December 2013

Teacher Submissions
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Happy Holidays!
by Roberta

Our very best holiday wishes as we enter the month of December!  Over the past year, I hope that Windows to the Universe has been able to provide you resources and information that you have found valuable, in support of your classroom instruction and learning.  Thanks so much to everyone that's been available to assist in our professional development workshops offered at NSTA and other conferences!  As the year comes to a close, we are getting ready to help with the AGU-NESTA GIFT Workshop in San Francisco December 9 and 10, followed by our workshops and events at the upcoming NSTA area conference in Denver on December 13th (see the schedule below) and the NSTA national conference in Boston this coming April.

If this newsletter is useful to you, please consider a charitable contribution to the Windows to the Universe project at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Producing this free newsletter alone costs about $1500 each month!  If everyone that subscribes to this newsletter donated just $5, our newsletter production costs would be covered for the entire year!  Better yet, become an Educator Member, and get access to all the resources and services available through Windows to the Universe.  You could also do some of your holiday gift shopping in the Windows to the Universe online store

My very best wishes for an enjoyable and relaxing holiday season!

New Windows to the Universe Educator Membership Options with Course Support!
by Roberta

We're excited to offer new membership options for Windows to the Universe educators that include course webpage support, as well as options for homework and online quizzes.  We will continue to offer Basic Educator Membership (which provides advertising-free access to the website plus additional member benefits), but we are expanding now to offer Silver Educator Membership (Basic Educator Membership supplemented by course webpage support and course login for students) or Gold Educator Membership (with course support including online quizzes and homework upload/download and individual student subscriptions).  We also offer support for classrooms, with or without course support.  For more details, see our Educator Membership Benefits and Services page

Typhoon Haiyan

In early November, an extremely powerful hurricane hit southeast Asia, causing widespread devastation.  The storm, named Haiyan, began as a low pressure system over Micronesia and moved westward, building in strength and size.  By the time it made landfall in the Philippine provinces of Samar and Leyte, it had sustained winds of more than 150 mph and gusts of nearly 200 mph, making it one of the most powerful storms ever observed.

Haiyan had a catastrophic impact on the Philippines, where storm surges, heavy rainfall and high winds combined to completely destroy many cities and villages.  The exact number of people affected is still unknown, but international aid organizations are estimating that at least 20,000 are dead or missing and millions are displaced from their homes.  The storm also caused major damage in China, Vietnam and several other southeast Asian countries.

Relief and recovery efforts are underway, with aid coming from a wide range of countries and organizations.  The Red Cross, the UN World Food ProgrammeDoctors Without BordersUNICEF and the Salvation Army are just some of the organizations working to rebuild the communities affected by this storm, and you can visit their websites to read about or contribute to their efforts.  Our hearts go out to all those affected!

Tornadic Outbreaks in November in the Midwest

In mid-November, a rare late-year storm system swept through the Midwestern U.S., causing widespread destruction and several deaths.  A fast-moving cold front passing through Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri on November 17 brought with it more than 60 separate tornadoes, several of which produced winds in excess of 170 mph.

At least eight people were killed by the storms and hundreds of injuries were reported.  Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed and the total cost of the storms’ damage is estimated at more than $1 billion.  Many of the hardest-hit zones have been declared disaster areas by their respective state governments, allowing state and federal emergency funds to be used in the recovery efforts that are already underway.

An outbreak of storms like this is very rare this late in the year, because November weather in the U.S. doesn’t usually produce conditions where bodies of warm and cold air can mix and create the atmospheric instability that leads to large storms.  Even so, tornadoes are not unheard of this late in the year, and the combination of storm damage and the cold weather that follows soon after makes recovery all the more difficult.  Our thoughts are with those affected by these storms, and anyone wishing to contribute to the recovery can do so by visiting the Red CrossUnited WaySalvation Army, or other organizations that are assisting in relief efforts.

The Olympic Torch Logs Spacewalk Time

Two Russian cosmonauts, Flight Engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy, carried the Olympic torch on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Saturday, November 9.  The cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment airlock, then floated outside for a brief photo opportunity with the unlit torch.  They stowed the torch back inside the airlock before they began their six-hour spacewalk to perform maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory, 260 miles above Earth.

