- Apply to UW
- Programs & Majors
- Cost & Financial Aid
- Current Students
- UW Life
- About UW
Published April 12, 2023
From Yellowstone National Park to Devils Tower and all points in between, preschool- and elementary school-age children and their parents received a glimpse of Wyoming’s diverse and rich geography by assembling a giant floor puzzle of the state as part of the recent “Earth Extravaganza” Family Day event.
The event, organized by the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne as part of its monthly outreach activities, took place April 1. WyomingView, a program hosted by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC), was invited to showcase the geography of the state, using satellite images, to children and adults.
“It is one thing to read about the state’s geography in a textbook or view it digitally on electronic devices. However, it is entirely different to walk on a large image from one location to another or see the distances between cities, etc.,” says Ramesh Sivanpillai, a senior research scientist with WyGISC and director of WyomingView.
WyomingView, a program funded by AmericaView and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), promotes remote sensing science and applications through educational outreach and applied research in Wyoming since 2002.
The fully assembled puzzle measures 12 feet by 10.5 feet and is made of PVC plastic. Using a mosaic of images collected from Landsat satellites by the USGS for each state, Sivanpillai had a company called Pixus Digital Printing in Lafayette, La., create the puzzle.
“This is the 50th anniversary of the Landsat program,” Sivanpillai says.
Using place names, county lines, vegetation types and shapes as clues, multiple teams of children assembled the individual pieces of the giant image puzzle. In some instances, parents also got into the act by providing clues to the kids.
To assemble the puzzle, younger children mostly relied on shapes and could be heard saying “this will fit here” or “not here,” while older kids used names of places and county lines printed on the pieces or vegetation types (“this is part of the forest”) as clues for putting the puzzle together.
When the puzzle was finished, children were able to see crop circles, the result of center-pivot irrigation of crops; areas burned by wildfires; glaciers on top of mountains; and other features distributed throughout the state.
Several parents pointed out on the map puzzle where they grew up or how far the family has to drive to visit the grandparents this summer. Others pointed out how they can access certain locations by traveling the interstate highway system or “go down to Colorado and come back up.”
One family even walked on the floor puzzle along the places they will be traveling this summer.
“First, we go to Casper, then take this highway to go west … ,” one parent said.
Still, other parents showed their children various landmarks in and around Cheyenne.
Families from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, and especially those from other states, were awed by the diversity and richness of Wyoming landscapes.
“If the goal of this event was to introduce Wyoming’s geographic richness, it exceeded expectations,” Sivanpillai says. “This event will definitely earn an A-plus, based on the geographic terms and concepts mentioned during the activity, along with the interactions among everyone who participated.
“I was delighted to see how participants got down to their knees to describe different landscapes to kids,” he adds. “It was refreshing, in this digital age, to see folks working manually to assemble the physical pieces of the puzzle by looking at their shapes or geographic content.”
Melisa McChesney, curator of community engagement with the Wyoming State Museum, reports the “Earth Extravaganza” event drew 286 visitors -- 140 adults and 146 children. Sivanpillai estimates that one-third of the kids who showed up took time to assemble the Landsat image puzzle.
“Outreach events like this also showcase the value of Earth observation data collected by Landsat and other satellites for monitoring our environment,” Sivanpillai says. “Landsat satellites collect data repeatedly and can be used to study changes occurring to Wyoming’s vast and diverse landscape.”
About the Landsat Program
The Landsat series of civilian satellites has been collecting Earth observation data since 1972 and constitutes the longest and most extensive archive of images that provide valuable information about Earth. Landsat satellites are built and launched by NASA and operated by the USGS. For more information about Landsat, go to www.usgs.gov/landsat-missions and https://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/.