Once again, the Windows to the Universe team has had an exciting fall full of conferences and workshops, starting off in Neepawa and Winnipeg, Manitoba, followed by NSTA conferences in Hartford and New Orleans. This month, we will have a booth at the AGU Exploration Station on December 4, and we will be helping lead the NESTA AGU GIFT Workshop in San Francisco December 5 - 6. There is still time to register for the NESTA AGU GIFT Workshop, and there is no fee for teacher participation in this workshop. Just go to the AGU website and start the registration process. Note that you must bring identification of your position as an active classroom teacher to the workshop in order to be able to participate. Finally, on Friday, December 9, we'll offer a full suite of 5 sessions at the Seattle NSTA conference.
We welcome the many new subscribers to our newsletter and new Windows to the Universe Educator Members who are joining us following our events this fall!
If Windows to the Universe is a valuable resource for you, I hope you will consider helping to support this project through membership, charitable donations, or purchases for the holidays. Every little bit helps provide for this project, and we appreciate your support!
Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and best wishes for the New Year!
Please Help Support Windows to the Universe!
As we all consider our year-end charitable giving, I hope you will consider a charitable contribution to the Windows to the Universe project at the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Additional ways to support Windows to the Universe include becoming an Educator Member, and by doing some of your holiday gift shopping in the Windows to the Universe online store!
Since April 2010, we have made substantial changes to the Windows to the Universe project with the goal of helping to sustain the project through a wider variety of income sources, rather than solely relying on grants from the federal government. The need to undertake these changes is driven by the fact that federal funding is simply not available for projects that have completed their initial development and implementation efforts. Almost without exception, projects that have been around for years (and Windows to the Universe has been around since 1995!) must develop alternative modes of supporting their efforts, as federal funding is not available to support them irrespective of how successful they are. Similarly, most foundations do not provide operational support for ongoing programs, seeking instead to support new projects that meet their specific objectives.
We are happy that the programs we have implemented on Windows to the Universe are meeting with some success, and we have been able to develop additional income streams that help support the project. That said, that income is not yet sufficient to cover our operational costs, and we must continue to work on all fronts to provide the support needed for the costs associated with the project, including our very small staff (2.75 FTE for three people), consultants, materials, shipping, travel, and office costs. If you value this project, and the resources it makes available to you, I hope you will consider a donation to help support our efforts. Please pick the level of support that meets your ability - all support is greatly appreciated, and will be recognized with an official letter of appreciation from NESTA. Since NESTA is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization, donations to NESTA are tax deductible.
Here are some interesting facts about Windows to the Universe:
New Rover to Mars!
NASA's most advanced mobile robotic laboratory, which will examine one of the most intriguing areas on Mars, launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Florida on November 26.
The mission is challenging and risky. Because Curiosity is too heavy to use an airbag cushioned touchdown, the mission will use a new landing method, with a rocket-powered descent stage lowering the rover on a tether like a kind of sky-crane.
For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl
The December Solstice
The next solstice occurs in the month of December. This year the solstice falls on December 22nd, which is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. The solstices (winter and summer) and equinoxes (spring and fall) are astronomical events that mark our seasons. Because of the tilt of Earth's axis, the Sun appears to climb higher (in the summer) and sink lower (in the winter) in the sky as viewed from our planet. The solstice is when the Sun shifts the direction of this apparent migration. The word "solstice" comes from two Latin roots: "sol", which means "Sun", and "sistere", which translates as "stand still".
Many cultures around the world celebrate the winter solstice. These celebrations include festivals of light or acknowledgement of rebirth. Historically, in many places in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice included a large feast because it occurred just before the coldest part of winter, and this was a good time to slaughter livestock so they wouldn't have to be fed during the winter months. This can provide some "food for thought" for your students as we head into our own season of holiday celebrations!
Holiday Shopping on the Windows to the Universe Online Store
Our online store has loads of great gifts for those that love Earth and space science! Our store offers NESTA products (publications and bumper stickers), books, DVDs, classroom activities and ready-to-use classroom activity kits, educational games, as well as a wealth of mineral and fossil specimens, jewelry, and household items.
Bumper Stickers include:
Non-Educator members may purchase PDF versions of 67 classroom activities and their associated student worksheets, data sets, images, and rubrics (Educator members get access to all of these resources for free - a $230 value!).
