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Critical Thinking in Science

Part 5: Change Over Time


Students will use satellite images, population data, and local city data to study human impact on the environment. The lesson is written in the 5E Learning Model.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will analyze satellite images and make predictions.
  • Students will plot population and acreage data.
  • Students will analyze graphed data to make predictions for the future.
  • Students will review a planned experiment and make suggestions for improvement.

Curriculum Alignment:

1.01 Identify and create questions and hypotheses that can be answered through scientific investigations.

1.02 Develop appropriate experimental procedures for:

  • Given questions.
  • Student generated questions.

1.04 Analyze variables in scientific investigations:

  • Identify dependent and independent.
  • Use of a control.
  • Manipulate.
  • Describe relationships between.
  • Define operationally.

1.05 Analyze evidence to:

  • Explain observations.
  • Make inferences and predictions.
  • Develop the relationship between evidence and explanation.

1.06 Use mathematics to gather, organize, and present quantitative data resulting from scientific investigations:

  • Measurement.
  • Analysis of data.
  • Graphing.
  • Prediction models.

1.08 Use oral and written language to:

  • Communicate findings.
  • Defend conclusions of scientific investigations.
  • Describe strengths and weaknesses of claims, arguments, and/or data

5.04 Analyze satellite imagery as a method to monitor Earth from space:

  • Spectral analysis
  • Reflectance curves.

5.05 Use maps, ground truthing, and remote sensing to make predictions regarding:

  • Changes over time.
  • Land use.
  • Urban sprawl.
  • Resource management.

Classroom Time Required:

3 to 4 class periods

Materials Needed:

  • Color satellite images of a local area, laminated (1 per 2 students)
  • Wet-erase markers (1 per 2 students)
  • Dictionary/computer to look up definitions
  • Student copies of worksheets
  • Student copies of population data
  • Graph paper
  • Calculators

Technology Resources:

Computer with internet access to gather satellite images

Pre-Activities/ Activities


  • Ask students what satellite images are used for. Have them generate a list of ideas and share with the class.
  • Next, ask the students what kinds of things may make satellite images difficult to interpret. (clouds, smoke, resolution, etc.)


  • Provide each pair of students with a laminated, color satellite image of Falls Lake, or whatever water source they previously studied. Choose an image that is distant and may have some difficulty in being labeled. These can be found easily on Google maps (be sure to remove the labels first). The images should be laminated to allow them to be used multiple times.
  • Provide the students with a wet-erase marker and ask them to label as many images as they can identify on the image.


  • The students should complete the questions with this activity (See Worksheet 1).


  • Print the Raleigh Past Population and acreage data for the students. This can be found at .
  • Students will plot 2 graphs to display the population growth of Raleigh and the increase in the size of the city.
  • The students should create two separate graphs to show the data. The X-axis (years) should be the same for both graphs (See Worksheet 2).
  • Students will then answer the questions that go along with their graph. They will be finding the slope of the line, or growth rate, at various time periods. Students will then use the most relevant rate to make predictions on the future size of Raleigh.


  • The students will be evaluating an experimental graphic organizer and procedure description designed to student shoreline recession in a drought on Falls Lake (See Worksheet 3).
  • The students will review the premade plan and look for the faults in the experimental design. A worksheet is provided that will help the students look carefully at all aspects of the experiment (See Worksheet 4).


See Evaluate piece of Activities Section.


  • EDGO can be edited for any motor skill deficiencies by making it larger, or making it available to be typed on.
  • All basic modifications can be used for these activities.

Supplemental Information:

  • Critical Vocabulary
  • Satellite imagery
  • Spectral analysis
  • Reflectance curves
  • Ground truthing


This lesson is part of the Critical Thinking in Science Unit and relies on the inquiry skills and vocabulary practiced in the first two lessons (Introduction to Experimental Design and How important is a decimal place?). This lesson should be used while teaching Goal 5 of the North Carolina Standards of Learning (change over time). Students are designing their own experiments to improve their ability to approach problems and questions scientifically. By developing their ability to reason through problems they are becoming critical thinkers.