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May 2010

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New Developments at Windows to the Universe

As you've heard in our recent communications, Windows to the Universe has moved to a new home - the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA)! NESTA is a great home for Windows to the Universe, given the alignment of NESTA's tax-exempt mission, as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with that of Windows to the Universe. This move has been made possible through funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is providing support to allow us to implement income-producing programs that will help us improve the website and better serve learners interested in Earth and space science as well as NESTA.

Our first step has been to move the website from servers at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to new servers leased by NESTA. Happily, our new server is much faster than those we used previously, so hopefully you have noticed that website content loads faster. We have also moved website content to a database that will allow us to more efficiently redesign the website - composed of over 9,000 pages of content written at three levels and available in both English and Spanish!

I'm sure you've also noticed that the website now includes limited advertising - one of the income-producing approaches we will be using to help support the website. We realize that some users may have mixed feelings about this development, but we assure you that we would not undertake this step without a good reason. Because of limitations in grant funding available from the Federal government and other sources, we need to find ways to produce income that augments our grant funding so we can do a better job of keeping the website up-to-date and offering new programs; advertising is one approach for producing income. I want to assure you, though, that we will be careful that advertising on the website remains limited and unobtrusive, without annoying pop-ups or pop-unders. Furthermore, we are working hard to filter ads to ensure that inappropriate ads do not appear on the website - overall, I'm happy with the results provided by the Google AdSense program. Occasionally I have seen an ad I would rather not see, though. We do have the ability to prevent ads from specific websites, and we are all keeping our eyes out for such ads, so that we can filter them out. If you see an ad that you think is inappropriate, please do let us know the url of the offending website (shown at the bottom of the text ad link) through our Contact Us link. By the way, we have set up the website so that you can print web pages without ads showing up on your print out.

Soon, we will be taking additional new steps in our project:

  • We will be redesigning the website to have a more up-to-date look, and will be including new capabilities on the website which you have expressed interest in through our recent surveys.
  • We will be adding a significantly expanded online store, which will make available quality Earth and space science educational resources and products, those developed by Windows to the Universe and NESTA, as well as those from our partners - a one stop shop for Earth and space science education!
  • We will be adding new membership options that will provide special services for members - rest assured, however, that the website itself will remain free for everyone (as will this newsletter, for Earth and space science educators).
  • We will be expanding partnership opportunities for organizations, programs, scientists, and educators, so that our large audience of over 16 million users annually will have a chance to easily find the many quality educational resources available through partner organizations.
  • If we are successful in generating sufficient income through these programs and our continuing grant-funded content development efforts, we will expand our professional development programs to offer new venues, nationally and internationally.

Our intent, through these efforts, is to transform Windows to the Universe into an Earth and space science education resource serving the entire geoscience community of teachers, scientists, students, and curiosity-driven learners.

We will keep you posted on our progress, and opportunities to participate. In the meantime, please remember to respond to the email we have sent you about the need for you to give permission to forward your newsletter subscription information from UCAR to NESTA. We will send regular email reminders to individuals who have not responded, and in the meantime will send our newsletter from both organizations (from NESTA for those that have given permission, and from UCAR from those that have not responded). We will continue to send the newsletter to those that have not responded through October 2010, but will thereafter stop sending out newsletters from UCAR. So, please reply to our email asap!

The Global Climate Change Educator Professional Development Network

With support from NASA, and in collaboration with NSTA, Windows to the Universe and the UCAR Office of Education and Outreach developed a series of web seminars on teaching global climate change. Building on our existing Climate Discovery online courses, these short web seminars showcase special topics such as how scientists study ancient climates and the effects of climate change on living things. The seminar series, offered in March and April, will be offered again in September and October. If you are unable to join us for a live web seminar, check out the archived presentations. Head to the NSTA Learning Center Web Seminar Archive and choose "Earth and Space Science" and then "Climate" under "Subject" to view the archived version of each presentation. Or, you can access both seminar registration and the archive from the hub page for the Global Climate Change Educator Professional Development Network.

Interested in networking with other educators who teach about climate change? Join the conversation on Facebook and become a fan of The Global Climate Change Educator Professional Development Network.


Volcanoes in Current Events

A volcano erupting in Iceland has caused ash to spread in the atmosphere over Europe. Eyjafjallajökull, which is Icelandic for ""Eyja-fjalla glacier" or "island-mountain glacier," initially erupted on March 20, 2010. It erupted again on April 14, 2010. This second eruption was 10-20 times more powerful than the first one and a plume of ash from this eruption has caused major disruptions in air travel across northern and western Europe.

