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Home Blogs Laurie Ruberg Bridging Haitian Images of Disaster to STEM Tools of Compassion and Hope

Bridging Haitian Images of Disaster to STEM Tools of Compassion and Hope

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Written by lruberg45!
20 Jan 2010

A week after the devastating Haitian earthquake of January 12, nations and communities seek wAP Photo/John Hellerays to help comfort and support the people of Haiti who have lost their homes, families, and support. As citizens of the world, we want to build on our students’ feelings of compassion for the people of Haiti by showing them how they can help. As educators, we want to build on our students’ natural concern and interest in this event as a vehicle to engage them in the science and technology as a means to understand, study, and investigate our dynamic planet.

We begin by looking first closest to home to see how those we may know are personally touched by these recent events. Near Wheeling, Haitian Orphans arrive for medical care at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. The children were not orphaned by last week's massive earthquake, but their orphanage was destroyed. The children will be placed in group homes until their adoptions are finalized.

Using popular tools like Google to search for content and Google Earth to search for images, we find the two satellite images released Wednesday by Google and GeoEye shown below of the national palace in Port-au-Prince before and after the devastating impact of this level 7 earthquake. Your students can scan the entire city with Google Earth as well.

Image of the National Palace before the earthquake 12 Jan 2010

Image of the National Palace after the earthquake

Image of the National Palace before the earthquake

Image of the National Palace after the earthquake

While student interest is piqued, we can also point them to resources from which they can learn about the scientific explanations of this event.  The NASA Earth Observatory is one of the resources that teachers can use to find engaging visual imagery tied to scientific explanations in an interactive, searchable database that can extend student interest to understand the underlying natural causes behind this tragedy.  The satellite images made available on this website are presented via a searchable database that can be easily searched by topic or keywords.  A series of images are displayed when I search in the category of Volcanoes and Earthquakes from which I can further narrow my search to Haiti.

Geography and Earth science teachers will find that the Earth Observatory is a great resource for getting students engaged in historical satellite images of a country or geographic region.  With a theme in mind and geographic focus, students can search for and view satellite images of the damage from other recent natural disasters that recently impaceted Haiti.  For example, students will discover that Port-au-Prince was hit hard by hurricane Ike just16 months before the recent earthquake.

Image of Port-au-Prince taken 12 Jn 2010

Image of Port-au-Prince after Hurricane Ike 14 September 2008

NASA Earth-observing satellite images of Port-Au-Prince taken after the 12 January 2010 Haitian earthquake (left) and after Hurricane Ike (right) illustrate the significant structural damages caused by these two natural disasters. 

Staying connected to the NASA Earth Observatory web site will help fuel student interest in forward-looking applications of satellite images.  This photo from 18 January 2010 (below, right) suggests areas near the epicenter of the Haitian quake where post-quake landslides may occur.  Because of Haiti’s steep mountain terrain and tropical rainfall, the risk of landslides and continued shifting earth is extremImage of Haiti's steep mountain terrain taken 15 Jan 2010ely high.

How close are scientists to being able to using their knowledge to predict when and where the next eruption will occur and save lives?

Scientists, like theoretical physicist, Marcelo Gleiser, explain that even though they can explain the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, science cannot predict when the next earthquake will occur.  Our world is an active planet, boiling on the inside, its crust made of plates that, as the pressure mounts, shift about in search of a more stable configuration.  Our level of understanding and tools for measuring shifts and pressures in Earth’s plates cannot yet predict when or where an earthquake will occur to save lives.

Our hope is that students today may make more precise predictions of quakes and eruptions possible in the future.

Update based on 27 Jan 2010 news: NASA is sending a radat-equipped jet to Haiti to make 3-D maps of the deformation caused by the 21 Jan 2010 earthquake and aftershocks.  NASA Airborne radar to map Haitian deformations from 12 Jan 2010 earthquake and aftershocks

"The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, was already scheduled to head to South America aboard a modified Gulfstream III to study volcanoes, forests and Mayan ruins. NASA added the island of Hisapaniola to the itinerary to help study faults in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic." Read More.

Last update (28 Jan 2010)


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Bridging Haitian Images of Disaster to STEM Tools of Compassion and Hope
Written by: On: 27 Jan 2010

You can also use the Quake Aftershock Damage Seen by NASA satellite NASA Image of the Day as a tool when talking about applications of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument consists of three separate instrument subsystems. Each subsystem operates in a different spectral region, has its own telescope(s), and was built by a different Japanese company.  ASTER's three subsystems are: the Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR), the Shortwave Infrared (SWIR), and the Thermal Infrared (TIR).

Our electromagnetic spectrum blogs, Introducing Students to Infrared Energy Through Practical Applications and Electromagnetic Spectrum Resources for Elementary Students, provide more valuable resources for teaching about this topic.

In what ways do you use the NASA Image of the Day in your instruction?

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Bridging Haitian Images of Disaster to STEM Tools of Compassion and Hope - More NASA images of Haiti
Written by: lruberg45! On: 27 Jan 2010

The NASA Image of the day for 27 Jan 2010 [] provides a false-color image of Haiti on Jan 21, 2010, nine days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region and one day after a large 5.9 aftershock caused even further damage.  The image referred to was taken by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

It is interesting to compare today's NASA image with the Earth Observatory natural light image of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, taken January 15, by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.  This image can be viewed at:

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