March 2009

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Many Resources and Opportunities in a Busy March!

This month's newsletter is filled with information about resources on our website and opportunities available through Windows to the Universe and our partners. We will be offering 8 workshops at NSTA in New Orleans, as well as be present at all four of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) Share-a-thons. I hope we get to see you there!

This newsletter provides links to information on atmospheric optics, ecosystem science, the International Year of Astronomy, space weather, clouds, and science associated birthdays in March, as well as links to opportunities offered by partners including NESTA, the American Geophysical Union, the International Polar Year, On the Cutting Edge, and QuestBridge. Please note the upcoming deadlines for opportunities, so you don't miss out! Notice also the handy link to the Windows to the Universe Facebook group at the top of the newsletter above! Membership in this group is free, and provides an easy way to communicate with other people that share your interests in Windows to the Universe.

Speaking of deadlines, you have until March 6 to sign up for the NESTA field trip to Lake Pontchartrain and Katrina Devastation sites, scheduled for March 18. The field trip will include an overview of the interconnected waterways in the vicinity of New Orleans at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, followed by a tour of areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The Field Trip is an all day event, beginning at 8:30 am and continuing to 5 pm, and will include a stop for lunch (purchased on your own). Tickets are available online, or mail your check with the form found on this page to NESTA. Prices are $50 for members and $65 for non-members (which includes a one-year membership in NESTA). JoAnn Burke of the Lake Pontchartain Foundation will provide an overview of the interconnected waterways of New Orleans, and Dr. Stephen Nelson of Tulane University will lead the Katrina Devastation tour. The Field Guide for the trip is available here. Field Trip participants will receive a printed copy of the field guide when they arrive to board the bus. NESTA also offers a breakfast on Saturday, March 21, including a lecture by Dr. Pamela Blanchard of Louisiana State University on the LSA Coastal Roots Program. Deadline for tickets is March 18, so sign up soon!

If you aren't a member of NESTA already, you should really consider joining! NESTA provides many services for K-12 teachers of Earth and space science, including publications, events, opportunities, and representation of the Earth and space sciences at the national level through other organizations and professional societies. It only costs $20 to join - sign up today!

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.

Playing with Ecosystem Science

Teaching through games that model the living components and nutrient cycles of ecosystems allows students to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the delicate balance that is needed for ecosystems to thrive. Plus, bringing games into the classroom is just plain fun.

Windows to the Universe includes a number of games among our classroom activities that encourage students to explore what it takes for ecosystems to remain in balance. Explore these games and get your students playing!

Space Weather Causes Electrical Blackout

How's the weather in your neck of the woods? Twenty years ago, in March 1989, the SPACE weather was quite stormy over eastern Canada. Ground-induced currents generated by geomagnetic storms in the upper atmosphere forced their way onto electrical transmission lines with disastrous results. The DC electricity induced by the space weather storm didn't mix well with the voltage transformers used throughout the electrical grid, which are built for AC electricity. Many transformers overheated and failed (some even caught on fire and melted down!), and 6 million people lost power for 9 hours or longer. And you thought your weather was bad!

Check out our new section on the effects of space weather on electrical power systems!

Do You Speak the Language of the Clouds?

Do you speak the language of the clouds? Planning our day is easier when we understand the sky’s language!

Being able to identify the different types of clouds helps us know what kind of weather is coming, and what is happening in the atmosphere above us.

The language of clouds is complex and beautiful, and if you spend some time learning it you can understand our world better (and know when to plan for bad weather!).

Our clouds image gallery and interactive activity Clouds in Art is a fantastic way to start learning this beautiful language!

If you feel so inspired, submit a poem about this month's cloud picture.

Penguin Postcards

For those of you that need your penguin fix, check out the news from Jean Pennycook, our favorite Adelie Penguin correspondent! Her postcards for this year's Antarctic Field season are available in our Postcards section right here.

Birthdays in March

Albert Einstein, one of the most famous scientists of all times, was born 130 years ago on March 14. Read about his theory of relativity on Windows to the Universe. We also have videos from NSF that explain time dilation and simultaneity, important ideas in the theory of relativity.

Not everyone knows that Einstein received his Nobel prize in 1921 not for his theory of relativity, but for his work on the photoelectric effect. He explained this effect with the help of photons.

Other notable birthdays in March include:

International Year of Astronomy Has Begun!

The International Year of Astronomy has begun! With strong support from the National Science Foundation, IYA2009 aims to promote worldwide interest in astronomy. The central theme is "The Universe, Yours to Discover". IYA2009 will have events around the world that bring scientists together and encourage young people and teachers in their love of learning about the universe.

One of the cornerstone projects of IYA2009 is The Galileoscope: millions looking at the sky, which aims to bring 10 million people a simple telescope and possibly their first magnified look at our night sky! Dark sky awareness will also be highlighted during this special year in the GLOBE at Night project (in March), the Great World Wide Star Count (in October) and How Many Stars (January, February, April through September, November and December). The Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP) will also be an exciting part of IYA2009.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. Help celebrate by getting your students involved in an IYA2009 event.

Join Us at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans!

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans this spring (March 19-22, 2009)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.

Time Location
Thursday, March 19
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future
8:00-9:00 am New Orleans Marriott, Mardi Gras E
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games to Explore the Delicate Balance 9:30-10:30 am Morial Convention Center, Room 357
Changing Climate, Changing World 2:00-3:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 357
Friday, March 20 Interactive Simulations and Hands-On Activities Across the Earth and Space Sciences 8:00-9:00 am Sheraton New Orleans, Bayside C
Magnetism Activities, Space Weather, and Geomagnetism 2:00-3:00 pm Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon C2
Saturday, March 21 Cut It, Stab It, Slice It, Dice It: Using the Potato in the Science Classroom 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Oak Alley
Cloudy Day Hands-On and Online Classroom Adventures Bridging Fundamental Basic Weather Science to Literacy, Arts, and ELL 5:00-6:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 356
Sunday, March 22
Water, Air, Land, Life, and Space! (WALLS!)
11:00 am - 12:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 226

Join Us for the 2009 Project BudBurst Field Campaign

Project BudBurst will officially launch the 2009 field campaign on March 2. Project BudBurst is a national field campaign for students, families, and other volunteers in the United States. Project BudBurst is designed to engage the public in the collection of important climate change data based on the timing of leafing and flowering of trees and flowers. In 2008, thousands of people of all ages participated by taking careful observations of the phenological events such as the first flower, first leaf, and seed or fruit dispersal of a diversity of tree and flower species, including weeds and ornamentals. Your help in making observations and sharing information about Project BudBurst will help us in making this year even more successful. We are excited to announce new features added to the Website that will greatly expand the usability and enhance your experience while participating in Project BudBurst!

  • New field guides to phenophases with descriptions and photos
  • Updated plant species Identification Guides
  • Real-time mapping with Google Maps
  • Additional Project BudBurst plants from across the country
  • New resources for the classroom
  • Photo sharing of plant observations
  • ...and more!

For more information, please visit the Project BudBurst Website

Table of Contents

Atmospheric Optics
Ecosystem Games
Language of Clouds
Penguin Postcards
Intl Astronomy
Project BudBurst


Online Summer Course
Informal Sci-Latinos
NSTA Partner Events
Energy Workshop
Explore! Ice Worlds!
Free IPY Posters











Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

Summer Session: Climate Discovery Online Courses for Educators

Are you seeking a K-12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom? This summer, NCAR offers a series of seven-week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently beginning June 19 and run through August 9.

  • CD 501 Introduction to Earth's Climate is designed to guide participants through the basics of climate science, integrating content, classroom activities, and community-building discussions to help middle and high school educators understand the answers to common questions about climate.
  • CD 502 Earth System Science: A Climate Change Perspective explores Earth as a system from the perspective of climate and global change, describing the interactions between the various parts of the Earth system, including human activities, and how they all affect our climate.
  • CD 503 Understanding Climate Change Today presents some of the current and predicted impacts of global warming on our planet and human societies. This course explores how climate models are developed and used to understand likely scenarios of future climate and how current scientific research is improving the quality of climate predictions.

There is a $225 fee per course, but you will save $25 if you register before June 1st! For complete course schedule and registration information, visit

Expanding Informal Science for Latinos Conference

Expanding Informal Science for Latinos Conference, Albuquerque, NM: March 26-29

Attend a conference where you can share ideas and help shape the future of informal science learning for Latinos.
WHO: -- Nearly 100 participants from informal science and research institutions, Latino organizations, media, community/youth programs, and educational organizations are already registered.
-- Share best practices in designing culturally effective programs and resources
-- Review current ISE resources serving Latinos, and identify needs and gaps
-- Develop new strategies and resources to enrich informal science learning environments for Latinos
-- Create initiatives relevant to participants' needs related to ISE and Latinos
-- Albuquerque Hotel at Old Town, New Mexico, 800 Rio Grande Blvd., Albuquerque, NM
-- (click on the conference icon)

Additional Sessions and Events Being Offered at NSTA in New Orleans

In addition to the Windows to the Universe sessions being offered at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans this spring, the following sessions and events are being offered by our partners. We hope to see you there!

