April 2008

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

We're Back!

We're back from a very busy week at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference in Boston, and have a variety of resources and opportunities to share with you. Highlights include news releases from NSF, science videos, our Glaciers: Then and Now activity, spring, Max Planck, tornadoes, and Project Budburst. We are also delighted to bring back our Virtual Postcards capability, thanks to popular demand! We had to take the postcards down about a year ago because of spammers, but have revised the format to avoid this problem. Please enjoy, and let us know what you think through our comment system.

Our partner organizations also have opportunities that should be of interest to you, including a NESTA/MESTA Astronomy Field Conference in Arizona and a professional development opportunity in the Galapagos offered by Toyota International. In addition, the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies is offering two contests including an Earth Day photo contest for middle schoolers and the Thacher Scholars Awards for high school students (which includes an award opportunity for teachers).

Science News! Read All About It!

We have added many recent News Stories on Windows to the Universe. They highlight science research that is funded by the United States National Science Foundation.

Now you can keep abreast of current science events that might be of interest to you and your students! The news releases are available at three reading levels, so your students can access the news at the level they need through the button bar at the top of each page. Our Advanced level of text is for high school and above, our Intermediate level of text is for middle school and our Beginner level of text is for upper elementary.

Many of the news releases also have corresponding podcasts. Enjoy!

Glaciers: Then and Now

Glaciers Then and Now is an activity for upper elementary and middle school level, and also popular with general public audiences. Students match photographs of Alaskan glaciers from the early part of this century with photographs that were taken at the same locations within the last few years. Students take note of what in the photographs has stayed the same and what has changed. The class wraps up with a group discussion about the current state of alpine glaciers and climate.

The amazing glacier photographs in this activity come from a special collection at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The recent image of each pair was taken by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Bruce Molnia. Repeat photography project like his are are giving scientists studying the impacts of climate change a visual record of change over time. A similar repeat photography project at Glacier National Park in Montana, U.S. is ongoing. There, scientists estimate that all glaciers will have melted by 2030.

New Videos from NSF

We've added five new videos from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to our web site. The History of the Universe in 60 Seconds or Less - Dr. Eric Schulman is an "even briefer history of time" than Stephen Hawking's book. The Star Wars video showcases a museum exhibit that describes science related to the movies. "Einstein's Messengers" takes a look at LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, which may help us probe some cosmic mysteries from the earliest moments of the Universe. Donal Manahan of the University of Southern California recounts scientific aspects of early polar exploration in "The History of Early Polar Exploration". Finally, "GeoClimate: Probing Earth's Deep-Time Climate Archives" examines past climates in hopes that we might be better able to predict the future of Earth's rapidly changing climate. All five videos are in the RealVideo format; you will need RealPlayer software (the free version will do just fine) to view them.

A Splendid Sight When SPRING Arrives!

For the Romans, there were only two seasons - one much longer than the other. The longer season included what we now call spring, summer, and fall. The shorter season was called the "hibernum tempus" (meaning "a time for hibernating") - that's winter of course.

The longer season was called "Veris" (that means "to see"), which is the origin of the Spanish word VERANO, meaning summer. Later it was called "primo vere" (primer verano = first summer) and later "prima vera", from Latin "primus"-"prima" (that means "first") and "vera" (that means "real"). Later in the 16th century the word PRIMAVERA (Spanish for spring) derived in the English word "Spring" on the notion that during spring time the land begins to warm causing plant growth to "spring forth", indeed a season of new beginnings!

In the Northern Hemisphere spring usually starts in the month of March, extending from the summer solstice (June 21). The Southern Hemisphere experiences spring during the months of August, September, October.

Although all plant species are different, many of them start blooming this time of the year! This is how it is with life on Earth. Spring is also the time of the year when severe weather often occurs.

Last but not least allow me to remind you about getting involve in project BudBurst! This project engages the public in the collection of important climate change data based on the timing of leafing and flowering of trees and flowers!

Max Planck's Anniversary

The 150th birthday of German physicist Max Planck is on April 23.

Ironically, when Max Planck (1858-1947) was choosing his career, his physics professor told him that almost everything is already discovered in physics. Planck went on to become a founder of quantum physics, and one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century.

Planck was the first to suggest that electromagnetic energy is quantized, meaning that it can only be a multiple of very small elementary unit of energy. This result was later used by Einstein when he developed his theory of relativity. For his work on quanta Planck received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. He also made other important contributions to theoretical physics.

Virtual Postcards Are Back!

Many of you have inquired about virtual postcards. We're happy to announce that they are back! We have redesigned them and added many new, great images of animals, minerals, snowflakes and more. If your students haven't sent you postcards from Neptune or Antarctica yet, now is the time!

