NASA's newest mission, SMAP, launched over the weekend from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, and Project WET is helping teachers explain why it matters. The Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) mission, is measuring soil moisture and surface freeze/thaw from space with unprecedented accuracy. For the next three years, SMAP will map the entire globe every two to three days, providing the highest-resolution maps of soil moisture ever obtained.
Working with scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Project WET developed two classroom activities that explain soil moisture and the freeze-thaw cycle. They are available for free on our Resources page.
"Dirt to Dinner" is a tag game that gets students moving to learn about how water moves into, through and out of soil. Students use whole-body movement to model water, with soil, ground water, atmosphere and plants interactions.
"The Breathing Boreal Forest" allows students to use their imagination to play the role of coniferous trees, teaching them about seasonal cycles of freezing and thawing as well as dormancy. The activity also explores connections between freeze/thaw, photosynthesis and the global carbon cycle.