The torch, an icon of international cooperation through sports competition, returned to the Earth on November 10, aboard a Soyuz spacecraft vehicle.  This spacewalk is a high-flying extension of a relay that began in Olympia, Greece, in October.  The relay will culminate with the torch being used to light the Olympic flame on February 7 during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The space station has had continuous human occupation since November 2000.  In that time, more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the ISS.  The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.  For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

Exciting Discoveries from the Kepler Space Telescope

Almost 400 scientists from 30 different countries gathered on November 4-8, 2013, at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, for the second Kepler Science Conference, where they discussed the latest findings resulting from the analysis of Kepler Space Telescope data.

Kepler's mission is to determine what percentage of stars like the sun harbor small planets the approximate size and temperature of Earth.  For four years, the space telescope simultaneously and continuously monitored the brightness of more than 150,000 stars, recording a measurement every 30 minutes.  More than a year of the collected data remains to be fully reviewed and analyzed.

Discoveries include 833 new candidate planets, bringing the total to 3,538.  Ten of these candidates are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit in their star's habitable zone, which is defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for liquid water.  New Kepler data analysis and research also show that most stars in our galaxy have at least one planet.  An independent statistical analysis of Kepler data suggests that one in five stars like the sun is home to a planet up to twice the size of Earth, orbiting in a temperate environment.

Kepler data also fuels another field of astronomy dubbed asteroseismology - the study of the interior of stars.  Scientists examine sound waves generated by the boiling motion beneath the surface of the star.  They probe the interior structure of a star just as geologists use seismic waves generated by earthquakes to probe the interior structure of Earth.

With the loss of a second reaction wheel (Kepler was launched with four), people thought the Kepler mission was done, but there is a new plan referred to as K2 that may breathe new life into the disabled Kepler, by using sunlight to stabilize Kepler.  Read about these new plans for Kepler.

For more information about the Kepler mission and the second Kepler Science Conference, visit and

NASA Brings Earth Science 'Big Data' to the Cloud with Amazon Web Services

NASA and Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) of Seattle, WA, are making a large collection of NASA climate and Earth science satellite data available to research and educational users through the AWS cloud.  The system enhances research and educational opportunities for the U.S. geoscience community by promoting community-driven research, innovation, and collaboration.

The AWS service includes NASA data sets and data processing tools from the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX), a research platform of the NASA Advanced Supercomputer Facility at the agency's Ames Research Center.  Through NEX, users can explore and analyze large Earth science data sets, run and share modeling algorithms, collaborate on new or existing projects, and exchange workflows and results within other science communities.

NASA has already uploaded terabytes of data from several satellite and computer modeling datasets to the AWS platform and will upload more in the future.  The NASA datasets will be available through the Amazon Public Data Sets program at:

To learn more about the NASA NEX Public Data Sets on AWS, visit:

The Day the Earth Smiled for a Photograph

On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA's Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn's shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings -- and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.

With the sun's powerful and potentially damaging rays eclipsed by Saturn itself, Cassini's onboard cameras were able to take advantage of this unique viewing geometry.  They acquired a panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system that allows scientists to see details in the rings and throughout the system as they are backlit by the sun.  This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn's orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

This image spans about 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers) across.  Find out more details about this image and be sure to share this inspiring image with your students!

Weather Forecasting

For centuries, people have tried to predict the weather, and we’ve come to expect that meteorologists can usually give us a pretty good sense of what conditions will be like in a given location over the next few days.  But what about long-range forecasts that extend out much further, and predict general trends in weather over a whole season? 

Various almanacs, such as Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, or the Farmer’s Almanac (which is still being published in 2013-14), have attempted to provide long-range weather forecasts through the years, often with the idea of helping farmers plan their planting and harvesting activities throughout the year.  These publications often rely on secret methods for predicting weather trends, and have generally not proven to be more accurate than random chance.

More recently, computer modeling of global weather patterns has led to scientists being able to make general predictions about months of weather.  In the United States, these predictions take into account things like the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, the position of the jet stream, temperatures of the oceans surrounding the U.S., and other factors, and they can accurately forecast overall levels of rain and snow, the frequency of major storms, and gross trends in temperature by anticipating how different weather systems (high and low pressure systems, storms, or air currents) will move and interact throughout the upcoming season.

