Teacher's Guide

Welcome, teachers, to the Image Composite Explorer (ICE). We designed ICE to help teach lessons—for classroom use or homework assignments—about Earth system science concepts as well as the basics of the electromagnetic spectrum and satellite remote sensing. Depending upon the complexity of the topics to be covered, and how well these topics are introduced by the ICE Web host, ICE can be used at the middle school, high school, and possibly even undergraduate level. We strongly encourage educators to thoroughly play test the tool, and any lessons using it, before introducing it to their students.

The sections below describe the goals and objectives of the ICE lessons and how their relevance to National Science Education Standards.

The goals of the ICE tool are to:

  • Make science fun and interactive;
  • Encourage students to use the Internet as a learning tool;
  • Provide understandable information about remote sensing measurements of terrestrial vegetation while also providing opportunities for further research or more indepth study;
  • Build on knowledge of world geography, math, and science;
  • Provide teachers the opportunity to introduce research methods and procedures; and
  • Provide for differentiated, individual learning.

The anticipated outcomes are that the student will be able to:

  • Describe and discuss the electromagnetic spectrum;
  • Describe and discuss how all objects preferentially reflect light in predictable ways;
  • Define and discuss the basics of “remote sensing”;
  • Build their own true- and false-color images using multi-spectral satellite data and discuss why the images look different in different spectral bands;
  • Define and discuss “vegetation indices” as a way to measure and monitor the greenness of terrestrial vegetation;
  • Create their own Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) product using multi-spectral data and ICE’s math mode;
  • Understand and discuss the three main limiting factors to plant growth, with an emphasis of the climatic conditions in Panama; and
  • Apply their knowledge of plant growth to a suite of plant measurements made by satellite to see if they can understand and predict why there are changes over time and space.


National Science Content Standards

Content Standard A

All students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry.

Content Standard B

5-8: All students should develop an understanding of the properties and changes of matter, motions and forces, and transfer of energy.

9-12: All students should develop an understanding of the properties of matter, chemical reactions, motions and forces, and the interactions of energy and matter.

Content Standard C:

5-8: All students should develop an understanding of populations and ecosystems, and diversity and adaptations of organisms.

9-12: All students should develop an understanding of matter, energy, and organization in living systems.

Content Standard D

5-8: All students should develop an understanding of the structure of the Earth system, Earth's history, and the Earth in the solar system.

9-12: All students should develop an understanding of energy in the Earth system and geochemical cycles.

Content Standard E:

All students should develop understanding about science and technology.

Additional Slides as Needed (Microsoft PowerPoint files)

  • Introduction to Remote Sensing (5.83 MB)
    This presentation is an overview of remote sensing, what it is, why we use it, and how it works. Slides include the definitions of common remote-sensing terms, and examples of images captured by different remote sensing instruments. The presentation also highlights key steps in the history of remote sensing and ends with a spectacular global image of the Earth’s surface combined with ocean temperatures, both of which were captured by the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite.
  • Leaf Reflectance (3.02 MB)
    This presentation addresses how and why vegetation interacts with sunlight the way it does, and how that interaction determines what a satellites “sees” when it looks at vegetation. The presentation includes examples of how vegetation looks different in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, and how using “invisible” parts of the spectrum can distinguish vegetated from non-vegetated surfaces as well as one type of vegetation from another. The presentation also includes brief discussion of photosynthesis, including schematic drawings of the process and structures involved, as well as graphs showing the range of sunlight that best drives the process.
  • The Human Eye (1.33 MB)
    This presentation briefly summarizes the main characteristics of the human eye and vision, and makes comparisons to the vision of other creatures. It includes electron micrograph images of the structures of the eye, as well as graphs that illustrate the link between our vision and the energy output of the Sun.