• Views 111
  • Favorites
Photo by SpaceX via Pexels

Database Provider


NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory


4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Worksheets
  • Videos, CC
  • Interactive Media
  • Assessments

Regional Focus


Tracking Water Using NASA Satellite Data

Ask a Question

  • In this lesson, students graph data collected by NASA's GRACE satellites and look at trends in the water mass of different locations.
  • Students learn how the satellites use the concepts of gravity and mass to track water, why tracking water is increasingly important, and how water content has changed over a decade.
Teaching Tips


  • The videos, animation, and maps make this lesson great for visual learners.
  • The graphing portion of the lesson is an excellent practice in collaboration with every small group responsible for a different year of data.

Additional Prerequisites

  • There is a lesson on how to read heat maps linked in the Management section that teachers may want to use before doing this activity.
  • Students should know how to graph data along an x- and y-axis.
  • It may benefit students to understand the water cycle.


  • Language arts students can write an informational piece to explain how the GRACE satellites work and what they measure.
  • Geography classes can discuss how the trends in water in different locations will impact the people who live there.
  • Students can discuss how climate change impacts the water cycle, sea level rise, and glacial melt.
  • Younger classes who struggle with independently graphing the data can complete the graphs as a whole class, doing one or two years a day, and possibly gradually releasing responsibility as students become familiar with the process.
  • Some students may need to spend more time with the definitions and explanations for mass and gravity before understanding how the satellites work.
Scientist Notes

This resource is from the CLEAN collection. “The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness.”

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 4-ESS2-2 Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
      • 5-ESS2-1 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-1 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes.
      • MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Speaking & Listening (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.2 Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Geometry (K-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.G.A.2 Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.
    • Statistics & Probability (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.SP.A.1 Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.8.SP.A.2 Know that straight lines are widely used to model relationships between two quantitative variables. For scatter plots that suggest a linear association, informally fit a straight line, and informally assess the model fit by judging the closeness of the data points to the line.
  • Related Resources


    Login to leave a review