Better data from scientific studies and better computer models will help make this process more and more accurate as time goes on, but weather forecasting beyond a few days from now remains a very difficult and complex thing to do.  You can read more about how weather and climate are modeled by scientists on the Windows to the Universe site and see predictions for U.S. 2013-14 winter weather from both the Farmer’s almanac and the National Weather Service (a modern, computational model).  You can also view NOAA's Winter Outlook 2013-2014 Video that features Mike Halpert at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (link to video is towards bottom of the page).

Winter Weather 2013

Winter storms have already hit various places in the U.S. this fall and more are surely on the way!  Winter Storm Boreas (named for the Greek god of the north wind) was responsible for bringing snow or ice to states from New Mexico to New England right around the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving.  Here's a recap of Winter Storm Boreas.

Since many students get excited about winter weather, share information with them on snow, blizzards, 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.  Blizzards are very powerful storms, with winds greater than 35 mph (56 kph), large amounts of snow, and visibility of less than ¼ mile (0.4 km).

If you live in an area with cold and snowy winters, be on the alert for severe weather advisories.  Check out our information on blizzard safety - cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia and winter storms can create dangerous driving conditions.  Be safe out there!

Also, we encourage you to check out our Postcards from the Field - Antarctica.  That will put cold weather into perspective!

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 for centuries.  

Astronomers have developed several possible explanations of what that astronomical sighting may have been.  Some think it was a nova (an exploding star that would stay bright in the sky for a few days).  Others hypothesize that it was not a star, but a comet.  The most probable astronomical hypothesis to explain the bright star is a planetary conjunction.  A conjunction is when two or more objects appear very close together in the sky.

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.

Dining with Biodiversity This Holiday Season

While our minds wander towards warm comfort foods this time of year, let us not forget the diversity of living things that makes those foods possible.  When you look at your holiday table, you may instantly recognize the presence of representatives from the Kingdoms Animalia and Plantae, but did you realize that the two other kingdoms of the Eukaryota domain of life might be contributing to your holiday meal as well?  Here are a couple of examples of how some unsung, single-celled heroes of the Kingdoms Fungi and Protista wind up at the table.

To get dough to rise, bakers rely on single-celled helpers called yeast.  Yeasts are living things, classified as part of the Kingdom Fungi.  They are eukaryotic microorganisms.  Not only found in your bread dough, wild yeasts are also found worldwide in ocean and terrestrial ecosystems.  In the kitchen, yeast eats sugars in the dough and respires making carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the dough to rise.  When the dough is baked, the yeast die.

Algae, usually included within the Kingdom Protista, are a staple in Asian cuisine.  Even if you do not eat them, algae can contribute to your dinner because they are used as fertilizer in organic farming.  Most industrial fertilizers are made chemically and are problematic for ecosystems when they get into waterways, forming dead zones where rivers empty into the ocean.  Organic farms do not use these fertilizers, but instead use natural soil amendments such as species of algae called kelp.  Kelp is brown algae that grow in cold-water areas of the shallow ocean, forming large forests that are home to a diversity of marine life.

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:
1. With guests around, you'll likely have more dishes to wash and more laundry to do.  Don't run the dishwasher or washing machine unless they are full.  And use cold water to wash clothes.  These ideas save energy and money!

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 helping with 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 from the Windows to the Universe Team!

In the Mood for a Little Holiday Shopping?

Tshirts, bumper stickers and games, oh my!  Are you looking for something different to buy the people on your holiday list this year?  Shop at the Windows to the Universe Store!

We have books, CD's, DVD's and even classroom materials for the geoscience enthusiasts on your list!

Remember, Windows to the Universe members get an additional 10% off the price of all products in the Windows to the Universe store.  If you are a member of Windows to the Universe, log in to "Your Account" at the right with your Windows to the Universe username and password.  If you are not already a member of Windows to the Universe, join today!  Finally, you can feel good about your purchases, as funding generated through the Store helps us fund development of the web site and outreach activities for teachers.

"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.  There's also Glaciers: Then and Now where students compare photographs of glaciers to observe how Alaskan glaciers have changed over the last century.

Want to teach about polar life?  Try out our Arctic Life Mobile which you can print and use in your elementary classroom.

Simply want to have some chilly fun?  Try our polar jigsaw puzzles, polar word search or send a polar postcard to someone you love!

Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis + Educational Resources

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report entitled "Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis."  This report contains contributions from more than 800 authors from around the world, and includes chapters on sea level change, the carbon cycle, El Niño, the science of clouds, an evaluation of climate models, radiative forcing, and extensive coverage of both near- and long-term climate change projections.   If you’re interested, the IPCC has set up a website at which you can read the IPCC’s report, or you can read more about how this group of scientists worked together to assemble it.

With the release of the new IPCC Report, the prominence of climate change in the news continues to grow.  Windows to the Universe is continuing to expand our resources in support of climate change education.  Visit our climate education in the classroom page for links to resources you can use in your classroom, and our climate change course page for resources you can easily use in support of your courses.

Last Chance to Register for AGU Fall Meeting GIFT Workshop for K-12 Educators

Register now for the Geophysical Information For Teachers (GIFT) Workshop run by NESTA and AGU, to be held at the AGU Fall Meeting on December 9-10.  K-12 educators may register free-of-charge for both the Fall AGU Meeting (so you can view exhibits and attend technical presentations) and the GIFT workshop.

An excellent set of presenters has been chosen for this year's workshop and they will cover topics such as polar science and engineering, sea level rise and ocean acidification, mass extinctions, seafloor sediments, water cycle research, and The Next General Science Standards.  View materials from past workshops and register for GIFT 2013.

Workshops at the NSTA Regional Conference in Denver

Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conference in Denver?  If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.

Denver NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, December 13

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Share A Thon


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Rock Raffle


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Geminid Meteor Shower 2013

December brings a fine meteor shower for your viewing pleasure.  Each year, the Geminid meteor shower lights up the skies around December 13-14th.

This year, the Moon will make viewing a bit difficult since it will be in a waxing gibbous phase 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 50-100 meteors per hour could appear (the intensities of meteor showers are notoriously difficult to predict!).  Your best bet might be to watch for the Geminids the mornings of December 13 and 14th, after the moon sets and before dawn (find out when moon set is at your location).

The source of the Geminids is a strange object called 3200 Phaeton, which may be an unusual asteroid or an "extinct" comet (astronomers aren't quite sure!).

The December Solstice

This year, the solstice falls on December 21st, 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!

Award to Attend the 2014 EGU GIFT Workshop in Vienna, Austria

The 2014 GIFT (Geosciences Information for Teachers) workshop will take place on April 28 - 30, 2014, during the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria.  The general theme of the workshop is Our Changing Planet.  The workshop will explore some of the recent complex changes of our environment, particularly in the framework of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Again this year, the generous William Goree Award will support the participation of a teacher from the United States in the GIFT Symposium at the 2014 EGU General Assembly.  The selected teacher will receive a travel/hotel stipend and free registration to the meeting.

The participating teacher will be selected based on their teaching experience and the supporting statement from their school administration.  The selected teacher will be expected to attend the entire workshop and submit a report within 1 year after the workshop on their impression of the workshop and how they plan to use this experience in their future teaching activities.

Application Deadline:  December 6th.  The selected teacher will be notified by December 15th.  Click here for the application.  Direct any questions to Missy Holzer, NESTA President, at

Table of Contents

Typhoon Haiyan
NOV Tornadoes
Torch on Spacewalk
Kepler Discoveries
ES Data on Amazon
Saturn & Earth Photo
Weather Forecasting
Winter Weather 2013
Star of Wonder
Biodiversity Dining
Green Holidays
Holiday Shopping
"Chilly" Activities
IPCC Climate+Ed Res
Last Chance - GIFT
Denver NSTA
Geminids MS 2013
DEC Solstice
GIFT Vienna

Minerals E-book
Einstein Application
CS Ed Week
Fulbright Awards
Endangered Species
Last Chance Photos
PEYA 2013
Last Chance - Water
Robot Prize Compete
2014 Roy Award
EE Week 2014
New ES Ed Report
New NSSME Reports
Spot Space Station
EPA Students Environ
CSI La Brea
1906 Earthquake













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AGI Publishes "The Consumer's Guide to Minerals" E-book

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has released its latest digital-only publication, "The Consumer's Guide to Minerals."

The importance of minerals in our everyday lives cannot be underestimated.  "The Consumer's Guide to Minerals" shows a different perspective on minerals than you might be used to.  Rather than focusing on visual and physical properties, this book explores the use of minerals in scientific research, manufacturing, medicine, and many other commercial applications, some of which may shock you!  This digital exclusive is an important reference for mineral enthusiasts; teachers and students of applied science, geology, and economics; practicing engineers and professional geoscientists in government service, environment, and sustainability; and those professionals working in the minerals industry or those serving the minerals industry.

