphabetically on the Title Search page. Clicking any title in the contents list will auto-scroll to that lesson's description.
  3. Alternatively, select a letter of the alphabet from the search box in the upper left panel to auto-scroll to lesson descriptions whose titles begin with that letter.
  4. You may also manually scroll through all lessons below the contents list.
  5. In the lesson description, click a standard code to see the NGSS performance expectation with all three supporting dimensions.
  6. To access the lesson, use the PDF button to download the entire lesson in PDF; use the DOCX button to download only the Student Activity pages in Microsoft Word DOCX format.

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Only the first 30 lessons published in More Lessons from the Sky are keyed to National Science Education Standards. However, all lessons list Next Generation Science Standards addressed. As older lesson plans are updated, reference to National Science Education Standards will be phased out.

To search for a lesson addressing a specific National Science Education Standard, use the NSES search grid. Each row of the search grid is a standard; each column a lesson. Lessons are numbered in order of publication date.

  1. Select GO TO SEARCH GRID.
    sample NSES search grid
  2. Find the desired grade band, relevant discipline, and standard category on the left side of the grid. Scroll up or down as needed by the cursor anywhere in the central area of the grid, then using the mouse wheel or up/down arrow keys.
  3. Move right along a standard's row to a shaded rectangle. Click the shaded rectangle at the intersection of the standard's row and the lesson's column to display a pop-up showing the lesson title and the text of the relvant standard.
    sample of pop-up search results
  4. Close the standard popup. Move up the column to the lesson's number block. Roll the cursor over the number block to see the lesson title in the top space of the grid box. Click the numbered block to display a pop-up with the lesson's description.
    sample of lesson description pop-up
  5. To access the lesson, use the PDF button to download the entire lesson plan in PDF; use the DOC button to download only the Student Activity pages in Microsoft Word DOC format.

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