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The appliance of science

An Ogden Trust grant is helping SatSchool expand the physics content in its resources for schools.

Published: 11 May 2023

SatSchool is an educational initiative that aims to promote Earth Observation (EO) and environmental science to students and teachers. Thanks to a physics education grant from The Ogden Trust, it has expanded its modules to incorporate more physics content, making it a more comprehensive resource for schools, colleges, and other organisations interested in promoting STEM education.

SatSchool offers ready-made resources for educators, including lesson plans, classroom activities, and assembly-style talks, all tailored to the Key Stage 3 / S1-3 curriculum. The resources cover a range of topics related to EO and environmental science, including the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and cryosphere. By incorporating physics content into these modules, SatSchool aims to show students how physics underpins the science behind how we launch and operate satellites, for example, using them to observe our planet in order to address a host of problems.

The modules have been developed to highlight the connections between different STEM subjects and the real-world applications of EO in fields like climate science.

SatSchool co-founder Calum Hoad said, “We are delighted to have the Ogden Trust’s support as we promote Earth Observation education to students and educators. By expanding our modules to include physics content, we are helping to create a better learning experience for students, and increasing the engagement and interest of young people in physics.”

Overall, the Ogden Trust’s support has enabled SatSchool to make great developments in their educational resources. With a focus on the real-world applications of physics in Earth Observation, SatSchool’s modules are helping to inspire the next generation of scientists. As a result, upcoming school visits and the volunteers that make up SatSchool’s Earth Ambassador Programme will be able to build on this progress and inspire even more students to engage with physics.

The grant application was made by Sam Bancroft – a physics graduate from Durham University and an Ogden Trust alumnus. He has two years professional experience as a computer vision and machine learning developer for a satellite imagery analytics company, where he worked after graduating. Since 2020, Sam has been working towards a PhD in Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, assessing future food security using satellite imagery and machine learning. Sam has been heavily involved in the SatSchool project since it was founded in 2021 and wishes he had been introduced to EO when he was at school as it would have encouraged him to take up physics even sooner.

IMAGE from UnSplash. The Dasht-e Kevir, or Great Salt Desert, is the largest desert in Iran. It is a primarily uninhabited wasteland, composed of mud and salt marshes covered with crusts of salt that protect the meagre moisture from completely evaporating.

Want to know more about SatSchool? Check out their educational resources here. 

New content from SatSchool

Examples of new content in the SatSchool modules include:

  1. Understanding the electromagnetic spectrum: This storymap introduces students to the concept of the electromagnetic spectrum and how it is used in EO. Students learn about different types of electromagnetic radiation, such as visible light, infrared, and microwave, and how they are used to gather insights about our environment.
  2. Curriculum-relevant content: Content on concepts especially relevant to the curriculum has been expanded, from explanations of forces, gravity, and orbits for satellites, to atmospheric reflection and scattering and how this interacts with sensors onboard satellites.
  3. Biosphere: An enhanced explanation, including custom graphics, explain the importance of the electromagnetic spectrum in relation to the remote sensing of vegetation. In particular, the reflection and absorption of red and near infrared light by vegetation is explored and the use of these characteristics as a principle remote sensing method for vegetation is investigated.
  4. Oceans: The physics of ocean remote sensing is further explored in new storymaps. Students learn about research into ocean colour, and interactions with sunlight and seawater. They also discover the role of ocean temperature and salinity in driving ocean currents and how they regulate the global climate. We see how scientists use physics knowledge to learn more about our oceans with the global view afforded by satellites.
  5. To improve engagement, we’ve introduced our satellite mascot “Phoeb-e the Physicist”, to highlight physics concepts alongside pop-up info and hint boxes throughout the storymaps.

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