The Guide is available for $4.99 in digital format from:
AGI ePub for Kindle
Apple iBookstore
Google Play Store

For more information on "The Consumer's Guide to Minerals" and other AGI publications, go to

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program is now accepting applications for the 2014-15 fellowship year.  The Einstein Fellowship seeks experienced and distinguished K-12 educators in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to serve an 11-month fellowship appointment in a Federal agency or U.S. Congressional office.  Applications are due December 4, 2013, and must be submitted through the online application system.

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), December 9-15, 2013, 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 (even if you don't own a computer!)!

One of the big events this year will be to have as MANY people as possible participate in an Hour of Code - a one hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code" and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator.  But the Hour of Code is just one of the many events planned for CSEdWeek.  If you are a CS teacher, see our Participation Kit for CS Teachers, and if you plan a special event, tell us about it so we can celebrate your hard work.

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!

Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program

Are you a U.S. primary and/or secondary classroom teacher, guidance counselor, curriculum specialist, talented and gifted coordinator, special education coordinator, or media specialist/librarian?  You may be eligible to participate in a unique international professional development opportunity for 3-4 months through the Fulbright Program!

By conducting educational research abroad, U.S. teachers gain new skills, learn new instructional methods and assessment methodologies, and share best practices with international colleagues and students.  Teachers also have the opportunity to expand their understanding of other cultures and international education systems that will enrich their U.S. schools and local communities with global perspectives.  Teachers may travel to:  Chile, Finland, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

Start your application today at  The deadline is December 15, 2013.

This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the Institute of International Education.

Endangered Species Act Turns 40 - Endangered Species Day + Student Contest

President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28, 1973.  Our legislators understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct. 

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) share responsibility for implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Currently, there are about 2,100 species of animals and plants listed under the ESA.  Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.  The ESA requires NMFS to designate critical habitat and to develop and implement recovery plans for threatened and endangered species. 

The ESA has been successful in preventing species extinction—less than 1% of the species listed have gone extinct.  Recently, the Eastern population of Steller sea lion was delisted.  Read about that environmental success story here.

What are some ways that you can get involved?  Celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014, gain the public's attention by tweeting what the ESA has meant to you (#myESA), or celebrate endangered species by entering the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest (deadline of March 15, 2014).  Of course, preserving wildlife habitats and cleaning up the outdoors where you live goes a long way too!

State of the Environment Project Coming to an End!

You still have time to submit your photos to the State of the Environment Photo project.  SotE photo submittals, first begun in 2011 in hopes of creating a photo time capsule about the environment, will end next month on December 31.  For more information about the photo project or how to submit your photos, go to:

2013 President's Environmental Youth Awards

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:
-environmental science projects
-recycling programs in schools and communities
-construction of nature preserves
-major tree planting programs
-videos, skits, and newsletters that focus on environmental issues

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.

Last Chance to Submit Your 2013 Water Monitoring Results!

The World Water Monitoring Challenge is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by encouraging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.  In 2012, approximately 250,000 visits were made by participants to monitoring sites in 66 countries.

We challenge you to test the quality of your waterways any time through December, share your findings (results may be entered anytime prior to December 31 for inclusion in this year's annual World Water Monitoring Challenge Year in Review report), and protect our most precious resource!

The Challenge is On: NASA-WPI 2014 Robot Prize Competition

In pursuit of new technological solutions for America's space program and our nation's future, NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are overseeing the $1.5 million 2014 Sample Return Robot prize competition.

Planned for June 2014 at WPI, industry and academic teams from across the nation will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrains without human controls.  Teams that meet all competition requirements will be eligible to compete for the NASA-funded $1.5 million prize.

"The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies that NASA could incorporate into future missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington.  "Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore an asteroid or Mars, and advance robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth."

Register a team for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge.  Regular registration is open until January 7, 2014.

2014 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching

AGI has announced details for the 2014 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.

The winner will receive a $2,500 prize and a travel grant of $1,000 to attend the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Annual Conference in April 2014 to accept the award.  The National Earth Science Teachers Association will host the 2014 award ceremony at the NSTA Boston Conference.  To be eligible for the 2014 competition, applications must be postmarked by January 10, 2014.

This award is named in honor of Dr. Edward C. Roy, Jr., a past president of AGI, who was a strong and dedicated supporter of Earth science education.  To learn more, visit

Coming Up - Environmental Education Week 2014

EE Week, sponsored by Samsung, is April 13-19, 2014.  EE Week 2014 will focus on Engineering a Sustainable World. 

Though it seems far away, it's not too early to prepare for the celebration of EE Week at your school, workplace or in your community.  Follow EE Week developments though the new EE Week blog.  The EE Week blog provides educators with a forum to interact and engage with experts and their peers on a variety of topics around environmental education and STEM and to share best practices in Greening STEM.

New Report and Web Resource Shed Light on Earth Science Education

The Center for Geoscience Education and Public Understanding’s new report and new web site on Earth science education provide powerful resources for the advancement of the discipline.  The landmark report describes significant gaps between identified priorities and lagging practice in Earth science education.

The report, “Earth and Space Sciences Education in U.S. Secondary Schools:  Key Indicators and Trends,” offers baseline data on indicators of the subject’s status since the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April 2013.  Establishing clear aims for the subject, the NGSS state that the Earth and Space Sciences should have equal status with the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Technology, and Engineering.  However, the report shows that school districts and other organizations fail to assign the Earth Sciences this status.

Only one of the nation’s 50 states requires a year-long Earth/Environmental Science course for high school graduation, whereas 32 states require a Life Science course, and 27 require a Physical Science course, according to the report.  Only six states require that students are taught Earth Science concepts as part of their graduation requirements.

Recommendations for better treatment of Earth Science subject matter include changes in the subject’s relevance to graduation requirements, the discipline’s presence on assessments, designation of Earth Science courses as laboratory courses, and establishment of an Advanced Placement Earth Science program.

This new report is available on the Center for Geoscience Education and Public Understanding’s searchable web site (  The site is a comprehensive and up-to-date online clearinghouse for Earth and space science information and educational resources, ranging from high school curricula and classroom activities to video collections, career resources, and national research reports.  Both this report and new web site are services of AGI.

National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education

The National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education has released several new reports from the 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, including a series of reports describing the status of science/mathematics teaching at the different grade levels (e.g., elementary science, middle school mathematics, high school chemistry).  You can find the reports here:

Spot the Space Station Over Your Backyard with NASA Service

For over 13 years, crews have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station.  You can see the orbiting laboratory when it passes over your home!  NASA's "Spot the Station" service will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.

"It's really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations.  "We're accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space."

When the space station is visible -- typically at dawn and dusk -- it is the brightest object in the night sky, other than the moon.  On a clear night, the station is visible as a fast moving point of light, similar in size and brightness to the planet Venus.

The ISS's trajectory passes over more than 90% of Earth's population.  To sign up for "Spot the Station," visit:

EPA Students for the Environment

Have you visited the Environmental Protection Agency's Students for the Environment web page?  It has great homework resources for your students and ideas for school environmental projects.  You'll find relevant awards and contests posted on the site.  There are also opportunities for fun and games!  Check it out!

La Brea – Tiny Traces Reveal Big Secrets of the Tar Pits

Saber tooth tigers, dire wolves and woolly mammoths conjure up images of a past when large beasts struggled against the elements, each other, and even against humans for survival.  Thousands of these creatures met their demise in the muck of the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles, where they slowly sank into the tar and were fossilized.  Now, scientists are using tiny traces (chew marks on the bones) from hungry, bone-eating insects on these fossils to investigate how long it took for the giant beasts to be swallowed up by the sticky, oozy substance.

Using investigative entomology techniques, scientists were able to determine which hungry bugs feasted on trapped megafauna in tar pits, and just how long the bodies sat exposed in the tar before becoming completely submerged.  Read more about this groundbreaking research on the tar pits using insect traces.

Old Photos Help Scientists Relocate 1906 San Francisco Quake Rupture Point

Geoscientists using every resource available to them — from bare-earth LIDAR technology to knowledge of turn-of-the-century fashion — have helped correct a 100-year-old mistake about where the San Andreas Fault rupture point was for the historic 1906 earthquake.

Braving poison oak and complicated earthquake policy, scientists spent years trying to locate the rupture point in California's Portola Valley and finally succeeded courtesy of old photos.  Read how the San Andreas Fault trace location was rediscovered in the December issue of EARTH Magazine.

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