Classroom activity kits are available for the following activities:
We also have a large assortment of mineral and fossil specimens, jewelry, and household items, made available through Nature's Own. Specimens include amber with insects, ammonites (pairs of phylloceras inflatum, black and white ammonites), banded iron, bismuth, celestite, charoite, compressed labradorite, coprolites (50 million year old fossilized turtle poop), fluorite, fossilized shark teeth (megalodon and odotus obliuus), almandine garnets, hematite with rutile, meteorites, native copper, nautiloids, olivine xenoliths in basalt, phlogopite mica, pyrite "dollars" and "penetration twins", black tourmaline, and trilobites, in addition to a wonderful mineral and fossil collection including 18 minerals and 12 fossil specimens.
For those inclined to show their love of minerals and fossils by wearing them, we also offer a fabulous assortment of jewelry including: pendants of ammonite, amethyst, jade, ruby, and ruby zoisite; earrings of amethyst and peridot; pendant and earring sets of charoite, eudialyte, and paua shell; and beautiful necklaces of kyanite and ruby. Alternatively, you may want to show your love of rocks and minerals through your household goods - for instance, with banded onyx wine goblets, bowls (8", 12", or a pair of 5" noodle bowls), vases (5" or 6"), or a mortar and pestle.
Regarding purchases of minerals, fossils, jewelry, and household mineral items, note that Nature's Own has its last day for UPS shipping on December 19th for guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery. Nature's Own staff will be at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco December 1-11, and will not be able to ship orders during this period. However, they will be able to make deliveries once they get back to their offices, with plenty of time for Christmas. Delivery of other products from our online store will not be affected by the AGU meeting, and should make it on time if purchased by December 18.
Purchases from the Windows to the Universe store help support the website as well as the National Earth Science Teachers Association, so doing your shopping here will not only provide you with great resources, but will also help support programs that you value.
Let it Snow!
Autumn is well under way in the northern hemisphere, which means that winter is right around the corner! Since many students get excited about winter weather, share some information with them on snow and other types of dramatic weather.
Snowflakes are intricate and fascinating. Some are perfectly symmetrical and others are lopsided, depending on the conditions occurring in the atmosphere when the snowflake falls to the ground.
In the Mood for Some Chilly Classroom Activities?
December in the northern hemisphere often brings with it chilly temperatures and snow and ice to go with those dropping temperatures. Did you know that we have a suite of activities that have to do with the poles of the Earth? Get in the mood for some chilly classroom activities!
We have some powerful visual interactives that can only be used online. Middle school to high school students can access this page to look at animations of annual variation of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, to compare images of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice side-by-side, and to utilize an interactive about the Earth's north magnetic pole.
We have several activities that cover the topic of glaciers. Model a Moving Glacier has students make a model of glacier motion and then experiment with it. Glaciers: Then and Now has students compare photographs to observe how Alaskan glaciers have changed over the last century.
NASA Probe Shows Evidence of Liquid Water on Icy Europa
Data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes and locked inside the icy surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa.
The Galileo spacecraft, launched by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, produced numerous discoveries and provided scientists decades of data to analyze. Galileo studied Jupiter, which is the most massive planet in the solar system, and some of its many moons.
Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions focused on Galileo images of two roughly circular, bumpy features on Europa's surface called chaos terrains. Based on similar processes seen on Earth - on ice shelves and under glaciers overlaying volcanoes - they developed a model to explain how the features formed. The model resolves several conflicting observations, some of which suggest Europa's ice shell is thick and others that suggest it is thin.
Floating ice shelves that seem to be collapsing cover the newly discovered bodies of water, and this movement provides a mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy between the surface and the water. Many scientists believe that these lakes are just a part of the vast global ocean that lies below Europa's thick ice shell. This information could bolster arguments that Europa's ocean represents a potential habitat for life.
Because the hypothesized lakes are several miles below the surface, the only true confirmation of their presence would come from a future spacecraft mission designed to probe Europa's ice shell. Such a mission was rated as the second highest priority flagship mission by the National Research Council's recent Planetary Science Decadal Survey and is being studied by NASA.
Classroom Activities now in PDF
In the Windows to the Universe Teacher Resources section, we have many K-12 science activities on subjects from space weather to geology to writing in the science classroom. Now, most of these activities are available in PDF format. You can purchase the PDF formatted student worksheets, classroom activity descriptions, and supplementary materials in our online store.
Educator Members have free access to all downloadable PDF materials in our Teacher Resources Activities section - a $230 value, in addition to other benefits and services for Earth and space science teachers.
Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks on December 13th
This year, the Moon will make viewing a bit difficult since it will be just past Full (waning gibbous) and this will make the faint meteors harder to see. Still, the Geminids are often the most active showers during fall and winter. Meteors may be visible for a few nights before and after the 13th, though the best viewing is expected on the 13th into the 14th when more than 50 meteors per hour could appear (the intensities of meteor showers are notoriously difficult to predict!).
