Update your bookmarks! Our new website url is http://windows2universe.org!
If you haven't already, please respond to the email about forwarding UCAR subscription information to NESTA (sent from firstname.lastname@example.org and subject: For Windows to the Universe Educators). If you missed this email, it will be sent out again next month. It's easy - only two clicks of the mouse!
Happy New Year! I hope this new year fulfills your wishes, and brings you students eager to learn, a supportive school administration, and the resources you need to bring your enthusiasm for the Earth and space sciences to your students. In that regard, I hope that Windows to the Universe can be a useful resource for you.
We are happy to announce a new capability for Windows to the Universe members. We now offer Windows to the Universe members the ability to keep track of their resources and events with our "My W2U" capability, which provides your own control panel through which you can personalize your experience with Windows to the Universe. Track your events - upcoming and historical. Bookmark your favorite pages, sections, and classroom activities. Select your favorite RSS feeds and background for the website to customize your interactions with the site. We will continue to add additional My W2U capabilities over the coming months. My W2U capability is immediately available to all current members of Windows to the Universe. If you're not a member already, join today to take advantage of this new ability to personalize your Windows to the Universe experience!
In addition to My W2U, we are also delighted to now offer the opportunity for scientist and education partners to become partners with Windows to the Universe. This allows them to leverage our large audience (15 million users globally per year) and content base (9,000 web pages at three levels of content in English and Spanish), for their education and outreach purposes. Scientists and education specialists seeking an effective and efficient education and public outreach component for their research projects can become Contributing Partners and leverage our audience, content, tools, and experience to get the word out about their science and resources. Institutions interested in taking advantage of these opportunities for multiple scientists and programs can become Institutional Partners. We will be accepting applications for Contributing Partnerships in January 2011, and will begin training sessions in February 2011. For more information about these opportunities, please investigate the links above, and contact me (Roberta Johnson at email@example.com) for more information.
In December of last year, we finished up our activities with our workshops at the NSTA Area conference in Nashville, where we welcomed ~400 participants to our events. This was followed up by our activities at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, where we were busy with a presentation, an exhibit booth, and the AGU-NESTA Geophysical Information for Teachers (GIFT) Workshop.
Already in December, dramatic cold spells, high winds and winter storms hit much of the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world.
We want to remind you about blizzard safety rules. Winter storms can create dangerous driving conditions and cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia. If you live in an area with cold and snowy winters, be on alert for severe weather advisories. Improperly working furnaces, water heaters or stoves may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, so make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic.
Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur are the six basic building blocks of all known forms of life on Earth. Phosphorus is part of the chemical backbone of DNA and RNA, the structures that carry genetic instructions for life, and is considered an essential element for all living cells.
Phosphorus is a central component of the energy-carrying molecule in all cells (adenosine triphosphate) and also the phospholipids that form all cell membranes. Arsenic, which is chemically similar to phosphorus, is poisonous for most life on Earth. Arsenic disrupts metabolic pathways because chemically it behaves similarly to phosphate.
The newly discovered microbe, strain GFAJ-1, is a member of a common group of bacteria, the Gammaproteobacteria. In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow. Subsequent analyses indicated that the arsenic was being used to produce the building blocks of new GFAJ-1 cells.
The announcement by NASA has fueled a vigorous and ongoing debate in the scientific community, since a number of prominent scientists have suggested that although the NASA results are certainly ground-breaking, they do not conclusively prove all of the research team’s claims. More studies of this microbe and its unique abilities will be necessary to resolve all the questions raised by this study, but it seems clear that NASA’s discovery and analysis of GFAJ-1 will change our understanding of biochemistry in a significant way.
For more information about the finding and a complete list of researchers, visit: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov
Windows to the Universe includes numerous pages about significant molecules, with a special emphasis on atmospheric gases and pollutants. These molecule pages include images of the various molecular species depicted in different ways...as "ball-and-stick" diagrams, molecular formulae, space-filling diagrams, and so on. Check out our pages covering: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitric acid, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, molecular nitrogen, molecular oxygen, peroxyacytyl nitrate (PAN), propane, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, and sulfur trioxide.
We have many classroom activities on our web site. Once on the classroom activity page, use the top button bar to choose Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced classroom activities (these correlate roughly to upper elementary, middle school or high school level activities).
One of my students' favorite activities when I was teaching Earth science was the Dante's Peak Movie Review. In the activity, students pretend to be expert volcanologists writing a movie review of Dante's Peak for a local newspaper. Students get to review and demonstrate their knowledge of volcanoes and you get to bring writing into your science classroom. A win-win situation!
Please consider joining Windows to the Universe as an Educator Member and/or making a donation to the Windows to the Universe project. Over the past six months, we have undertaken a brave new adventure, working to develop a sustainability model for this website and our professional development program (with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation), so that these activities are not so dependent on a continuing supply of Federal funding.
Even though Windows to the Universe is one of the most successful and least expensive science education websites ever developed on Federal funding, eventually granting agencies find it difficult to continue funding projects, irrespective of how successful they are, as they are required to support new programs. Based on our large audience of over 15 million users annually, we are working to develop an array of funding strategies to help support the project and reduce our dependence on Federal funding. These strategies include providing opportunities for membership (providing access to members-only special benefits and services), a partnership program with scientists and institutions, an online store (which helps support our programs through commissions from vendors), additional professional development offerings, advertising, and donations. We hope to use these resources to not only support Windows to the Universe content and professional development activities, but also to support NESTA. If this website is a valuable resource for you, please consider supporting it in one or more of the ways described above - your support is much appreciated!
The first meteor shower of the new year peaks January 3rd-4th. During this time, the Moon will be in a waning gibbous phase and will set around midnight. So viewing between midnight and before dawn will provide the darkest backdrop for spotting meteors. As always, take precautions during these winter months to stay warm!
The Quadrantids are a shower with an interesting history; they are named after a now defunct constellation, and, like the Geminids, the source of these meteors is a mysterious object that may be an asteroid or an extinct comet.
December marked the 40th anniversary of The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1969, just before the agency was established, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio became so polluted that it caught fire. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day. Growing awareness of environmental issues led to the EPA's creation on December 2, 1970. In the same year, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, setting national air quality standards, and the EPA helped implement the various requirements of that Act. Since the EPA's founding, America has made great strides in reducing pollution that threatens the air we breathe, the water we use, and the communities we live in.
Students often mistakenly believe that the seasons are caused by variations in Earth's distance from the Sun. Earth's axial tilt is, of course, the real reason for our seasons. The Earth does, however, travel around the Sun in an elliptical orbit which brings it closer to and further away from our neighborhood celestial furnace during the course of each year. Astronomers call the point of closest approach "perihelion", and the most distant point "aphelion". These words come from Greek roots: "helios" is Sun, "peri" means near, and "apo" means away from.
Earth passes through perihelion in early January each year, so it is closest to the Sun in the depths of the Northern Hemisphere's winter. In 2011, Earth will pass through perihelion on January 3 at 1pm CST. Earth is about 3% further from the Sun at aphelion (in early July) than at perihelion. Earth's orbit is very nearly circular, so its aphelion and perihelion distances are not much different from one another. Some planets have orbits which are much more elongated; astronomers say such orbits have a large "eccentricity". Pluto, for instance, is about 66% further from the Sun at aphelion than it is at perihelion.
Check out these pages on Windows to the Universe to learn more about elliptical orbits, perihelion & aphelion, and eccentricity:
Did you (or your students) know that every time you turn on the television or travel in a car, you add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? This is because most of the energy we use comes from fuels like oil, coal, and gas.
There are many ways to become more carbon neutral in the New Year. Being "carbon neutral" means removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we put in. How can we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? One way is to buy "carbon offsets". This supports projects like wind farms, solar parks, planting trees, and the development of green technologies. It helps make clean energy more affordable. It reduces future greenhouse gas emissions to make up for our travel and electricity use today.
You can also reduce your carbon footprint by choosing to use less energy every day. Traveling by walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation instead of driving a car will reduce your carbon footprint. In the market for a new car? Consider one that is more fuel efficient (added benefit -- spend less money at the gas pump!). Oh, and turn off lights in rooms if you do not need them.
As teachers you can also challenge your students to reduce their carbon footprint. Who knows? They may challenge their parents and grandparents to do the same! A few minutes of teaching about these topics can make a big difference!
Finally, plant trees and plants (they act as carbon sinks). And get your students and school involved too! Every Earth Day in April, the students in my classroom would spend their hour with me planting seeds and seedlings donated by local nurseries. They felt good about the project and the school looked better too. You'd be surprised how many seeds and seedlings can get planted by 130 high school students in one day!
Use this Carbon Calculator to figure out your carbon footprint. Here's to a Carbon-Reduced New Year!
January is a month rich in astronomical discoveries. On January 7, 1601, Galileo wrote a letter containing the first mention of the moons of Jupiter. He saw three of them first, and discovered the fourth a few months later. The 4 major moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, are now called the Galilean satellites. Their discovery was a key piece of evidence that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
On January 1, 1801, Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid, which he named Ceres after the Greek goddess of grain. In 2006, Ceres was classified as a "dwarf planet", along with Pluto and Eris.
January 31 marks the 53rd anniversary of the first U.S. Satellite, Explorer 1. Its successful flight made the United States the second nation in space, following the Soviets who had launched Sputnik 1 just four months earlier. Explorer's major accomplishment was the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt.
On January 14, 2005, the Huygens space probe landed on Titan. It made measurements of Titan's thick atmosphere and took pictures of the moon's surface. And a year later, on January 16, 2006, NASA's Stardust mission returned to Earth, bringing the first comet samples.
Other notable dates in January include a birthday of the scientist who is often considered to be the greatest of them all - Isaac Newton, as well as birthdays of Ben Franklin (1706-1790), astronomer Simon Marius (1573 - 1624) and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (born in 1942).
Will you be at the NSTA National Conference (March 10-13, 2011)? We will! We invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.NSTA National Conference - San Francisco
Table of Contents
Dante's Peak Review
Join or Donate!
Q Meteor Shower
Earth at Perihelion
Be Carbon Neutral!
NSTA San Fran 2011
Space Shuttle Tiles
Photo of the Day
NESTA at NSTA
Teachers to S Africa
Class Earth Grants
School Green Prize
Giant Maps Available
Science Essay Comp
Urban Env Challenge
Win Trip to Sweden!
Pulse of ES Ed
Cit Science Network
AGI ES Award Open
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
As the Space Shuttle Program nears retirement, NASA is looking for ways to preserve the program's history and inspire the next generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers. NASA is now offering 7,000 shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students. The lightweight tiles protect the shuttles from extreme temperatures when the orbiters re-enter the Earth's atmosphere.
Schools can request a tile on a first-come, first-served basis. Recipients need only to pay for shipping and handling ($23.40). For more information about artifacts also available to museums and libraries, visit: http://gsaxcess.gov/htm/nasa/userguide/NASA_SSPA_Pamphlet.pdf
Looking for a little inspiration as you head back to school? Check out National Geographic's Nature and Weather Photo of the Day web site. You won't be disappointed!
Did you know that the National Earth Science Teachers Association will be very involved at the National NSTA conference in San Francisco? Join this supportive teachers' network and you can meet other NESTA members at these NSTA conferences. These NESTA members have great ideas for teaching Earth science, and their enthusiasm for the geosciences is contagious! Other membership benefits include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site, a discount on Windows to the Universe Educator Membership, and the monthly e-mail newsletter, NESTA ENews, that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events.
NESTA also hosts Share-a-Thon sessions at the NSTA meetings. Whether you are a NESTA member or not, you can present at those Share-a-Thon sessions. Please consider sharing your favorite, tested classroom activity with your colleagues at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons. This is a great opportunity to help your colleagues, and also be listed in the official program as a presenter (if you let us know far enough in advance), which may help you get support from your school administrators for attending the meeting. If you're interested in presenting, please see the complete list of NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock Raffles at NSTA Conferences and contact NESTA's Share-a-Thon coordinator, Michelle Harris, and let her know that you'd like to present (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are pleased to announce a new Toyota International Teacher Program to South Africa! The inaugural program will take place July 24 – August 10, 2011. Please see the application instructions to apply. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Deadline for application is January 23, 2011.
Are you interested in enhancing your understanding of the living world and learning to teach about wildlife conservation in your subject area?
Classroom Earth is supporting middle and high school teachers around the country who are eager to make wildlife conservation part of their curriculum. Classroom Earth's 2011 Professional Development Grants will enable applicants to take one six-week online course offered by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Apply for a grant today! The deadline is February 1, 2011. Visit classroomEarth.org/2011wcgrants for more information.
Do you have students who are incredibly gifted with computers? Point them to the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) site. RHoK events bring together software developers, students and disaster risk experts for "hackathons" that look for new approaches to disaster relief challenges. RHoK events happen around the world and promise that "in a weekend, you can change the world." The last RHoK event happened in early December 2010.
Past hackathons have created applications that were used after the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile to help identify survivors and help rescuers find them. Sponsors have included NASA, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and the World Bank. That's a heavy-hitting crowd working to make a difference!
Environmental solutions for the future can begin with your students! Please pass the following notice on to your high school students:
Whether you’re in a city, rural area or a suburb, wildlife is all around you. In many places, that wildlife faces challenges. If you're a high school student with a creative idea for conserving and protecting wildlife, Planet Connect is offering grants of $1,000 to implement projects and participate in a local internship focused on wildlife conservation or natural resources. Once you have focused in on a specific issue occurring in your community, start thinking about what you can do to address the problem. What kind of action can you take? Do you see any opportunities to protect or preserve wildlife habitat? Here’s your chance to make a difference! Apply for a national Planet Connect Student Grant today! The deadline for applications is February 1, 2011!
Need information about wildlife conservation? Have a topic in mind, but want to broaden your knowledge base? Check out Planet Connect's Wildlife Conservation page.
NASA is providing up to $20 million over the next five years to support a national Robotics Alliance Project to inspire student interest in science, technology and mathematics with a focus on robotic technology.
The funding is part of a cooperative agreement with the Foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. "This is the largest NASA-funded student program geared toward robotics activities," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "For the next five years, approximately 25,000 students across the country will not only learn from our nation's best and brightest, but also compete and have fun at the same time."
The centerpiece of the program is the annual FIRST Robotics Competition. During more than 45 regional competitions, teams of high school students have six weeks to build a robot using an identical kit of parts. The regional competitions culminate with an international championship in April. The competition is structured like an athletic event. Teams compete in an area the size of a small basketball court. The robots must have offensive and defensive capabilities. Each team's robot works to accomplish a task, while preventing its opponent from doing the same.
Planet Connect announces the 2011 Get Green video contest. In partnership with the Leaders of Environmental Action Films (L.E.A.F.), the Get Green Video Contest is asking U.S. high school students to "Show Us Your Ocean Connection". Students need to make a 30-120 second video to show how everyday actions impact the ocean. Remember, all of us impact the ocean no matter if we live on the coast or 1,000 miles inland. In fact, water from 31 states drains into the Mississippi River - which then leads to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Need more inspiration? Check out these Ocean Facts! Prizes include a Galaxy Tab and an HD Camcorder!
Entries accepted between now and February 23, 2011. The first 100 entrants will receive a free re-usable Eco Falls water bottle!
Please alert your high school students to National Geographic's new summer 2011 expeditions and field workshops! From Alaska to New Zealand, China to Iceland, Tuscany to Tanzania - what awesome learning opportunities await your students!
Have you ever snorkeled with a sea lion? Gone hiking with a Maasai warrior? Set out on a photo shoot with a National Geographic photographer? On a National Geographic Student Expedition, students encounter incredible places up close in the company of a National Geographic expert and a team of dynamic leaders. Beyond just visiting great destinations, students get involved with local communities, explore through hands-on activities, and discover amazing landscapes by rafting, hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking. Each student delves into a topic of interest through On Assignment projects in photography, wildlife and conservation, archaeology, filmmaking, and more.
Most workshops run for 10-12 days. Apply Now!
Across the United States, schools are taking on the challenge of becoming green in a variety of ways – from incorporating environmental content in curricula to using sustainable materials in construction. Research shows that environmental education helps build creative thinking and relationship skills, fosters leadership qualities and makes school subjects rich and relevant. Schools that adopt an environmental focus demonstrate better academic performance across the curriculum. Successful school greening efforts provide benefits to students and the local community and serve as an example for other schools.
The Green Prize in Public Education will award $10,000 to a K-12 public school that has most successfully implemented an innovative, sustainable and reproducible school-wide greening effort that has involved and benefited its students. Two merit awards of $5,000 each will also be given to schools that demonstrate this kind of success. Applications for the Green Prize in Public Education are due February 15, 2011.
Starting January 10, 2011, you may request a Giant Traveling Map for your school. Maps book quickly, so it is recommended that you submit a request early.
National Geographic Giant Traveling Maps are enormously entertaining and educationally powerful tools for introducing geography and map reading skills to students, grades K-8. What better way to teach young people the power of maps and the limitless depth of geography than a basketball court-sized map of a continent on which they can explore, travel from country to country, hop around, compete, collaborate and have lots of fun?
These floor maps of Africa, Asia, North America, and South America are available for loan, each accompanied by a complete teacher guide, activities, game props, and educational resources.
The Mountaineers Foundation promotes the study of the mountains, forests and streams of the Pacific Northwest, and contributes to preserving its natural beauty and ecological integrity. They fund modest, short-term projects consistent with those purposes, with a maximum grant normally funded at $5,000.
They support projects in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia. Applications are due February 1, 2011.
The 2011 DuPont Challenge© Science Essay Competition, one of the foremost student science and technology prize programs in the United States and Canada—is now celebrating its 25th anniversary! The DuPont Challenge© has two primary objectives: to help increase science literacy among students and to motivate them to excel communicating scientific ideas. Students may write a 700-1,000 word essay discussing a scientific discovery, theory, event, or technological application that has captured their interest. We invite and encourage you to take part in our 25th year by bringing The DuPont Challenge© into your classroom, and giving your students the opportunity to benefit from this experience.
The deadline for U.S. and Canadian students in grades 7-12 to submit entries is January 31, 2011. Essays are judged in two divisions: grades 7-9 and grades 10-12. The DuPont Challenge has more than $75,000 in prizes and awards! See details at http://www.thechallenge.dupont.com.
Together, Earth Force and Staples will develop the next generation of environmental problem solvers by inviting urban youth to address issues related to climate change. THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT CHALLENGE encourages young people in grades 5-9 in urban communities to take action on pressing local issues created by global climate change. One winning entry will be chosen from each of five regions and that winning team will receive a $1,000 package of prizes.
Young people doing service learning in groups of 10 to 30 could address issues such as energy consumption, food security, transportation, use of resources, recycling or clean land and water. Students in the San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas metro areas are eligible to compete. Register to participate by January 31st and final projects are due by Earth Day on April 22, 2011.
The Volvo Adventure, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, is an educational program that rewards environmental activities and the decision-makers of the future. Students can enter by forming a team of 2 to 5 members aged 13 to 16 (at competition opening - July 1, 2009), and performing an environmental project in their local community. Teams then submit the project using the online submission tool before the competition deadline of January 31, 2011.
The best projects are selected for an all-expenses paid trip to Göteborg, Sweden where they can win up to $10,000. (1st place = $10,000, 2nd place = $6,000 and 3rd place = $4,000)
See registration details and guidelines for more information on how to participate.
Many schools have dropped Earth science from the required curriculum in recent years. Some colleges have closed geoscience departments. And yet employers have said they need more qualified candidates for geoscience jobs. Does your public education system ensure that all students learn important Earth science content?
AGI (American Geological Institute) now allows you to track the status of Earth science education nationwide. The “Pulse of Earth Science” web site, launched in connection with Earth Science Week, offers detailed, up-to-date information on geoscience education in every state, as well as guidance for advocates.
The Network for Citizen Science Projects web site is a wonderful resource if you're looking for science you and your students can do!
There are blogs to read that cover many different areas of science from ornithology to paleontology to robotics. Videos are also featured and you might find these short clips useful in the classroom. Whatever your interest, this is certainly a site with something for everyone!
Four decades after the first lunar rover rolled across the surface of the moon, innovative high school and college students are preparing to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered "moonbuggies". Registration is open for the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, set for April 1-2, 2011, in Huntsville, AL.
Registration closes February 1, 2011. For complete rules, vehicle design parameters and registration details for the race, visit: http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov
Does someone you know teach earth science to students between kindergarten and eighth grade? Do they excel in their teaching through leadership and innovation, bringing new ideas and approaches to teaching about our planet? If so, they may be eligible for the Edward C. Roy Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching. Given annually, this award recognizes one classroom teacher nationwide for their leadership and innovation in earth science education.
The winner will receive a prize of $2,500 and an additional grant of $1,000 to enable the recipient to attend the 2011 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Annual Conference in San Francisco, California, from March 10-13. To be eligible, applications must be postmarked by January 5, 2011. To learn more about competition requirements, application procedures, and deadlines, visit http://www.agiweb.org/education/awards/ed-roy/.
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.