Located on the mid-Atlantic spreading ridge, people in Iceland often witness the effects of plate tectonics. Eyjafjallajökull, which is covered by a glacier, experienced thousands of small earthquakes in December 2009. This seismic activity increased over time and led to the recent eruptions.

Remember to check out the science content available on Windows to the Universe when you hear about events related to Earth and space science in the news!

Deforestation and Public Health

Many of us have heard about how deforestation is contributing to climate change, and that it's causing irreparable damage to local environments around the world. Did you know that it's also a major factor in the rise of new infectious diseases? As forest environments are transformed into farms, roads, fields, and cities, people are brought into contact with plants, animals, and other species that they have never seen before. Many of these new species, like bats, apes, and some rodents, carry diseases that can also affect people, and when people enter their environment they are exposed to those diseases. Unfortunately, many of these diseases are extremely dangerous, and we often have a very limited ability to treat them, so they become public health problems.

There are many examples of diseases that have arisen and spread at least in part because of deforestation and the urbanization of rural areas. Some of the most prominent ones in recent years include malaria, HIV, monkeypox, and various viral hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa fevers. None of these can be cured easily, and all are potentially fatal.

Emerging infectious diseases are a potent reminder that as humans move into new areas and change the ways land is used, there are often unforeseen consequences. You can learn more about deforestation and climate change by following links from this page. There is also an NCAR Online Education course entitled "Understanding Climate Change Today" that covers these topics in detail.

Use these links for more detail:

Fewer Trees, More Disease: The Link Between Deforestation and Epidemics
Factors in the Emergence of Infectious Diseases
Forests and Emerging Infectious Diseases of Humans

Wind Movies from Little Shop of Physics

We've added four more videos from the Little Shop of Physics to our web site. The videos illustrate winds and circulation of the atmosphere. In the first movie, heated air and fog show how convection can move air around. The second video demonstrates the impact of terrain on wind speed and direction at various elevations. Movie number three takes a global view of atmospheric circulation by using dry ice in a spinning bowl to illustrate the impact of Earth's rotation on the flow of air on a planetary scale. The fourth and final (for now!) video segment examines extreme winds, showing how conservation of angular momentum can turn a slowly rotating cloud into a whirling tornado.

April Showers Bring May flowers!

Now that we're past April showers, join Project BudBurst to enjoy May flowers! As we mentioned last month, the 2010 field campaign for Project BudBurst is officially underway. Project BudBurst is a national field campaign for students, families, and other volunteers, and 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. Over the past three years, 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 make this year even more successful.

For more information, please visit the Project BudBurst Website.

Halley's Comet Anniversary

Volcanoes and earthquakes may be making us a little jumpy this year, but do you know that exactly one hundred years ago many people were scared that all life on Earth was about to be destroyed by a comet?

Famous Halley's comet was passing closer to Earth than ever before in 1910, and on May 18 Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet. A few years earlier, astronomers had found the poisonous gas cyanogen in its tail, and this led a French astronomer and writer Camille Flammarion to claim that all life on our planet would possibly be snuffed out by this gas. Such talk caused widespread panic and brisk trade in gas masks and even quack "anti-comet pills" and "anti-comet umbrellas". In fact, the gas was so diffuse that it couldn't possibly do any harm. Science is important because it helps us tell real natural dangers, like earthquakes and volcanoes, apart from imaginary ones, like comet tails and the end of the Mayan calendar cycle!

Halley’s comet is scheduled to make its next appearance in July 2061. Read more about comets on Windows to the Universe.

Biogeochemical Cycles

What does a frog in a swamp have in common with a limestone rock? It's the same thing that they have in common with a blade of grass, and the air in a balloon. They all contain atoms of carbon!

Certain elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, move through the living and nonliving parts of the Earth system. The movement of these elements is known as the biogeochemical cycles. They are a great way to emphasize to students that the Earth is an interconnected system because these elements travel through the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and the geosphere.

Windows to the Universe includes many resources for teaching about biogeochemical cycles - from classroom activities to online content and interactives. These resources are highlighted for educators on the page: Resources for Teaching about Biogeochemical Cycles.

NASA And NOAA Mark 50 Years Of Weather Watching From Space

Fifty years ago, the world's first weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., opening a new and exciting dimension in weather forecasting. The first image from the Television Infrared Observation Satellite, known as TIROS-1, was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over America. An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon approximately 1,000 miles east of Australia. TIROS-1, a polar-orbiting satellite, weighed 270 pounds and carried two cameras and two video recorders.

Over the years, there have been continued technological improvements, and the satellites have given scientists the ability to track changes in climate, from the subtle onset of drought and its impact on vegetation to monitoring global sea-surface temperatures that signal atmospheric phenomena, such as El Nino and La Nina.

The last of the TIROS satellites was launched in 2009, and NOAA and NASA are now working to launch the next generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), beginning in 2015. These spacecraft will have twice the clarity of today's satellites, and will provide more than 20 times the information.

For more information about the TIROS program and its history of providing weather information from space, visit: http://nasascience.nasa.gov/missions/tiros

Table of Contents

Web Seminars
Public Health
Wind Movies
Project BudBurst
Halley's Comet
Biogeochem Cycles
Weather Watching


Climate Discovery
Microgravity Science
Online with NOAA
NSTA Academy
Community College
Earth Hour Success
Arbor Day
Disney's Friends
MS Photo Contest
Warming World











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Act Now to Save on Summer Courses!

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 six- and 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 June 18 through August 8.

  • 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 ecourses.ncar.ucar.edu

NASA And NSTA Send Teachers Flying For Science In Microgravity

NASA and the National Science Teachers Association have selected high school teachers from Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Washington to fly an experiment in microgravity.

This flight opportunity will allow high school teachers and students to propose, design, fabricate, and evaluate an experiment the teachers will fly in a reduced gravity environment. The overall experience will include scientific research, hands-on design and test operations aboard a modified Boeing 727 jetliner. Zero-Gravity Corp. of Las Vegas will conduct the flights the week of July 29 to August 7 in cooperation with the Reduced Gravity Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Teachers and students will share their experiences and research in a series of interactive Web seminars after the flight week. For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Week Program, visit http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov and for more information about Teaching From Space, visit http://www.nasa.gov/education/tfs

NASA Mars Spacecraft Snaps Photos Chosen by Public

The most powerful camera aboard a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has returned the first pictures of locations on the Red Planet suggested by the public.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera, aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, is nicknamed, "the people's camera." Through a program called HiWish that began in January, scientists have received approximately 1,000 suggestions. The first eight images of areas the public selected are available online now.

Two Online Courses Available from NOAA

“Why Do We Explore?” - Okeanos Explorer Online Teacher Professional Development Series Date: June 21 – July 2, 2010

This two-week online professional development offering will introduce participants to the new Education Materials Collection for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, the first Federal ship dedicated to ocean exploration. Entitled “Why Do We Explore?,” this offering has been designed to include a keynote address by ocean explorers who have made significant ocean discoveries, inquiry-based lessons for all grade-levels, and facilitated online reflective conversations about the importance of ocean exploration on a global scale. Areas of focus include climate change, energy, human health and ocean health.

The workshop is free for all participants and will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Educators will have the option to receive one graduate credit ($90) or obtain a certificate of completion. To register, please visit http://coexploration.org/oe/

“How Do We Explore?” - Okeanos Explorer Online Teacher Professional Development Series Date: October 11 - 29, 2010

This three-week online professional development offering will introduce participants to the new Education Materials Collection for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Entitled “How Do We Explore?,” this course has been designed to include instruction on topics including searching for anomalies, selecting sites for exploration, communication tools including telepresence technology, mapping techniques, water column study and operating remotely operated vehicles. It will include inquiry-based lessons for all grade-levels, and facilitated online reflective conversations about how we approach the study of our largely unexplored ocean. The workshop is free for all participants and will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Educators will have the option to receive one graduate credit ($90) or obtain a certificate of completion. Registration information will be posted in July 2010.

NSTA New Science Teacher Academy

If you’re a second or third year secondary science teacher, please consider applying to the NSTA New Science Teacher Academy, cofounded by the Amgen Foundation. The Academy supports selected Fellows through mentoring and other professional development resources during their initial years of teaching. Striving for quality science teaching, enhanced teacher confidence, classroom excellence and solid content knowledge, the Academy provides additional benefits including full membership to the National Science Teachers Association, access to the web-based Learning Center’s tools and professional development activities and resources including web seminars led by national experts, and paid accommodations, airfare, meals, and registration fees to attend the NSTA National Conference on Science Education. Download and complete an application (www.nsta.org/academy) to become a Fellow in the New Science Teacher Academy. May 30, 2010, is the deadline for receipt of all applications.

NASA's Community College Aerospace Scholars Program

Did you know that NASA runs a National Community College Aerospace Scholars program?

This year 76 students from community colleges in 28 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have been selected to travel to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, May 20-22, for an out-of-this-world experience. They will participate in a three-day on-site event to develop robotic explorers that will rove the surfaces of other worlds. This event is the culmination of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars pilot program. Students completed four Web-based assignments during the school year. Those who maintained a 95 average qualified for the experience at Johnson. NASA will pay the students' travel expenses. They will also have the chance to interact with NASA engineers and scientists to learn more about careers in science and engineering.