2008 Has Been a Busy Season for Tornadoes

Tornadoes are fairly common during the spring across the southern and central United States but spring is not the only time when tornadoes can form.

This winter the number of tornadoes has been particularly high in those areas, including four days of tornado-producing storms in early January that spread from the southeastern United States up into Illinois and Wisconsin. January and February 2008 were record breaking months for tornadoes in the United States - the 232 tornadoes reported this February broke the previous record of 83 tornadoes in 1971. This goes to show that there is no real "tornado season" and these storms can occur any time when conditions are favorable.

Our weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about these conditions, including information about thunderstorms and tornadoes, how tornadoes form, and how meteorologists forecast where and when tornadoes will occur. In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle classroom activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.

Celebrate Spring with Project BudBurst!

Join thousands of volunteers across the United States in collecting important climate change data through Project BudBurst, a Windows to the Universe citizen science event! By recording the timing of the leafing and flowering of native and other plant species each year, we can learn more about the prevailing climatic characteristics in a region over time. With your help, we will be compiling useful environmental information that is submitted to a national database.

Project BudBurst is ideal for teachers and students, families interested in participating in a science project, scouts and 4-H groups, gardening clubs, botanical gardens and others interested in contributing to a socially and scientifically relevant research study. All information needed to participate can be found at the Project BudBurst Web site (www.budburst.org).

Table of Contents

Science News
Glaciers Activity
Videos from NSF
A splendid sight!
Max Planck
Virtual Postcards
Project BudBurst

Geoscience Salaries
2009 Year of Science
Field Conference
PD in Galapagos!
Photo Contest
Thacher Scholars


Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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Salaries for Careers in Geoscience

by Cindy Martinez, American Geological Institute (AGI)

The AGI Workforce Program reports on geoscientist salaries by years of experience in the most recent "Geoscience Currents." AGI has found that between 2004 and 2005, geoscientist starting salaries jumped by nearly ten percent. In comparison, salaries increased 20 percent in late career geoscientists in that same time period.

As expected, with higher education comes higher pay. But because of continuing shortages of experienced geoscientists, mid-career geoscientists with only a Bachelors degree can out-earn those with higher degrees, with an average salary of $135,000 with 10-14 years of experience, compared to only $103,000 for doctoral geoscientists with the same experience.

"Geoscience Currents" provides data snapshots and short reports to shed light into the issue of the overall health of the geoscience profession. From scholarships to employment opportunities, the effect of retirements, to university enrollment trends, "Geoscience Currents" provides up to-the-minute glimpses into all areas of the geosciences, from academia, government, and industry to educational opportunities and university demographics.

To subscribe to this free service go to http://www.agiweb.org/workforce/ and click "Register." Also on the website are previous "Geoscience Currents" issues and other reports completed by the Workforce Program, as well as other resources pertaining to geoscience careers.

The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 44 geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 120,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in the profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

Countdown to Year of Science - How are You Celebrating?

Submitted by: Sheri Potter, COPUS Network

The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) is preparing to shine the national spotlight on science in 2009 and beyond. Established in 2007, COPUS is making plans now to celebrate the Year of Science 2009 (YoS09). The goal of this national, year-long celebration of science is to engage the public and improve public understanding about the nature and process of science. COPUS is a grassroots network - composed of more than two hundred participating organizations representing universities, scientific societies, science centers and museums, government agencies, advocacy groups, media, educators, businesses, and industry - formed in response to recent concerns about national scientific literacy.

COPUS participants are crossing traditional scientific disciplinary boundaries and partnering with others within their communities to develop activities, programs, and special events in support of Year of Science 2009. By working together to coordinate programs and events that explore the overarching YoS09 theme, “How we know what we know,” COPUS participants are aiming to engage the general public in dynamic ways that will makes science personally meaningful and locally relevant.

YoS09 activities being developed include:

  • Free public lectures and programs at museums and science centers;
  • Opportunities to spend a day with a scientist or participate in a research project;
  • Roundtable discussions about important local science issues;
  • Connecting COPUS-affiliated scientists with the K-12 community;
  • Creating local Science Cafés; and
  • Radio spots, editorials, and on-line resources that highlight the nature and process of science.

For more information about COPUS and the Year of Science 2009, please visit:

NESTA / MESTA summer field conference, "Astronomy in Arizona IV"

Submitted by Parker Pennington, NESTA President

NESTA is co-sponsoring a 10-day summer field conference, "Astronomy in Arizona IV" with the Michigan Earth Science Teachers Association. The field conference will explore these areas of astronomy: field observations, technology, research, classroom applications and interdisciplinary themes. Behind-the-scenes tours of numerous facilities in the area, including the major observatories (Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Mt. Graham International Observatory, and Kitt Peak National Observatory) are planned as well as interaction with amateur and professional astronomers. You will see everything from archeoastronomy to astrogeology to space art! Return to your classroom with special stories and treasures as well as new activities, knowledge and a network of new colleagues!