Star of Wonder
In the traditional Christian story of Christmas, a star is described that glowed so bright in the sky that three kings, also known as wise men, followed it from the far east and it led them to Bethlehem shortly after the baby Jesus was born. Known as the Star of Bethlehem, this bright star has been intriguing to astronomers who have developed several possible explanations of what that astronomical sighting may have been.
Of course, there are other theories as well. This Wikipedia article provides an interesting summary covering a range of theories about the Star of Bethlehem.
NESTA and Windows to the Universe Will Be in Seattle!
NESTA is pleased to announce our sessions at the NSTA Area Conference in Seattle. This year, in addition to our traditional and ever-popular Share-a-Thon and exciting Rock and Mineral Raffle, we will also be offering Windows to the Universe workshops on Earth System science, climate change, and geology.
All of our events will be in the same room, scheduled for Friday of the conference – providing you with a full day of Earth science professional development from the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Our events are free with registration at the NSTA conference.
NESTA sessions in Seattle
All events are on Friday, December 9 in the Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6E
8:00 - 9:00 am - Let's Get Well Grounded
Join NESTA at http://www.nestanet.org/cms/content/join
Hot Off the Press! New Changing Planet Videos and Classroom Activities with Biology Connections
NESTA and Windows to the Universe completed work with NBC Learn to add additional classroom activities to our existing set with a focus on biology connections for climate change. As usual, each activity accompanies videos related to our Changing Planet, with support from the National Science Foundation. For each video, we provide an introductory page linking to the video on the Windows to the Universe website, links to related pages on the website and elsewhere, and a link to a classroom activity that teachers can use to explore the related science with their students. Go to the Our Changing Planet section on Windows to the Universe to access all of the 17 existing videos and lesson plans. We hope to offer a workshop on these materials at the Spring NSTA in Indianapolis next year.
The topics are hot off the press!
Green Ideas for the Holidays
Many holidays are celebrated in the month of December. We wish that your holidays might be happy and peaceful. Here are some ideas for keeping those holidays "Green". Please share them with your students and hopefully, they will share them with family and friends!
Our "Green" Holiday Ideas:
2. Put small electric candles in your windows as a house decoration versus the long strings of lights and light bulbs. Use compact fluorescent bulbs in the candles. Turn them off when you turn in for the night or use timers so that you don't forget!
3. When shopping for holiday meals, don't worry about the question of paper versus plastic - bring your own reusable bags to the store! Many stores give monetary credit for your effort and you keep paper or plastic out of landfills.
4. Instead of sending paper holiday cards in the mail, send an e-card to family and friends. This saves materials and the energy needed for production and delivery of paper cards. With the money saved, consider making a charitable donation in the name of your family and friends.
5. Of course, you can give new life to the holiday cards you do receive in the mail - by cutting out your favorite images and reusing them as gift tags. Kids love this holiday "chore"!
6. When you're on the road for a quick meal, remember to take a minimum of napkins. Many people take a large handful, only to throw away many unused napkins. If everyone takes just the napkins they need, we can save thousands of pounds of waste from needlessly filling landfills. At home, use cloth napkins.
7. Use gift bags instead of wrap, they can be reused for several years. Or make your own gift wrap out of old newspapers! Also, you can always visit the remnants bin at the local fabric store for present wrapping "paper". There are many, many pieces large enough to wrap just about anything. Plus the cloth is re-usable year after year!
8. Choose your gifts wisely. For example, gifts of food add less to our collective "domestic mass accumulation", and significantly reduce our CO2 emissions. Vegan, locally-produced, organic food, with its own natural packaging (e.g., a pie one bakes from locally grown pumpkins or bushel of avocados) is perfect!
Happy and "Green" Holidays!
Table of Contents
Rover to Mars!
Great Gifts from W2U
Water on Europa
Star of Wonder
NESTA - NSTA Seattle
Changing Planet Bio
Roy ES Award
AGI ES Videos
ISS Student Op
Free Green Webinars
Green Video Contest
Student Balloon Exps
Hosts for Space Stat
Disney's Planet Chal
EPA EE Award Program
Climate & Energy Ed
Green Natl Conf
Bob the Bunny
EPA Middle School
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
You can earn your Master of Science degree via distance learning through the Teachers in Geosciences program from Mississippi State University. All of the core Earth science courses are taught online, and the curriculum is designed around the Earth science content that is most relevant to K–12 educators. The program concludes with an 8- to 10-day capstone field course that is taught during the summer at a variety of locations including Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, Western Washington State, the Sierra, Central Arizona, Upstate NY, Lake Superior, the Bahamas, and the Great Plains Storm Chase.