Sign up to receive information about next year's program (NCAS 2010-2011) at http://aerospacescholars.jsc.nasa.gov/NCAS/ by entering your email address towards the top of the page.

Earth Hour Update 2010

In what was the largest public demonstration in history, hundreds of millions of people around the world turned out their lights for one hour on March 28, 2010, in support of World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour, calling for action on climate change. Individuals, businesses and government officials in 4,000 cities across 125 countries participated in Earth Hour, calling for a cleaner, safer and more secure future for the planet.

In the United States, Earth Hour was observed in all 50 states and the nation’s capital, as darkness spread from governor’s residences to state capitol buildings, across downtown skylines and throughout the suburban landscape. The list of iconic American landmarks going dark included Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, the Broadway Theater District and the Las Vegas Strip. To learn how you can get involved, visit www.myearthhour.org

It's Not Too Late to Celebrate Arbor Day!

Arbor Day is traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in April. So, it was generally celebrated on April 30th. But many states and countries celebrate at different times around that date. Join in the celebration with these good ideas from the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Foundation has also posted many good Classroom activities that will help you continue the celebration in your classroom.

And, of course, it's the perfect time of year in many places to plant a tree. Use the National Tree Benefit Calculator to assess the value of planting a particular species of tree in your area. Without even accounting for social and personal happiness that a tree can bring, it accounts for the financial benefits in areas like increased property values, amount of storm water intercepted, electricity saved due to shade provided, CO2 reduction, and bettered air quality. So choose your favorite species today and plant a tree! The benefits are endless!

Disney's Friends for a Change - Project Green

If you're looking for a way as a parent or as a teacher to get your teens and tweens involved in a fun, safe environmental movement, you should take a look at Disney's Friends for a Change - Project Green. It encourages kids to get involved to help the planet in a variety of ways. And as you can imagine coming from Disney - they make things just plain fun!

They also offer grants to help kids achieve their goals with local environmental projects. Take a look!

Grades 5-8 Earth Day Photo Contest

Do you have students in grades 5-8? Encourage them to continue celebrating Earth Day by entering the IGES Earth Day Photo Contest. They can submit a photograph that was taken anytime from Monday April 19 through Friday April 30, 2010 (Earth Day itself was April 22). Then the students need to research and write an essay about the photograph (400 words or less) that answers the following questions:

  1. What is the change taking place in your photograph?
  2. What may be causing the change?
  3. Was the change expected?
  4. How might the change impact surrounding areas, including people?
  5. How might this picture look different in the future?

Entries will be judged based on relevance to the contest theme (depiction of change in the environment), uniqueness and overall appearance of the photo, and quality of the essay. 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 frame commemorating Earth Day 2010, and their photographs and accompanying descriptions will be featured on the IGES Web site. Entries must be received by email or postmarked by May 12, 2010. Winners will be announced on the IGES Web site around June 1, 2010.

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

Fully-Funded Teacher Program to the Galapagos Islands!

We are pleased to announce that the application is now available for the 2010 Toyota International Teacher Program to the Galapagos Islands, a fully-funded professional development program for U.S. educators. Funded by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and administered by the Institute of International Education, the program aims to advance environmental stewardship and global connectedness in U.S. schools and communities.

The program will take place November 20 – December 4, 2010 and the deadline to apply is May 26, 2010. Full-time classroom teachers and librarians of all subjects for grades 6 – 12 are eligible to apply! Please visit our website at www.toyota4education.com for application instructions, FAQs, and to apply online.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Toyota International Teacher Program Team at toyotateach@iie.org or (toll-free) 877-832-2457.

New NASA Web Page Sheds Light on Science of a Warming World

Will 2010 be the warmest year on record? How do the recent U.S. "Snowmageddon" winter storms and record low temperatures in Europe fit into the bigger picture of long term global warming? NASA has launched a new web page to help people better understand the causes and effects of Earth's changing climate.

The new "A Warming World" page hosts a series of news articles, videos, data visualizations, space-based imagery and interactive visuals that provide unique NASA perspectives on this topic of global importance.

The page includes feature articles that explore the recent Arctic winter weather that has gripped the United States, Europe and Asia, and how El Nino and other longer term ocean-atmosphere phenomena may affect global temperatures this year and in the future. A new video, "Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle," illustrates how NASA satellites monitor climate change and help scientists better understand how our complex planet works.

The new web page is available on NASA's Global Climate Change Web site.

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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.