two people flying a kiteIn June 2019, the Science Math Resource Center hosted a workshop for educators called Citizen Science and the Lewis & Clark Trail. This workshop brought history, citizen science, NASA technologies and Montana water quality research to educators from K-12 classrooms and out-of-school programs as we combined the mystique of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail with modern tools for data collection.

Resources from the workshop are posted here and are current as of Summer 2021. Please feel free to use them, or contact Science Math Resource Center for more information!

You can learn more about the NASA AEROKATS and ROVER Education Network andMontana NSF EPSCoR, sponsors of the workshop.

NASA AREN provides hands-on experiences that bring a unique “aerial perspective” to learners of all ages using large kites, cameras and sensors. In the workshop, educators learned about AREN, kite aerial photography (KAP), citizen science, and how AREN helps students experience NASA science missions, technology and operations. The participants also learned about balloon mapping, GLOBE Observer, and the Lewis & Clark citizen science challenge, a National Park Service program. 

The educators brainstormed ways to complement the STEM aspects of AREN with the Arts and the Humanities and generated additional links useful for a classroom/program curriculum. Below are their ideas.

STEM + the Arts = STEAM

Art and visualization

  • Prompt students to think about what the kite sees as it looks down and then draw it. Encourage youth to draw what you see, not what you know.
  • Ground-truthing – Compare a real aerial photo to a child’s first drawing of what the area may look like from above. Talk about spatial reasoning and how that starts to develop.
  • Additionally, draw different perspectives of how the kites are seen in the air.
  • Design a pattern or mathematical array that could be created on the ground and then photographed from the air. Use flags, colors, humans, etc.
  • Brainstorm creative ways to graph and visualize the data from the Kestral. What other data could be visualized (e.g., flying conditions)

Making / crafting

  • Design your own kite: Try some designs and see how you could improve on them. Consider how the wind moves over and under the kite? What are the other variables, e.g., is the launcher (the human) tall or short? Do the air currents come from above or below?
  • What other 3D media could you use to make representations of kites?
  • Creative ways to mark the string: Students could mark the string for how far out their kites go each time; try to beat themselves in a challenge for whether they can get it out farther. Why did it do better one day vs. another?


  • Research the history of kites or balloons. Create a visualization of the timeline.
  • Study historical kite flyers such as Ben Franklin, Leonard Da Vinci

Lewis & Clark citizen science challenge:

  • Consider what if Lewis & Clark had aerial mapping?
  • How has recording information and finding out information changed over time. What did Lewis & Clark have to do to go find what’s out there vs. what we (in 2019) are doing? How do we still incorporate those older techniques – journals, writing, drawing?
  • Compare modern methods with older methods, e.g., students could draw clouds and then look at them with GLOBE. It helps them be more aware observers. Talk about how much we have gained.
  • Tie to the Journal of Augustus Pelletier: The Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804 (My Name is America – historical fiction of a teenage boy on the trail with L&C.) Compare to what L&C would have seen compared to what we see.

Reading and writing

  • Write stories about their first kite flying experience
  • Write poems in the shape of kites
  • Write a news article about their kite-flying experience; help youth describe what they have done and what they have learned
  • Create a bird's eye view narrative as if you had ridden on the kite
  • Connect kite flying to literature – there are lots of children’s book about kites – fiction and non-fiction. Study the Wright Brothers and history of flight
  • Critical thinking, research and teamwork

Additional questions to consider:

  • Static electricity: does it affect kite flying?
  • Aerodynamics – how the air may flow over the kite – what are the features of a good kite-flying day vs a bad day
  • Other projects that are going on – who else is using this technology and what are they doing
  • Why do some kites have tails?
  • Connect kites to other areas, such as a correlation with bird migration. Birds migrate at certain times of the year; is there a correlation between bird migration and better kite flying times? How would we find out?
  • Build a wind tunnel to experiment with mini kites
  • Ethical / privacy discussion – is it safe to fly a kite everywhere, why might you not fly, why would someone have a problem with it
  • Teamwork: Working as a team, redesigning their kites as a team
  • Do a verbal-visual exchange – kids who fly then share pictures share back with kids who did not fly and have to write about it; shared experiences

Additional resources

GLOBE Land Cover Toolkit 

Land Cover resource library

Aerokats and Rovers Education Network

Project overview

AEROKATS overview (the flying part, not the underwater robotics), including lots of information about the kites and aerial imaging

Aeropods and how to use the NASA licensed technology

Info on the different types of kites. We flew the Alpine (the big one that we tried to put the aeropod on), the 7-foot Delta, and then the small one with the tails is called a Hata 


Balloon mapping

Citizen Science

Lewis & Clark Citizen Science Challenge

Indigenous Peoples

EPSCoR Water Quality research

Other water quality resources

In the benthic macroinvertebrates chapter are the Pollution Tolerance Index (PTI) data sheets and PTI identification key. Appendix B is the big, 2-sided macroinvertebrate key for rivers and ponds. The whole manual is an excellent resource for understanding water quality.


Montana Girls STEM Collaborative

PocketLab Air