Windows on Earth Master Plan


Students work with astronauts to observe and photograph Earth and use these photographs to build global awareness and help solve problems.

This document presents the Master Plan for Windows on Earth and its proposed development and wide-spread use over the next several years. Windows on Earth (WinEarth) features a rich archive of Earth photos taken by astronauts and highlights the power of these compelling images to support student exploration and learning. While the project includes on-orbit tools built by Myriad to help the astronauts identify targets, we focus here on the systems to process, disseminate and explore the photos, along with related learning activities for Earth science, human geography, and other STEM domains.

We (the Principal Investigators and Myriad) will build on our current operational base (ten years of development and use in partnership with NASA and CASIS), add deeper and richer learning experiences, develop a more engaging and interactive web site, and expand to reach a much larger educational audience. We will work with educators, scientists, and astronauts to tap into the full power of these images to help students understand core concepts in Earth science, learn by direct observation about some of the real environmental challenges we face, and gain a global perspective to find creative solutions. This will include feature expanded use of the image archive, daily downloads, public web set, interactive mystery images, and educational curriculum.  All of this will be deployed within and integrated into the Space Station Explorers web site (developed by partner CASIS), to maximize our reach and impact.

We will also launch a powerful Citizen Science program, in which students have active roles to review the daily download, select the most compelling and effective images, geo-reference and annotate the images, and create collections based on themes and locations. Students will work directly with scientists to support authentic research, with astronauts to create personal image galleries, and with educators to find images for specific educational needs. This expands the roles of students from recipients of knowledge, to actual participants in the research, exploration, and effective use of this whole Earth perspective.

In parallel to content development, we will promote large-scale visibility and high-volume use of these assets. This will include partnerships with organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association and The National Earth Science Teachers Association; active use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards with its elevated emphasis on Earth science; and creative connections with astronauts, NASA and the ISS (e.g. a weekly tweet by an ISS astronaut pointing to the current mystery image will build traffic!)

Our primary target audience is middle and high school students and their STEM teachers. Hence our outreach efforts highlight teachers, administrators, and school systems. Yet we also have found great interest from out-of-school programs, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Girls Inc., STEM Scouts, museums, and other informal venues. So we will expand our partnerships with them, in collaboration with CASIS. We find that many adults also are interested in these images, so we will include them in our “anybody, anytime, anywhere” approach to learning.

This Master Plan guides a series of specific actions to achieve these goals. At a base level, the partners will sustain current operations and promote their educational use. Meanwhile, team members will submit a series of proposals to fund and build out these activities. This includes funding for the new software engine that enables these creative ways to engage students, staff to manage the system and support the community, educational partners to develop the learning activities, and social media and other outreach to significantly grow visibility and participation. This Master Plan provides the grand vision and unifying structure for these components so that each fits into the overall plan.

Within two years, we project reaching over 200,000 students per year, with in-depth engaging learning experiences. We map out here how to achieve that. And yet the real growth beyond that will come from the community-at-large, as we open these assets and tools to the creative imagination of students, teachers, and the general public.