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Beautiful Earth

Beautiful Earth is a unique education experience for people of all ages that combines live music, a multi-media presentation of NASA visualizations, NASA scientist and Native American perspectives of the Earth and its cryosphere, hands-on workshops, and educator development programs at partner museums across the U.S.

Beautiful Earth - Experiencing and Learning Science in a New and Engaging Way, was a grant (2011-2015) awarded through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s Education and Public Outreach for Earth and Space Science (EPOESS) program. Beautiful Earth fostered a new approach to teaching by combining live music and NASA data visualizations (Kenji Williams BELLA GAIA) and Earth science with NASA scientist and indigenous science perspectives, and hands-on workshops for K-12 students at science centers. Inspired by the “Overview Effect,” described by many astronauts who were awestruck by seeing the Earth from space and their realization of the profound interconnectedness of Earth’s life systems, Beautiful Earth leveraged the power of multimedia performance to serve as a springboard to engage K-12 students in hands-on Earth science and Native wisdom workshops.  The program also included workshops for educators to access NASA satellite data.

A large focus of the program was on Earth’s cryosphere. Dr. Thorsten Markus, former Chief, GSFC’s Cryo Lab, and former ICESat-2 Project Scientist, engaged with students at live and virtual events to help them better understand Earth’s frozen regions and their important role in Earth’s climate.

Post-program external evaluation results found that participants’ understanding of the Earth had changed and there was a dramatic increase in interest in The Earth and Earth Sciences.

Although the grant was completed in 2015, many resources are available for download.



For more information on the program, contact the Principal Investigator, Valerie Casasanto

Digital Learning Network Episodes

View our Digital Learning Network episodes:

‘2012 Earth Day Digital Learning Network with Beautiful Earth’

Left: Beautiful Earth Collaborators, Thorsten Markus (NASA Cryospheric Scientist, Jim Rock (Indigenous Educational Design), and Erin McKinley (NASA GSFC) during 2012 Earth Day DLN. Right: Beautiful Earth Co-I, Kenji Williams, performing BELLA GAIA Live during 2012 Earth Day DLN.

Earth Day 2012: Beautiful Earth

Earth Day 2013: Beautiful Earth

2014 Beautiful Earth with the Global Precipitation Mission


Motion in the Ocean

This experiment was developed by Beautiful Earth’s Collaborator, Mr. Jim Rock (Dakota). It re-creates ocean currents in a recycled tennis ball tube to better understand fluid physics and Earth’s global thermohaline circulation system.

Onondaga Nation School students performing hands-on water density experiments at the MOST Museum, Syracuse, NY


Beautiful Earth Educator Guide 

A key Beautiful Earth partner was the MOST Museum - Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (Leaving NASA), Syracuse, NY, and the Onondaga Nation School. The Onondaga Nation is deeply connected to Onondaga Lake and committed to the clean up and restoration. This education module highlights the Onondaga Nation’s vision for this area as well as helps students look at Earth’s water systems. Click here to download guide. 


Beautiful Earth Team Members

Principal Investigator: Valerie Casasanto, UMBC/NASA GSFC

Co-Investigators: Kenji Williams and Ronan Hallowell, Remedy Arts, New York, NY

Dr. Ana Prados, UMBC/NASA GSFC

Collaborators: Mr. Jim Rock, Indigenous Educational Design; Dr. Thorsten Markus, NASA GSFC; Dr. Kris Juffer, Action Research & Associates