Astronomy in AZ will start in Phoenix on June 22, 2008 and officially conclude on July 2nd in Tucson (although there is an optional fluorescent mineral collecting night at the Purple Passion Mine on July 3).

The NESTA / MESTA "Astronomy in Arizona IV" Home Page contains background information, a trip financial planner, things to bring, a registration form, and information about possible graduate credit. For complete field conference information visit NESTA/MESTA.

Space is limited so don’t delay.

Professional Development Opportunity in Galapagos from Toyota

Submitted by Kaitlyn Jones, Toyota International Teacher Program, Institute of International Education

Greetings from the Institute of International Education! We are pleased to announce that the application is now available for the 2008 Toyota International Teacher Program to the Galapagos Islands, a unique professional development program for secondary school teachers and librarians. This is a special chance for educators to visit these remote islands; the inspiration for Darwin and home to unique ecosystems found no where else on Earth!

This year all teachers in grades 6 – 12 and Library Media Specialists are eligible to apply! Again, all full time teachers of all subjects in the 50 states and the District of Columbia are encouraged to apply. The application is now online at www.iie.org/toyota. The deadline for application is May 9, 2008. If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at toyotateach@iie.org or by phone at (toll-free) 877-832-2457.

Earth Day Photo Contest for Middle School Students

Submitted by Theresa Schwerin, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)

Earth Day Photo Contest for Middle School Students
Win a Digital Camera by Taking a Picture of Your Changing Local Environment

Our planet is constantly changing. Look closely and you'll see changes on the land, in the water and in the air. Of all the seasons, changes are especially noticeable during spring, from blooming flowers to migrating birds to thunderstorms and tornadoes.

During the week of Earth Day (April 22), U.S. students in grades 5-8 can be part of a unique national effort to capture our changing world. Anytime from Tuesday April 22 through Tuesday April 29, take a photograph of something that is changing in your local environment. It could be a change occurring in your backyard, outside your school, in a local park, or off in the distance toward the horizon.

Then, research and write an explanation of the photograph (400 words or less) that answers the following questions:

Entries will be judged by IGES staff based on relevance to topic (depiction of change in the environment), uniqueness and overall appearance of the photo, and thoroughness of the written explanation.

The top three winners will receive a digital camera, digital photo frame, and digital photo keychain, respectively. The top 10 winners will receive their photograph in a special commemorative frame. The top 50 photographs and accompanying descriptions will be published on the IGES Web site,www.strategies.org.

Entries must be received by email or postmarked by May 9, 2008. Winners will be announced on the IGES Web site on June 5, 2008.

For submission instructions, entry form, and suggestions for using this activity in the classroom, please visit: http://www.strategies.org/EarthDayPhoto.

Located in Arlington, Va., IGES was established in 1994 and is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supported by public and private entities. IGES is a trusted leader in Earth and space science education, communication and outreach, and in fostering national and international cooperation in observing the Earth.

Dan Stillman
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
(703) 312-7138 (Phone)
(703) 312-8657 (FAX)
Email: dan_stillman@strategies.org.

2008 Thacher Scholars Award - Applications Due April 4!

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) announces the 2008 Thacher Scholars Award. This national competition for secondary school students was founded in honor of former IGES board member Peter Thacher, who died in 1999. Peter Thacher was former deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, NASA advisor, and, at the time of his death, president of the Earth Council Foundation/U.S. He was a leader in promoting the use of satellite remote sensing. Read about the 2007 Thacher Scholars winners.

The 2008 Thacher Scholars Awards will be given to secondary school students (grades 9-12) demonstrating the best use of geospatial technologies or data to study Earth. Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning System (GPS). The main focus of the project must be on the application of the geospatial tool(s) or data to study a problem related to the Earth's environment.

Student Awards: Three cash awards will be given -- 1st place - $2,000, 2nd place - $1,000 and 3rd place - $500. Cash awards for team entries will be split among the winning team members.

Teacher Awards: In addition to prizes for the winning students, the teachers of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place students/teams will receive a $200 amazon.com gift card. If the student's participation is part of an after-school club or other activity independent of school, the student can identify an adult "coach" on their entry form who would be eligible for this award (e.g., a parent, club leader, etc.). Only one teacher or coach recognition award will be provided for each 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entry.

For more information about this opportunity, go to http://www.strategies.org/education/index.aspx?sub=education&sub2=scholars&sub3=scholars2008.

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © 1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; © 2000-07 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved.