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My NASA Data


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Presentation Slides
  • Worksheet
  • Assessment
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - Midwest


Google Docs, Google Slides, PDF, Google Forms

Observing Solar Energy

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  • This lesson plan includes a series of map visualizations representing albedo values, in which students analyze changes in albedo throughout different regions and across different seasons.
  • There is a video and linked resources that can help students understand the scientific concept of albedo before they analyze different albedo values on the maps.
  • There are teacher keys, student worksheets, facilitation suggestions, a Google Slides deck, and optional Google Forms answer sheets included in the lesson plan, resulting in a lesson that is ready for immediate use.
Teaching Tips


  • This activity is a great example of scientific inquiry, as students analyze graphs, make predictions, and support their claims with evidence as they discuss the data contained on the world maps.
  • If students are local to the Midwest United States, using Chicago as an example to visualize seasonal variation in albedo is an excellent and relevant choice.
  • The teaching facilitation tips help guide students through making data comparisons, inferences, and reflections based on the albedo maps.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with the difference between the absorption and reflection of solar energy.
  • Students should be able to compare ratios.


  • To ensure students understand the concept of albedo before completing this activity, consider running some mini experiments in the classroom to investigate the absorption or reflection of different surfaces in the schoolyard.
  • Before completing this activity, ask students to predict how they think albedo might be different in different regions of the United States or during different times of the year.
  • If using the student worksheet in your classroom, consider guiding students with some sentence starters or structure to record their observations beneath each map that they analyze.
  • As an extension, have students complete an albedo lab using thermometers, ice, and different surfaces to compare temperature and ice melt.
  • Students will practice discussing data that is presented in a unique way, by albedo ratio, rather than a standard unit. This can help integrate this resource into a math class.
Scientist Notes
This resource from my NASA data uses maps of surface albedo to observe geographic and seasonal variation of solar energy. The resource features a short video that clearly defines albedo before students are shown world maps of albedo and tasked with observing regional variation and inferring what season the figure shows. This resource uses primary data and really puts an emphasis on students making predictions and supporting their claims. The supplied slide show is well organized, featuring clear teacher notes on most slides, and the lesson can be completed using either printed student sheets or in the supplied Google form. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • English Language Arts
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.
      • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
      • RST.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.
      • RST.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.
      • RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
  • Mathematics
    • Ratios & Proportional Relationships (6-7)
      • 6.RP.A.1 Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, "The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak." "For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes."
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
      • MS-ESS2-6. Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
      • HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
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