Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


NEVILLE, Sara, MOOKERJEE, Labanya and GUERTIN, Laura A., Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063,

Classroom teachers are consistently faced with the challenge of getting students out of the classroom and engaged with field studies in their physical environment. Teachers may also have difficulty getting students to museums to explore classic specimens and displays. A new technology, the GigaPan system, is available to increase student connection and exploration with features on Earth and on Mars. GigaPan consists of a robotic camera mount that captures high-resolution (gigapixel and up) images using a standard digital camera. The images are “stitched” together to construct gigapixel panoramas. Originally developed for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, this technology is now available to educators with the GigaPan images freely available from a web interface (

Several sites of geologic significance have been photographed with the GigaPan system. These panoramas are geo-located and appropriate as a basis for student investigation and discussion. Sample imagery teachers can access include petroglyphs in Saudi Arabia, dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Yellowstone National Park. Teachers may want students to explore Earth processes by examining the flooding of Harriet Island along the Mississippi River or the Gros Ventre Landslide in Wyoming. Students can discuss the human-environmental impacts of mining operations by viewing the Brigham Canyon Mine in Utah, or conduct a biodiversity assessment in a panorama of an Antarctic Adelie penguin population.

Classroom strategies for implementation can be created with a GigaPan image as a starting point for individual or classroom exploration. A high-resolution image not only allows students to explore unseen places, but they often provide a crucial sense of scale, allowing students to connect to these foreign places. Impact craters on Mars can be explored in astronomy classes; students can walk in the steps of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, and describe what they see in a reflective writing exercise. GigaPan images of ecosystems can be printed and used to enhance quantitative skills by using geometry to estimate the number of organisms in a population. This presentation offers additional image examples along with pedagogical strategies for classroom integration.