May 2008

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Spring is Here

At long last, spring is coming on strong here in Boulder, Colorado. The trees are starting to bud out, and the tulips and daffodils are sharing their beauty with us. It's been a banner year for snow here in Colorado - at least in the mountains - so we're looking forward to beautiful spring flowers here and in the mountains, as well as lots of spring run off shortly! Of course, this is a great time to participate in Project BudBurst, if you haven't already - see the note below about this fun citizen science opportunity for your students.

This is our first newsletter we've had a chance to write since we got back from NSTA in Boston. Thanks to everyone that participated in our workshops or visited our booth in the Exhibit Hall. It was a great meeting for us, with record attendance overall for our 9 events, including our workshops and participation in four really popular National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons. Some of you will be receiving this newsletter for the first time, after signing up for it at NSTA - hope you enjoy the resources we are sharing with you!

We continue to add updates to our National Science Foundation (NSF) News and Multimedia Resources Portal, where we try to keep you up to date on new results coming out from research sponsored by the NSF. Keep an eye on this area - results span all science content areas on Windows to the Universe - everything from the history of the universe, to a missing link, to the impact of divorce on the environment.

This month's newsletter includes highlights on upcoming professional development opportunities, important birthdays, a classroom activity for Field Trips, content on the website on sedimentary rocks, current science through Postcards from the Field, and climate change.

Remember, if you need to access our previous newsletters, you can do that by going to the Windows to the Universe Newsletter Archive at

Celebrate May with Project BudBurst

May is a wonderful time to take your students outside and make environmental observations. 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.

Summer Session: Climate Discovery Online Courses for Educators

Climate Discovery Online Courses for Educators -- Summer Session now accepting registrations!

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 20 and run through August 15.

  • 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 $200 fee per course. For complete course schedule and registration information, visit

Richard Feynman's Birthday

On May 11, Richard Feynman (1918-1988) would have turned 90. He was an American physicist and Nobel prize laureat who is widely considered to be one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Feynman is known mostly for his work in quantum electrodynamics, which studies electron behavior and particle theory. He also assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. Feynman was also interested in education. His book, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, is considered a classic introduction to modern physics.

Feynman was well known for his wit and his colorful personality. His book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, is easily the most entertaining autobiography ever written by a scientist. Read it to find out about his numerous hobbies, including drumming, painting, juggling and playing pranks on his colleagues.

Taking a Field Trip Soon?

Use our Snapshot Exercise to have your students write about a select moment of the trip. We have a simple page for elementary school students where they can write down as many words as they can think of that have to do with what they see, hear, smell and touch. For middle-high school students, we have a large list of sensory adjectives that would be helpful in writing their snapshot!

This activity makes your field trip or outing more meaningful and addresses this National Standard for all levels (Assessment Standard B: The ability to communicate effectively about science).

Sedimentary Rocks Contain Clues to Past Environments

Sedimentary rocks contain clues about their past! Environments change over time, but by looking at sedimentary rocks in an area you can figure out what the environment was like when those rocks were formed. Environmental features, like swamps, dunes, and oceans, contain different types of sediments. The type of sediment and the way it was deposited determines the kind of sedimentary rocks that will eventually be formed in a particular area. Check out this page to view photographs of different environments and the rocks that are made from them.

Take a (Virtual) Fieldtrip with Postcards from the Field

At the end of the school year, going outside is on more students' minds than learning inside. Why not capitalize on this? Get your students thinking about what's going on outside with Postcards from the Field.

From Jean Pennycook's accounts of Adelie Penguins in the Antarctic, to Eric Simms's stories of researching the Deep Sea, to Janine Goldstein's postcards about studying severe storms, postcards turn students into armchair field scientists allowing them to discover what field research is all about. Postcards help students learn about the process of scientific research and they also encourage students to think about what's going on outside.


"Good Ozone" Versus "Bad Ozone"

The word “ozone” makes headlines on a regular basis, but why does a single molecule (O3) merit such media coverage? How important is the ozone in our atmosphere and why are scientists so concerned about its increase near Earth's surface and its disappearance higher up in the atmosphere?

To understand all about this current hot topic we must know what ozone is, how it affects us, and know all about its position and relevance in the layers of the Earth's Atmosphere. Ozone is found in two of our planet’s atmospheric layers and its location defines it as either “good” or “bad” ozone.

The troposphere (0 km to 10 km) is the first layer of Earth’s atmosphere. It is where 10% of the ozone is found. Some of this ozone occurs naturally in the troposphere. And some of it is formed when emissions from burning fossil fuels react with sunlight. In the troposphere, ozone is both a greenhouse gas and an air pollutant. As a greenhouse gas, its three-atom structure allows it to trap heat. As an air pollutant it poses health hazards to people, especially those with asthma, and is hazardous to plants too.

Above the troposphere is the stratosphere (10 km to 50 km). The stratosphere is where a thin layer of protective or "good ozone" resides, protecting life on Earth from the harmful effects of the Sun's ultraviolet rays. This is called the ozone layer. During the 20th Century, "holes" formed in the ozone layer as ozone was broken apart by chlorofluorocarbons and other pollutants released into the atmosphere.

To learn more about ozone and access Hands-on activities about ozone, check out the LEARN Ozone module. We actually have a reading/worksheet activity that covers this Introduction to Ozone that you can use with your middle-high school students.

Regional Climate Change

The models climate scientists use to forecast future climate change are beginning to be able to make projections on a regional scale. As part of our series of online courses about climate and global change issues, we've placed some maps and text about these regional climate projections on the Windows to the Universe site. The material is drawn from the IPCC's (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fourth Assessment Report. Want to see what the future might hold for your part of the world, in terms of temperatures, precipitation, and other aspects of climate? Check it out here!

Table of Contents

Project BudBurst
Online Courses
Richard Feynman
Writing-Field Trips
Sedimentary Rocks
Regional Climate

Space Math
Geo Workforce
Earth Sci Workshop










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

Space Math Weekly Problems

Are you looking for a way to bring math into geoscience? Check out the Space Math Weekly Problems posted by Sten Odenwald from NASA Goddard. Problems range from upper elementary to high school level, and use math to solve real problems in space science!

Geoscience Workforce Data

The American Geological Institute (AGI) Workforce Program has announced the 2007 enrollment and degrees granted in the geosciences statistics in the latest Geoscience Currents.

Enrollment rates have remained steady for 2007 with 19,216 undergraduate students and 7,944 graduate students enrolled. The geoscience degrees granted in 2007 also remained steady except for doctoral degrees which showed a large 30 percent increase, mirroring a surge in graduate enrollments in 2003 and 2004.

AGI has compiled enrollment data since 1955 and tracked the number of geoscience degrees granted since 1973. You can view the complete data set at

National Earth Science Teachers Association Journal - The Earth Scientist

The next issue of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist (TES), will focus on professional development opportunities for Earth and Space Science educators. Members will be receiving this issue in June 2008. If you are not already a member of NESTA, its easy to join at NESTA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization, founded in 1983, whose purpose is the advancement, stimulation, extension, improvement, and coordination of Earth Science education at all educational levels. Find out more at

Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science

Check out the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) newsletter at COPUS is a grassroots effort whose goal is to engage sectors of the public in science to increase their understanding of the nature of science and its value to society. A key objective of COPUS is to create new forums for communication and to develop new opportunities for engaging the public with science. Find out more about this important initiative at

Online Workshop on Earth Science Literacy

May 12-24, 2008
Web site:
Workshop registration

Applications are now being accepted to participate in a 2-week online workshop (about an hour a day) that will create a framework of the Big Ideas and supporting concepts that will define what all Americans need to know about the geosciences. We need your help. With declining enrollments in geoscience programs, even in light of growing public concern over critical resource issues, global change and reducing risks from natural hazards, there is urgent need for broader public understanding of geoscience. A broad interagency effort to address this need has been launched, and an NSF-funded workshop is being organized to develop a document, with primary input from the research community, that outlines the essential knowledge necessary to ensure a geoscience literate society.

This effort follows similar ones that resulted in the Ocean, Atmospheric Science and Climate Change literacy documents. Through this geoscience workshop, we hope to achieve community consensus among all of the disciplines served by the EAR division of NSF in the creation of an Earth science document to complement the ocean, atmosphere and climate efforts, with the ultimate goal of creating an overall Earth Systems literacy document to inform national and local policy making and education.

All members of the Earth science community--especially research scientists and post-secondary educators--are invited to apply to participate in the online geoscience workshop, which will occur during May 12-24, 2008. Though the workshop takes place over a two-week period, participation will require a commitment of only about an hour per day, at any time, from anywhere around the world, through an asynchronous online environment. Direct participation is limited, but the entire community is invited to observe the online process. A draft document will be available for public comment in the early fall. For additional information and an application to participate, go to

Please register at: Workshop registration

Earth Science Literacy Initiative Organizing Committee

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). © 1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; © 2000-07 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved.