Teachers wanting to contribute to science education with young students and bring innovative teaching materials to their classroom should include remote sensing and Earth Observation in their curricula. The Copernicus ecosystem and wider remote sensing community offer many tools and training opportunities to support teachers in this endeavour.
Promoting science education with young students
The Copernicus programme, and remote sensing more generally, can help boost young students’ interests in science. Incorporating remote sensing activities in the classroom provides teachers with an opportunity to make science learning interactive and more attractive to students, all the while establishing connections between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. This not only allows students to acquire general scientific literacy, but also boosts interest in the earth observation and remote sensing sector.
Students become familiar with the basic principles of Earth observation, such as properties of satellites images, image processing and analysis, as well as the benefits that earth observation brings to society. Teachers can showcase how earth observation data can be used to help monitor some of the most pressing environmental issues, such as climate change or air and marine pollution, assist public authorities with emergency management and response, or foster the development of innovative applications and solutions.
Engaging students in analysing satellite imagery, such as optical images, or data products, such as the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s Climate Bulletins, can help spark student’s interest in remote sensing and earth observation, which in turn may broaden their horizons and encourage them to pursue future careers in scientific fields.
Innovating in the classroom through remote sensing
Remote sensing and Earth observation data offer a great opportunity for teachers to divert from traditional teaching techniques. As young students are more familiar with new technologies and keener to use them, teachers need to adapt their lessons to their students’ changing interests and, therefore, explore new forms of teaching and learning.
Due to its multidisciplinary nature, remote sensing and earth observation can provide a rich source of teaching materials to use in a large array of classes from science classes (e.g., physics, geography), to social sciences and ‘current affairs’.
For example, teachers can incorporate data from the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service that showcases land cover use and change in Europe and around the world, to analyse how cities have expanded, or the loss of tree cover.
Land Cover in Belgium for 2018 (available at: https://land.copernicus.eu/dashboards/clc-clcc-2000-2018)
Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 images can be used in geography classes or history classes to show students famous historic sites or the size and location of the world’s deserts and seas. Data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service could be used to provide visual supports for teachers to explain air pollution, including linked to wildfires, or the ozone hole and its monitoring.
3D rendering of the ozone hole up to 13 September 2020 (available at: https://atmosphere.copernicus.eu/monitoring-ozone-protect-life-earth)
Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service and the Marine Environment Monitoring Service can be used to support teachers in explaining climate change and its impact on our planet, including the role of the ocean in mitigating it, or explaining how plastic pollution is transported in the sea.
Video summary of the Copernicus Climate Change Service’s 2020 European State of the Climate (available at: https://climate.copernicus.eu/sites/default/files/2021-04/ESOTC_2020_video_final.mp4)
Supporting teachers: tools and training opportunities
Incorporating earth observation data in the classroom might seem daunting to teachers, as they may think they need to be earth observation experts in order to do so, or that access to data could be expensive. However, the Copernicus ecosystem and the wider remote sensing community offer many tools and training opportunities to support teachers.
Starting with the access to data itself, most data provided under the Copernicus programme is available on a free, full and open basis. For an easier access to these data, teachers can use the Copernicus DIAS platforms ("Data and Information Access Services"), which provide a centralised data catalogue and processing tools. Teachers can also use the Sentinel Hub EO Browser which is an open-source web-based tool for browsing, visualising, and analysing satellite imagery, including Sentinel-1, -2, -3 & Sentinel-5P. It offers a dedicated education page that provides a collection of information, tutorials and webinars, use cases, and links to useful resources.
The Copernicus services themselves offer an array of data that teachers can use in their classroom. For example:
- The Copernicus Climate Change Service’s Climate & Energy Education Demonstrator aims to complement existing school curricula and, at the same time, raise awareness about climate change. It is targeted to teachers and students at a high school level.
- The Copernicus Marine Service (CMEMS) provides ocean literacy information and technical support to build educational tools, as well as organise awareness-raising events, including with young students. Its easy-to-use ocean data visualisation tools can also help teachers easily showcase key ocean-data such as ocean temperature, sea ice and more.
- The Copernicus Land Monitoring Service provides three dashboards that show their data “at a glance” in an accessible and meaningful manner to all audiences. Aside from these dashboards, factsheets are also available that explain how satellite data is used to monitor land, forests and agriculture, or how to monitor and map human settlements.
- A similar factsheet is available for the Copernicus Emergency Management Service that explains how satellite data are used to support emergency and disaster management.
- The Copernicus programme and several of its Services also have YouTube channels where teachers can find many videos about the programme itself, data access and much more.
On top of these resources, data from the Copernicus services are used in many user-friendly and value-added applications that can be showcased in classrooms. These use cases are available on the services’ respective websites.
If teachers are interested in going a bit more in depth, several Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are available that touch upon various topics, including:
- The Copernicus MOOC, which covers all the basics regarding the Copernicus programme, how the data can be used and the key skills to use Copernicus data and products.
- ESA offers three Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), targeted to non-specialists.
- EUMETSAT offers two MOOCs on atmospheric and ocean monitoring.
Many other initiatives exist that can support teachers in bringing remote sensing and earth observation in the classroom, including, for example:
- The Science Education through Earth Observation for High Schools (SEOS) project offers 17 tutorials on environmental topics, available in various languages.
- "Remote Sensing in Schools" (FIS), an initiative by the Remote Sensing Research Group of the Department of Geography at the University of Bonn funded by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the German Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology (BMWi). On the website, teaching material is available and research and analysis tools that cover the needs of Biology, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics classes. These materials are based on the German school curriculum but can be easily adapted to the needs and preferences of any classroom.
- ESA’s EduSpace, which is an entry point for space-based data that also provides a pool of ideas on how to integrate space-related topics into the classroom.