A satellite image of a swirling hurricane Men with gas masks and protective suits on The planetary rover Sojourner A large group of refugees huddled together

  Primary
    (K-2)

  Elementary
    (3-5)

  Middle School
    (6-8)

  High School
    (9-12)


Primary (K-2)

Give the children a brief overview of nationalgeographic.com’s MapMachine and its features. Introduce the concept of elevation by showing that a taller child would constitute a higher elevation. Have the children create their own elevation maps of their school, house, or family using a key like the one used in MapMachine.

Have the children explore MapMachine, paying special attention to the enlargement feature. Then, have the children choose a classroom, person, or object and draw three pictures of that person or object, each an enlargement of the previous one.

Relate the hazards facing different habitats using the Eye in the Sky features. Have the children produce a diorama of their own “perfect habitat” using the criteria of precipitation, elevation, climate, resources, and agriculture. Next, tell them to include people participating in activities unique to that habitat (such as skiing in a region with a high elevation).

Elementary (3-5)

Have each child select a particular location from a list you provide. Using only MapMachine, have each student write a report on what they imagine life is like in that particular place. Once the reports are complete, have children swap their work with partners. Using other resources (books, magazines, etc.), each student will then evaluate their partner’s work. Ask students to compare the information they learned from MapMachine, with what they found in other resources.

Discuss precipitation with your students. Have them explore the dangers and benefits of hurricanes and floods using Eye in the Sky features. Then, have students measure precipitation for one month in three different regions (fourth-graders can focus on their state, fifth-graders on the United States, and sixth-graders on the eastern hemisphere). Students can find the information on the Internet or through a pen-pal program. After the data collection is complete, have students create their own map and key that displays the regions and their rates of precipitation.

Give students a brief introduction to earthquakes using Eye in the Sky. Next, using the map of recent earthquakes on MapMachine, have the children try to create a world map that includes the plate boundaries. Once the diagrams have been completed, have the children each select a place that is most “earthquake-safe” and write a persuasive essay to convince the class of their choice.

Middle School (6-8)

Have students explore the challenges facing different regions using Eye in the Sky features. Would students want to live in these regions? Why or why not? Have students create their own utopia and list what characteristics that place would possess. With that information, have the students search MapMachine to try to find a place that has all the features they are looking for. As an extension activity, each child can then work on creating a week’s worth of journal entries from a person of his/her age living in that region of the world.

Have students investigate deforestation and hurricanes using Eye in the Sky. Have them pay particular attention to how the hazards are mapped. Then, have each student create a map of an area (a square mile or square kilometer) surrounding his/her own school. Each map must include the depiction of a particular feature and how that feature changes over the area. Features could include the size of the homes in that region, precipitation, vegetation, etc. Once the maps have been created, have students present them to the class and explain the importance of mapping the features that they chose.

Have each student choose a particular theme on MapMachine and attempt to compute percentages and ratios for the amount of the world that possesses each level of that feature. (For example, if a student were looking at elevation, he/she could calculate the percentage of the world that has the highest elevation depicted on MapMachine.)

High School (9-12)

Give students a brief introduction to earthquakes using Eye in the Sky. Next, have the students look at maps of recent and historic earthquakes using MapMachine. Then have the students use the maps to discuss plate tectonics and plate motion over time. Finally, have the students create a map of what the world will look like in a thousand years, extrapolating from what they have learned about plate motion.

Have each student choose a particular business from a teacher-generated list (e.g. a surf shop, a ski resort, a farm). Then have students use Eye in the Sky to examine the hazards facing different regions around the world. Each student will then use MapMachine to determine the five best locations (on at least three different continents) to have their business. Each student will then write a paper outlining the features that are necessary for such a business to succeed.

In groups of four or five, have students investigate various problems facing different regions of the world. Have the students use MapMachine and Eye in the Sky to choose a particular region and the main threats facing that region (e.g. tornadoes in Kansas, infant mortality in Africa). Finally, have students brainstorm ways to address the problems.


go to the Eye in the Sky News Articles Archive go to Classroom Ideas earth-info.org go to learn about the history of satellites go to for more information on resources and links

Eye in the Sky powered by NIMA