This 12-course, 36-credit-hour graduate program is designed to take as little as two years to complete and includes courses in meteorology, geology, planetary science, oceanography, hydrology, and environmental geoscience. The program has alumni in all 50 states, and all students qualify for in-state tuition rates.
Please visit our website at www.distance.msstate.edu/geosciences/TIG/index.html or contact Joy Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org, for additional information.
AGI has announced the details for the Edward C. Roy, Jr., Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching. Each year, this award recognizes one full-time, U.S., K-8 teacher for leadership and innovation in Earth science education.
AGI now offers free videos and other electronic resources to help students, educators and others explore the “big ideas” of earth science. Big Ideas videos are brief video clips that bring to life the big ideas of Earth science - the nine core concepts that everyone should know.
The Earth Science Week web site provides related resources, where educators can find dozens of classroom activities to help students build understanding of the “big ideas”.
On November 15th, NASA opened the application process in order to find its next class of astronaut candidates who will support long-duration missions to the International Space Station and future deep space exploration activities.
Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), December 4-10, 2011, is a call to action to share information and offer activities that will promote computing and elevate computer science education for students at all levels. Everyone can participate!
Computer science education prepares students for engaging and high-paying computing careers. Hundreds of thousands of new computing jobs will be created in the next decade. Get ready for the future!
You too can pledge your support and participate in an event!
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth will conduct winning student experiments. The experiments will be performed on the U.S. portion of the space station that has been designated as a national laboratory. A global competition to choose student experiments is being run by Space Adventures.
Free webinars are being offered in the Green Schools Educator Series. The next webinar is Greening the School Yard: Gardens and Habitats, and it will be occur on Wednesday, December 7, 2011, at 7pm EST.
The National Environmental Education Foundation (www.neefusa.org) in partnership with the National Education Association Foundation (www.neafoundation.org) and the Green Schools National Conference (www.greenschoolsnationalconference.org) are offering the webinars.
Check out these resources and register now for a future webinar at: www.classroomearth.org/gswebinars.
No matter where you live, there are ways your city or town can “go greener” through the innovative use of your Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills.
Planet Connect and Staples want HS students to demonstrate in a 30–120 second video how one or more of the elements of STEM can help green your city or town. What have you learned in the classroom about how science, technology, engineering, or math could be used to help make your town or city greener, more sustainable and a model for 21st century living?
Planet Connect has partnered with Staples to host the third Get Green Video Contest, a national contest designed for high school students, aged 14 to 19, to display their creativity and environmental/STEM knowledge while helping to inspire the public and their peers. Prizes include cash, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, a Netbook and a HD camcorder! This year’s Get Green Video Contest winners will also have the opportunity for their videos to be broadcast on national television, through the Eco Company TV show! The deadline to enter is December 8, 2011.
NASA is accepting applications from graduate and undergraduate students to fly experiments to the edge of space on a scientific balloon. This balloon flight competition is a joint project between NASA and the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE) in Baton Rouge.
NASA is seeking proposals from educators who are looking for a unique way to inspire the next generation of explorers. Formal and informal education organizations can apply to host live interactive education downlinks with astronauts onboard the International Space Station. NASA provides this opportunity at no charge to the host institution and NASA personnel will work with the organization to help plan the event.
These educational opportunities are made available through Teaching From Space, a NASA education initiative. Interested organizations should contact Teaching From Space to obtain information related to expectations, content, format, audience, proposal guidelines and forms by sending an e-mail to JSC-Teaching-From-Space@mail.nasa.gov or by calling 281-244-7608. Teaching From Space will hold several online information sessions designed to provide more information about downlinks and the proposal process.
Disney's Planet Challenge (DPC) is a project-based environmental competition for classrooms across the United States. DPC teaches kids about science and conservation while empowering them to make a positive impact on their communities and planet. Students will develop solutions to address a local environmental issue. Grand prize winning classes from the elementary and middle school categories will receive a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, in April 2012!
This year, DPC is offering funding for project materials through Donors Choose. Teachers who register for DPC are eligible to receive up to $500 in project materials. Learn more.
In addition, through DPC's partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, classroom mentors are available to offer guidance to participating classes.
Registration is now open for the 2011-2012 program, and runs through December 23.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the 2011 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators Program. The program, which will be implemented through a partnership between the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and EPA, recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.
The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with the EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. who are protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the most important ways the EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s young people. One outstanding project from each region is selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, school classes (K-12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote environmental stewardship. Thousands of young people from all 50 states and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to the EPA for consideration. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of subject areas, including:
Evaluation results consistently demonstrate that the experience is a life-changing event for many of the young people and sponsors who participate.