Other UCAR Education and Outreach Sessions

Time Location
Friday, March 20
Informal Science Day Session: Content on the Go - Science Education Podcasting
8:00-9:00 am New Orleans Marriott, Carondelet - Group 3
The Science, the Solutions: Addressing the Climate Conundrum 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon C2
In a New Light: The Color of Weather and Climate 12:30-1:30 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 239
Informal Science Day Session: Share-a-thon 4:00-6:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Carondelet

NESTA NSTA Sessions and Events

Time Location
Wednesday, March 18 NESTA Field Trip 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Katrina Devastation Tour and Lake Pontchartrain
Friday, March 20 NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Oceans and Atmospheres Share-a-Thon 11:00 am - 12:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-8:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, La Galerie 6
Saturday, March 21
NESTA Earth and Space Science Resource Day Breakfast - Dr. Pamela Blanchard, The LSU Coastal Roots Program
7:00-8:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bacchus Room
NESTA Natural Hazards and the Environment Share-a-Thon
9:30-10:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Environmental Issues Associated with Katrina - Dr. Bob Thomas, Loyola University of New Orleans 11:00 am - 12:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Coastal Louisiana in a World of Global Change - Dr. Torbjorn E. Tornqvist, Tulane University 12:30-1:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Geologic Processes of Coastal Louisiana & the Impacts of Hurricanes: Can New Orleans Survive? - Dr. Randolph Mcbride, George Mason University 2:00-3:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Annual Membership Meeting 4:30-6:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet

American Geophysical Union Lecture

Time Location
Friday, March 20

The Grand Isle Project - Using Service Learning to Generate Genuine Scientific Experiences for Students While Serving Society
Dr. Sadredin C. Moosavi, Tulane University

2:00-3:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 244/245

PD Opportunity - Energy in Geoscience Courses Workshop - Application Deadline March 9!

On the Cutting Edge is offering a workshop Teaching about Energy in Geoscience Courses this May. The application deadline March 9 is just around the corner! The workshop will take place May 17-19, 2009 at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY. There will be an optional field trip to a wind farm and a coal mine on May 20.

This workshop is for those who teach about energy and geoscience. It will bring together geoscience faculty, Wyoming high school teachers, research scientists, economists, and policy experts to share their understanding about energy in the context of teaching and learning geoscience. The workshop will showcase approaches for teaching about energy and provide a forum to develop new educational materials. Faculty who are teaching about energy in geoscience courses or interdisciplinary courses that include a geoscience component are encouraged to apply.

For more information and to access the online application form, please go to the stipends and application page. The application deadline is March 9, 2009.

Explore! Ice Worlds! from the Lunar and Planetary Institute

Explore! Ice Worlds! is a suite of activities designed for children ages 8 to 13 in celebration of the International Polar Year. Developed by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and funded by NASA, the activities are intended for informal learning environments, including libraries, after-school programs, and museums. All activities are tied to National Science Education Standards and use inexpensive, easy-to-find materials.

One remaining free Webcast training in using these activities will be offered on Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 1:00-5:00 PM EST. This training session includes a discussion with a NASA polar scientist and demonstrations of the activities. Participants completing the training receive a certificate for four professional development hours and are eligible for drawings for Earth and space resources. Register with Katy Buckaloo at or 281-486-2106.

QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship Opportunity

The QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship levels the playing field of college admissions. It equips high-achieving low-income students with the knowledge necessary to compete for admission to the nation’s most selective colleges. If you know of high school juniors who have achieved academic excellence in the face of economic challenges, we encourage you recommend to them the College Prep Scholarship application at

Free Downloadable Posters for the International Polar Year

UNEP/GRID-Arendal, with financial support from the Research Council of Norway (Forskningsrådet), has released a set of five free downloadable educational posters for the International Polar Year (IPY), aimed at high school students. This project supports the education, outreach, and communications efforts of IPY, which runs from March 2007 until March 2009.

The posters create awareness of IPY and its research activities by addressing the question: “Why, and how, are the polar regions and polar research important to all people on Earth?” These posters present and illustrate a broad sample of polar issues and facts and act as a “textbook” for your wall.

There are five posters, with high-school age students as the main target group. Each poster stands on its own, but is recognizable as part of the series through the common design and elements. All the posters include illustrations and text highlighting the human dimension of the poster theme - showing how people are affected by polar science and issues and why they should care. The poster titles are:
- The Polar Regions
- Climate Change and the Poles
- Polar People
- Research in the Polar Regions
- Biodiversity and the Poles

The posters are available for download in high resolution and accessible formats, in English and Norwegian texts, and are free to use.

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Newsletter archive
Log in to visit our members' area, change your registration information or newsletter options.

The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © The Regents of the University of Michigan. Windows to the Universe® is a registered trademark of UCAR. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer