Eye on space- EOS available to all Montana schools

Drummond junior high students get
glimpse into NASA

It was, in some respects, a typical
computer class.

By VINCE DEVLIN of the Missoulian

"This won’t type," said one person.
"Click on what?" said another.

"My dots disappeared." "Mine won’t
do that." "Go where?" "Do what?"
Finally, one of the people confided to
the person behind him, "I’m loster
than you are."

But soon the "loster" person had
figured his way through the maze of
steps, and was helping those around
him. He was one of 18
seventh-graders from Drummond
taking advantage of satellite imagery from NASA on Thursday at the University of Montana.

Jim Oberweiser’s Montana history class came to town to learn how to use what’s known as GIS. It
stands for Geographic Information System, and it can combine layers of information about a place to
give you a better understanding of that place. You can tailor it to your purposes – to find the best
location for a new store, to detect a pattern of crimes in a city, to analyze environmental damage.

First you need to know how to access satellite imagery and other information that’s already available.
Then you need to know how to add in your own data.

The seventh-graders hope to use it for a Clark Fork River project they’re involved in with Montana Tech
in Butte.

"It’ll involve the history and health of the section of the Clark Fork River in Drummond," Oberweiser
said. "We’ll combine with our science classes to do things like inventory insects and bugs in our part
of the river, then compare them to the insects and bugs inventoried in Butte, Anaconda, the Warm
Springs ponds."

The seventh-graders started at 9:30 a.m. By the afternoon, the students had satellite pictures of
downtown Drummond on their computer screens, and were able to see the river, streets and
interstate highway, plus pick out landmarks: the high school gym, the football field, the "D" on the hill
near town. Instructor Jeff Crews announced, "OK, up to now, we have consumed information that’s
already there. Now it’s time to become producers of information, like the people who named the roads
and mapped the rivers for us."

Students began attempting to label things they recognized from back home, from the ambulance
shed to the Frosty Freeze, but 2:15 and the return trip to Drummond came quickly.

"I know you’ve gotten frustrated at times, gotten lost, but you’ve learned a lot of stuff in a short time,"
Crews told them. "If you were adults, we’d still be back on (how to change) colors (on the screen)."

It’s all a part of EOS, NASA’s Earth Observing System Education Project. According to Crews,
Montana’s two U.S. senators were instrumental in bringing the $3.5 million NASA project to the
University of Montana, where half the program is educational and operates under the umbrella of the
School of Education, and the other half falls under the School of Forestry and involves natural

Previous education projects have included helping fifth-graders in Lolo who had gathered their own
information on traffic and traffic density apply it to satellite imagery to map the safest routes to school
for each of them.

"Satellite imagery was just being used by scientists in labs," Crews said, "but there’s a wealth of
information out there that we can use as educators."

So far, 123 of Montana’s 877 public schools have used the program. Members of the EOS team will
come to the schools; Oberweiser said his Drummond seventh-graders came to Missoula because,
with 12 computers available at the school, students would have had to double up and less ground
would be covered.

"It’s a wonderful resource," Oberweiser said, "and it’s so close. With technology like this we don’t
have to be so isolated."

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 523-5260 or at [email protected].

If you’re interested

Teachers and schools interested in learning what the Earth Observing System Education Project can
do for their classrooms can contact the EOS team at 1-800-411-0341, or 243-2047. Or, visit

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