Find out how to apply. The annual deadline for the regional award program is December 31.
The University of Colorado offers a variety of resources for teaching about climate and energy, including some materials specific to the American West. We hope you find them useful!
The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship is a paid fellowship for K-12 math, science, and technology teachers. Einstein Fellows spend a school year in Washington, D.C., serving in a federal agency or on Capitol Hill. To be considered for an Einstein Fellowship for the 2012-2013 school year, apply and submit three letters of recommendation by January 5, 2012.
For more information or to apply to the program visit www.einsteinfellows.org.
The National Archives in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting a student multimedia contest, “Document Your Environment”. Drawing inspiration from a collection of environmental photos from the 1970's, this contest invites students ages 13+ to create any type of graphic art, a short video, or a poem using a Documerica photo as a prompt.
The grand prize for this contest will be $500, courtesy of the Foundation for the National Archives. Entries will be accepted until January 6, 2012. View contest details online at: http://documerica.challenge.gov/.
Applications for NASA's second class of Space Technology Research Fellowships are being accepted from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of graduate students interested in performing space technology research. Grants will initiate in fall 2012.
The fellowships will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives through their studies. Sponsored by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and the Space Technology Program, the fellowships' continuing goal is to provide the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled engineers and technologists to improve America's technological competitiveness. Fellows will perform innovative space technology research today while building the skills necessary to become future technological leaders.
The deadline for submitting applications is Jan. 11, 2012. Information on the fellowships is available at: http://go.usa.gov/9SL
NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is accepting scholarship applications from graduate and undergraduate students for the 2012 academic year. The application deadline is Jan. 15, 2012.
A notice for students--
Have you been working to preserve the world around you? Have you been teaching others how to protect the environment? Have you been doing an environmental research project? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are a Young Eco-Hero. All Eco-Heroes serve as role models, showing others that each individual is important and can make a difference.
Action For Nature is proud to honor the work of young people between the ages of 8 and 16 who have done creative environmental projects. The winners of AFN’s International Young Eco-Hero Awards program receive a cash prize and a special certificate, as well as public recognition on our web site and elsewhere.
This is a great chance for you to share your environmental activism and creative work. We look forward to again supporting young people from all around the world working to save our planet. Please read the guidelines to see if you are eligible to apply to become a Young Eco-Hero. If eligible, fill out the 2012 Eco-Hero Awards Application. The application deadline is January 15, 2012.
The Captain Planet Foundation offers grants ranging from $250 to $2,500 for programs that involve students ages 6 to 18 in hands-on environmental projects. The projects should promote interaction and cooperation within a group and help young people develop planning and problem-solving skills. Apply by January 15, 2012.
The Volvo Adventure, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program, is an educational program that rewards environmental activities and the decision-makers of the future. To enter, you form a team of 2 to 5 members (ages 13 to 16), perform an environmental project in your local community, and submit the project online. The competition deadline is January 31, 2012.
Projects are judged and the best projects are selected for an all-expense-paid trip to Göteborg, Sweden, where teams can win the following prizes: 1st place = $10,000, 2nd place = $6,000 and 3rd place = $4,000.
See the registration details and guidelines for more information.
Be a part of the only national gathering of K-12 leaders and educators coming together to make their schools and districts green & healthy centers of academic excellence. This national conference will be held February 27-29, 2012, in Denver, Colorado.
The conference will include over 100 breakout sessions, exhibits, and chances to network with other like-minded peers from across the country. Find out more at http://www.greenschoolsnationalconference.org/index.php
Bob the Bunny's environmental competition is aimed at young adventurers aged 10-12 years old.
To enter, you form a team of 1 to 3 members, identify a local environmental issue and create a cartoon strip illustrating the issue and actions that you might take to solve the problem. Submissions should be sent in by February 29, 2012.
Bats are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies worldwide. As primary predators of night-flying insects, bats consume enormous quantities of agricultural pests and reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched an all new website titled "A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change" devoted to educating 6-8th graders about Earth’s climate and how it is changing as a result of burning fossil fuels and other human activities.
Are you a college student (or do you know one)? Students can become an EPA OnCampus ecoAmbassador and implement projects from EPA programs that will green their campuses, promote environmental awareness and carry out the EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment. Join today!
The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://windows2universe.org/ from the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The Website was developed in part with the support of UCAR and NCAR, where it resided from 2000 - 2010. © 2010 National Earth Science Teachers Association. Windows to the Universe® is a registered trademark of NESTA. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer.