Exploring Earth: Land Cover

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This activity models some of the ways natural processes, such as erosion and sediment pollution, affect Earth’s landscape. Data collected from satellites, such as the joint NASA/USGS Landsat satellites, help improve our understanding of Earth’s land cover. Orbiting Earth, these satellites monitor changes to land cover to help scientists predict changes due to runoff and erosion, and plan for the future. Activity includes a facilitation guide with potential misconceptions, Earth & space science infosheets with NASA connections, table sign, and activity & content training videos. All public-facing materials also available in Spanish.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Small double-sided paint tray
  • Aquarium pebbles (about 5 pounds)
  • Plastic aquarium plant
  • Small net (“berry net”)
  • Pitcher
  • Water
  • Blue food dye (optional)
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Larger tray (cafeteria style)
  • Sign, sign stand, information sheets, and activity and facilitator guides
  • GLOBE Observer postcards
  • “Map Your Backyard Land Cover!” worksheet
  • “Tips for Leading Hands-on Activities” sheet


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water
      • Biosphere

Informal Categories

  • Citizen Science


Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities