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February 2011

Teacher Submissions
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Lots of New Resources and Opportunities!

This month's newsletter has lots of new resources for you to explore on Windows to the Universe, as well as many opportunities offered by our partner organizations. I'd like to highlight the two professional development opportunities described briefly below (it is described in more detail for Windows to the Universe Teacher members once they log in on the website). Also, please note below our schedule of events at the upcoming NSTA National Conference in San Francisco. We have a very full schedule!

We're excited to have a new collaboration with the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn. We are working together to develop resources on twelve key indicators of climate change, with a new video released each Friday that is created by staff at NBC Learn, and a new classroom activity associated with the topic that is available on our website. Visit the new Changing Planet page now to access the first video and classroom activity and come back frequently to view new videos and lesson plans!

Other new items on the site include new videos from the Little Shop of Physics on density, pressure and wind, as well as new content on cosmic rays, radiocarbon dating, and the discovery of the first rocky planet outside our solar system by the Kepler mission. See below for more details.

In January, I had the chance to participate in an interview on the This American Life radio program. The interview involved discussing the evidence about climate change with a 14-year-old young lady from Virginia, and Ira Glass, the show's Executive Producer. If you are interested, and missed it, you might want to listen in. The show is available on the This American Life website at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/424/kid-politics. Click on "play episode", and forward about 1/3rd of the way into the show. I enjoyed the experience, and hopefully we all learned something! There is also a blog that touches on this interview at http://www.sindark.com/2011/01/20/roberta-johnson-and-erin-gustafson/.

Finally, I'd like to mention that this month marks the 16th birthday of the Windows to the Universe project. Thanks to all that have provided support, and worked on developing the website over the past years!

Two Professional Development Opportunities - For Windows to the Universe Teacher Members!

Opportunity to participate in National Science Foundation-supported Earth and space science teacher professional development program, including travel support and stipend! - This opportunity, which targets middle and high school educators, will address some of the big unanswered questions in Earth and space sciences, and will provide professional development on helping students develop the skills needed to use data to make and test hypotheses and assess results.

Participants will receive 1.5 days of professional development over the summer (all travel expenses will be paid). Participants must use at least two of the computer-based investigations introduced in the workshop with their classes during the next school year. Each activity will require approximately six class periods to complete, with additional time required for pretests and posttests. Participants will be selected from applicants, and must:
• have access to internet-connected computers (enough for a ratio of 2-3 students per computer)
• be teaching at least one middle-school and/or high-school level Earth Science course
• have interest in ongoing research in Earth and space sciences

Participants who complete two of the investigations will receive an $800 stipend; teachers who implement all three investigations will receive a stipend of $1,100. Teachers can continue to use these activities even after the project ends. Applications close May 27, 2011. Members - login for full details! Not a Teacher Member of Windows to the Universe? Join Today!

Opportunity to participate in a National Science Foundation-supported professional development program on seismology, including travel support and stipend! - This opportunity, which targets grades seven-14 educators, will address seismology. Participants must be science teachers that live in the following states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri or Tennessee. Participants must teach about earthquakes in class, and be recommended by their administrator for the opportunity. Participants will receive a stipend of $480 for successful completion of the workshop, 3 hours of tuition-free graduate credit, travel support and the opportunity to go on a field trip. Applications close April 10, 2011. Members - login for full details! Not a Teacher Member of Windows to the Universe? Join Today!

Happy Sweet Sixteen!

February 2011 marks the 16th anniversary of the Windows to the Universe project! Our project started with funding from NASA in February 1995, as a component of the NASA Public Uses of Remote Sensing Data Bases Program. Windows to the Universe has continued since that time, with support from NASA, the National Science Foundation, collaborations with funded projects at universities and NASA Centers (including Boston University and Colorado State University), the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the American Geological Institute, and the American Geophysical Union. Many thanks to our sponsors, but also to the many people who have worked on or contributed to this project over the past 16 years! Although Windows to the Universe is developed and maintained mainly by a small group of people in Boulder, Colorado, at NESTA Headquarters, the website represents the work of nearly 100 people over the past 16 years! We are excited to be expanding our program now, to allow external scientists and education specialists to use Windows to the Universe as an education and outreach platform for the geosciences, through our Contributing Partners and Institutional Partnership programs. You can find information about the team of people who work on this project now (or have in the past) at the Windows People link.

Ocean Gyres

A gyre is another name for a swirling vortex. Ocean gyres are large swirling bodies of water that are often on the scale of a whole ocean basin or 1000's of kilometers across (hundreds to thousands of miles across). They are larger than the whirлpools of water in the ocean called eddies. Eddies are on the scale of 100 km (60 miles) across and dissipate over a few months. Ocean gyres dominate the central regions of open ocean and represent the long-term average pattern of ocean surface currents. Ocean gyres in the Northern hemisphere rotate clockwise and gyres in the Southern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise due to the Coriolis effect.

The major gyres of the ocean include: North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Ocean gyres. Many smaller gyres exist too. One such gyre, the Beaufort gyre in the Arctic Ocean, is featured in the small illustration found to the left.

One of the largest ocean gyres, the North Pacific gyre, is home to an area called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This area contains a relatively high concentration of marine litter. It is estimated to cover an area roughly twice the size of Texas and contain approximately 3 million tons of plastic litter, though much of this plastic is broken up into pieces too small to see with the naked eye. Although the precise origin of the litter is not known, scientists believe that the Garbage Patch was created gradually as the Northern Pacific Gyre captured foreign material and that material was transported to the center of the gyre by centripetal forces and wind-driven surface currents, creating an area with concentrated litter.

Surface ocean currents, ocean gyres, deep ocean circulation and the atmosphere are all parts of the complex Earth system. Understanding ocean-atmosphere interactions is a key part of understanding global climate change as well as how different things like water, energy, nutrients or pollutants move through (or get trapped within!) different parts of the Earth system.

Density, Pressure and Wind Movies from Little Shop of Physics

We've added three more videos from the Little Shop of Physics to our web site. Two are from their hip new "Science It Up" series. In Snuff It! with CO2, they blow out candles with some dry ice and an understanding of density. The second movie, Crush It! with Pressure, shows how larger and larger cans can be crushed with air pressure. The third movie, a segment from the Everyday Science TV show, shows how differences in air pressure generate winds.

Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an excellent time to honor the achievements of black scientists. Have your students read the biography of Wangari Maathai in our History and People section to learn about this extraordinary woman. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan scientist, started a very successful movement in Africa to combat deforestation. Nearly 30 years ago she founded the Green Belt Movement, which employs women of Kenyan villages to plant trees. Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in 2004.

The Windows to the Universe History and People section includes many short biographies of scientists, astronauts, and mathematicians. The scientist biographies are organized chronologically.

NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers its First Rocky Planet

NASA's Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Measuring 1.4 times the size of Earth, it is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets. Its ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. To confirm the observations, W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii was able to measure tiny changes in the star's spectrum, caused by the telltale tug exerted by the orbiting planet on the star.

Kepler-10b orbits the star called Kepler-10. It was the first star identified that could potentially harbor a small transiting planet. Because Kepler-10 is one of the brighter stars being targeted by Kepler, scientists were able to detect high frequency variations in the star's brightness generated by stellar oscillations, or starquakes. This analysis allowed scientists to pin down Kepler-10b's properties.

Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our Sun, so it's not in the habitable zone (the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface).

NASA launched the Kepler satellite in March 2009. For more information about the Kepler mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

Will You Be Teaching about the Solar System Soon?

Are you going to be teaching about the planets soon? If so, here's a very general Student Data Collection Sheet your students can use to research a given planet or moon of the solar system. It is part of the Please Ex-Planet! activity.

Having students do such a project touches on Content Standard D: Earth in the solar system (5-8) and Content Standard D: Origin and evolution of the universe (9-12).

Cosmic Rays

Cosmic rays are a type of radiation that comes from space. They aren't really "rays" at all, but a type of particle radiation. There are several different types (and corresponding sources) of cosmic rays: solar cosmic rays, galactic and extragalactic cosmic rays, and anomalous cosmic rays. Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere shield us from most of this high-energy radiation, though astronauts in space and satellites aren't so lucky. Future missions to the Moon and Mars will need to take special precautions to protect crews and equipment from cosmic rays.

Radiocarbon dating using carbon-14, with its many applications to archeology and other fields that delve into our past, would not be possible if there were no cosmic rays. Want to know more? Click here to delve deeper into the mysteries of cosmic rays!

Atmospheric Optics

Have you ever looked up in the sky and noticed something colorful or unique and you didn't know what it was? We have a new page on atmospheric optics that introduces you to some of these phenomena. Atmospheric optics shows us how light behaves as it passes through the atmosphere. To learn more, you can check out the photo album of atmospheric optics. There you'll find information and beautiful images of rainbows, aurora borealis, crepuscular rays, and more.

If you're interested in seeing more images from the Earth and space sciences, please visit the Windows to the Universe Image Galleries.

NSTA National Conference in San Francisco - March 10-13, 2011

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

Date Title Time Location
Thursday, March 10 Activities from Across the Earth System 8:00-9:00am Moscone Center, 220 & 222
Tackling the Global Warming Challenge 9:30-10:30am Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Yerba Buena Salon 11
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games 12:30-1:30pm Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Yerba Buena Salon 11
Friday, March 11 NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am Hall D
NESTA Oceans and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon 11:00-12:00pm Hall D
NESTA Space Science Share-Thon 12:30-1:30pm Hall D
Point, Game, Set, Match: Science Wins with Tennis Ball Containers 12:30-1:30pm Hilton San Fran Union Square, Continental 3
Beyond Mere Attraction: Measuring Magnetism 2:00-3:00pm Moscone Center, 220 & 222
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-8:00pm Marriott San Francisco Marquis, Club Room
Saturday, March 12 NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am Hall D
Virtual Labs in the Earth Sciences: Melting Ice, Warming Climate, and Ballooning Through the Stratosphere 9:30-10:30am Moscone Center, 232 & 234
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 1 11:30-12:30pm Hall D
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 2 12:30-1:30pm Hall D
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lecture 3 1:30-2:30pm Hall D
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-5:00pm Hall D
NESTA Annual Membership Meeting 5:00-6:30pm Hall D

Table of Contents

PD for Members
Happy Birthday!
Ocean Gyres
Wind & Pressure
Black Hist Month
Kepler Mission
SS Activity
Cosmic Rays
Atmospheric Optics
NSTA San Fran 2011


EE Week in April
ES Week 2011
Env Ed Award
Toyota Tapestry
Space Tech Grad
AMNH Awards
Baloonsat Teams
Climate Scholarship
Energy Challenge
Leave No Trace
Conserve Wildlife
Astronaut Training
Env Research Contest
Giant Maps Available
School Green Prize
Student Videos
Space Shuttle Tiles














Teacher Submissions

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Environmental Education Week is April 10-16th

Environmental Education Week is April 10-16, 2011. Be sure to check out EEWeek.org for lesson plans, facts, quizzes and other resources on oceans and oil spills in honor of this year's theme -- Ocean Connections.

Earth Science Week 2011

AGI (American Geological Institute) is pleased to announce the theme of Earth Science Week 2011: “Our Ever-Changing Earth.” Being held October 9-15, 2011, the event will engage young people and the public in learning about the natural processes that shape our planet over time.

Earth Science Week 2011 materials and activities will show how evidence of change can be found everywhere, from the earth beneath our feet to the oceans and atmosphere around us. Fossil records of changes in plant and animal life likewise can be found around the globe. These changes touch our lives in many ways, as we see in headlines about topics such as resource availability, evolution, and climate change.

Write these dates on your calendar now and look for updates about Earth Science Week 2011 in upcoming newsletters!

Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award - For Middle School Teachers

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award is given annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation to an outstanding educator who has successfully integrated environmental education into his or her daily education programs. The 2011 award will be given to a middle school educator (grades 5-8) who can serve as an inspiration and model for others. The winner will receive a $5,000 award. Do you know a teacher who stands out among the rest? If so, please nominate him/her for the 2011 Richard C. Bartlett Award. Nominations will be accepted through March 14, 2011. To learn more or to submit your nomination visit http://www.neefusa.org/bartlettaward.

Toyota Tapestry Grants

Toyota TAPESTRY recognizes outstanding educators who are making a difference by demonstrating excellence and creativity in science teaching. Since 1991, the program has awarded more than $9.2 million to 1,147 teams of teachers for innovative science classroom projects. Thanks to these teachers’ tireless efforts to improve their skills and increase their effectiveness, students nationwide are gaining a better understanding of science principles and methodologies. Toyota and NSTA sincerely hope these grants continue to inspire teachers and serve as a catalyst for lifetime science learning.

Fifty large TAPESTRY grants totaling $500,000 in all, will be awarded this year. To apply for funding, qualified teachers must write a Toyota TAPESTRY proposal. The deadline for the completion of the online application is Tuesday, February 23, 2011. Recipients of Toyota TAPESTRY grants will be notified in April 2011.

Space Technology Graduate Fellowship

NASA is seeking applications from graduate students for the agency's new Space Technology Research Fellowships. Applications are being accepted from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of graduate students interested in performing space technology research beginning in the Fall of 2011. 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. The deadline for submitting fellowship proposals is February 23. Information on the fellowships, including how to submit applications, is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/grants/NSTRF.html

National Earth Science Teachers Association at National NSTA!

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 michelle_harris@apsva.us).

AMNH Young Naturalist Awards

The Young Naturalist Awards from the American Museum of Natural History is an inquiry-based science competition for students (grades 7-12) that promotes participation and communication in science. Students plan a research project and submit a final report, including an essay and artwork. Awards include cash prizes and certificates of recognition. The deadline is March 1, 2011.

NASA Invites Students To Send Experiments To The Edge Of Space

NASA is inviting student teams to design and build experiments the agency will fly into the stratosphere, a near-space environment, more than 100,000 feet above the Earth.

NASA's second annual Balloonsat High-Altitude Flight competition is open to student teams in ninth to 12th grades from the U.S. and its territories. Student teams may propose experiments on a wide range of topics, from bacteria studies to weather observations. The deadline for submission is February 11.

The top eight teams will receive up to $1,000 to develop their flight experiments. As well, the top four teams will be invited to travel to Glenn Research Center May 18-20. During their visit, they will have an opportunity to tour the center, watch as NASA helium weather balloons carry their experiments to the edge of space, recover the experiments and present their results at Glenn's Balloonsat Symposium.

ACE Action Scholarship

The ACE Action Scholarship encourages students to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise climate awareness in their schools and communities. ACE is offering up to ten scholarships of $2,500 each for graduating high school seniors to be applied toward higher education expenses. Any high school senior who plans to begin a four-year undergraduate degree program in the Fall of 2011 is eligible. Applicants must have seen an ACE school presentation in the past or are scheduled to participate in an ACE school presentation during the 2010-11 school year. The deadline to apply is February 17, 2011.

Igniting Creative Energy National Student Challenge

Igniting Creative Energy (ICE) is a national student challenge to motivate learning, ignite the imagination, and fuel the creative potential in youth.

Johnson Controls invites K-12 students and teachers to enter the Igniting Creative Energy (ICE) Challenge by submitting their energy efficiency ideas. To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the competition now includes a category called ICE Water, a new water conservation category. Five grand prize winners will receive a trip to the U.S. Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C., June 15-16, 2011. The final deadline is March 4, but entries postmarked by February 18 will qualify for additional early bird prizes.

Leave No Trace Grants

Leave No Trace is an educational, nonprofit organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors. Leave No Trace offers a variety of grants and scholarships for individuals and organizations seeking Leave No Trace educational materials and/or training. There are multiple grants offered, with varying deadlines throughout the year.

The John Ball Zoo Society's Wildlife Conservation Fund

Projects supported by the John Ball Zoo Society have helped conserve wildlife and wild places in more than 30 countries. Many projects funded by the Wildlife Conservation Fund have been education-based, in order to help communities learn about the wildlife around them. In addition, the fund has given support to help conserve some lesser-known species such as endangered reptiles and amphibians. Applications are available online. Apply By: 03/01/2011

Students To Train Like An Astronaut

NASA and 14 international space agencies are challenging students to complete a nutrition and fitness program known as "Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut". Approximately 3,700 students from more than 25 different cities worldwide are participating in this six-week pilot project, which is sponsored by NASA's Human Research Program. Teams of students will learn principles of healthy eating and exercise and will compete for points by finishing training modules.

The U.S., Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Colombia, Spain and United Kingdom are hosting teams for the challenge. Team USA is hosted by the College Station Independent School District in College Station, Texas. After six weeks of training, the U.S. challenge will culminate in a March 24th event, called the Fit Explorer Hometown Hullabaloo, to celebrate the students' success.

Teachers and administrators are hopeful the rich science and physical education experiences designed by NASA will help students become aware of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Upon completion of this pilot program, the goal is to expand the program to more schools in additional countries. The 18 core activities of the challenge are available for download in seven languages. To view country updates and Mission X teams' progress, visit: http://trainlikeanastronaut.org/en

2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest

From the massive Gulf oil spill to the continued decline of Arctic sea ice, satellites and other observing instruments have proved crucial this year in monitoring the many environmental changes -- both natural and human-induced -- occurring on global, regional and local scales.

The 2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest, sponsored by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, challenges high school students (grades 9-12) to conduct innovative research on our changing planet using the latest geospatial tools and data, which in recent years have become increasingly accessible to the public. Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS).

The best projects will receive cash awards in the amount of $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Entries can be submitted by individuals or teams. In the case of team entries, the cash award will be split equally among the winning team members. Winners will also be featured in an Encyclopedia of Earth article.

Entries must be received by April 11, 2011, and will be judged by IGES staff. For more information on the 2011 Thacher Environmental Research Contest, including a list of resources for geospatial data, please visit www.strategies.org/ThacherContest.

Reserve Your Giant Traveling Map!

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.

Green Prize in Public Education

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.

2011 Get Green Student Video Contest

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!

Space Shuttle Tiles Being Offered To Schools And Universities

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

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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.