Image of the Day

Image of the Day

An image is a powerful tool for Earth and space science instruction.  An image can capture a feature, a process, and/or an event and allow us to bring that snapshot to our students.  Although images may be used throughout a class period, an image can be used at the very beginning of a class to engage students and direct classroom discussion for the day.

We invite you to contribute to our collection of examples of how you utilize an “image of the day.”

Related – see SERC’s Question of the Day description and examples.

Contributed by Heather Spotts, Bellefonte Area Middle School

The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is a NASA webpage that displays a new image daily. A brief paragraph, written by a professional astronomer, is included to explain and describe the image. A photograph is shown most days, but there are times when video clips are provided.

Initially, I showed the image and gave my own synopsis of the paragraph. This acted as a warm-up activity intended to spark interest and act as a tie-in to the day's lesson. However, a student with an interest in astronomy asked if he could present the image and talk about it. He voluntarily took over the task of reading the information ahead of time for homework and rephrased it into "kid-friendly" language. There were days he needed to Google a bit of information to make sense of the text. Other days, he simply showed the picture and told the class that it was of a certain galaxy. That was really all that my 6th graders needed in those circumstances.

The students loved seeing the images and eventually were able to make generalized and sometimes accurate hypotheses on what the images were displaying. By having a student take ownership of APOD, it became a shared responsibility of time and of the learning. Students seemed to have even more of an interested because a peer was leading.

Quick. Easy. Successful. The direct link to APOD is

Contributed by Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine

I teach introductory-level Earth science courses for non-science majors.  One of my goals with my courses is to get students to not only question material they are presented, but to have them understand the difference between an observation and interpretation.

I provide a worksheet for my students to complete when I show the image.  I do not share any information about the image, as I start by showing only the picture.  I ask each of them to work individually writing down what they observe in the image, what questions they may have and would like answered to be able to gather more information, and then what their interpretation of the image might be.  I learn quickly that when students observe a satellite image, for example, they assume the color green represents grass and the color blue represents water and put this information under the “Observation” section.  Students use their prior knowledge and, without thinking, will call an interpretation an observation.  Students generally come up with good questions they would like to know the answers to before making an interpretation, such as, where was this taken?  What year was this taken?  What do the shades of colors mean? 

As the semester continues, I allow the students to think-pair-share when completing the worksheets.  This activity does take up time in class, sometimes up to 10 minutes for one image, but I feel this is an important exercise for developing the global citizens in my classes that will be seeing images representing the Earth and Earth processes long after they finish my course.

I do not do this exercise at the beginning of every class period, so that the students do not grow tired of the activity.  I do include “image of the day” questions on tests and the final exam.  And although I have not assessed student performance throughout the semester, I do notice an improvement throughout the semester in students being able to accurately define the differences between an observation and interpretation, the quality of questions asked, and an increase in the number of observations made about each image.

My favorite places with daily image updates include NASA’s Earth Observatory, Earth Science Picture of the Day, and the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.


Image of the Day Files
Image of the Day Worksheet PDF - 36 KB