August 2009

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

School's Right Around the Corner!

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is just about over. I hope you all have had a good break, and are reinvigorated for the coming school year. I had the chance to spend some time at the beach - a great place to observe nature!

This month's newsletter includes highlights about numerous resources on Windows to the Universe, as well as links to opportunities offered by our partner organizations. Please note that some of these have time limits, so check them out before it's too late! Our new Poles in Space section, which is nearing completion, has lots of fascinating information on what we know about the polar regions of major bodies in the solar system. We also provide information about an important effort by educators and scientists to provide literacy guidelines for the Earth sciences.

The Windows to the Universe team will be very busy at the fall NSTA conferences in Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, and Phoenix, with a total of 16 workshops. We'll also participate in National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons! We hope to see you at one or more of these events!

We are also very happy to have been selected by NASA to develop web seminars on global climate change, building on our existing Climate Discovery online courses, in collaboration with NSTA and NESTA. Keep your eyes open for news about these seminars next semester.

Perhaps this is a good time for an update on the Windows to the Universe Educator Community. Our monthly newsletter now reaches over 11,400 teachers in over 150 countries, including ~6,700 in the United States. Our Facebook Group has grown rapidly over the summer, with 617 members as of today. It's really great to see posts from people using the site. As a new school year starts up, stay in touch with this community by visiting the Educator E-Newsletter Hub to access newsletters past and present, the Facebook discussion, classroom activities, and information about upcoming workshops for educators.

Our Teacher Resources Section

Have you had a chance to visit our Teacher Resources Section? If not, August may be a great time to do so as you begin planning for a new school year.

In our Teacher Resources section there is a page about various workshops we've presented. So if you are looking for information that was presented during one of those sessions - look here!

We also share other educational links and our E-newsletter summary page.

But the highlight of our Teacher Resources section is definitely our Activities Page. Here you'll find many K-12 science activities on subjects from space weather to geology to writing in the science classroom. Most are hands-on and use inexpensive materials. You are welcome to make copies of anything on our site (worksheets, example rubrics...) for use in your classroom.

We have tried our best to make our activities teacher-friendly. You will see on the top of the activities a brief summary of each activity, the grade level addressed, time the activity takes and the National Standards addressed. See our Magnetometer Activity as an example.

We hope our activities will be a refreshing addition to your classroom. To those of you in the Northern Hemisphere - all the best for a new school year!

The Poles of Mercury and of the Dwarf Planets

Our new "Poles in Space" section continues to grow. This month we feature two additions from opposite "ends" of the Solar System. Next month we will roll out the entire, completed "Poles in Space" section.

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. Temperatures there can rise to a scorching 452° C (845° F). Surprisingly, scientists believe that radar images of permanently shadowed craters near Mercury's poles may show deposits of ice! The view from Mercury's poles would be odd indeed; the enlarged Sun (compared to its appearance from the more distant Earth) would slowly circle the horizon, never entirely rising or setting.

Most of the five dwarf planets reside on the icy fringes of the Solar System, far from Mercury and the warmth of the Sun. Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake are largely composed of ice. Haumea is especially odd; it spins so rapidly (a day there lasts just 4 hours!) that it has been stretched into an elongated oval shape.

Stay Cool While Learning About Summer Heat

Unusually hot summer weather that lasts for several days is called a heat wave. How hot is a heat wave? That all depends on what temperatures are typical in a given location. For example, temperatures during a heat wave in southern California, where summers are usually hot, may climb to 100-130°F (38-54°C), while temperatures during a heat wave in London, England, where summers are usually mild, may be only 90-95°F (32-35°C).

Learn about summer heat on Windows to the Universe with new content pages about heat waves and the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon that can intensify heat waves by changing the weather in urban areas. And explore how heat waves are becoming more common because of global warming too.

Earth System Science Literacy Frameworks

Earth system science literacy means that we understand how our planet functions as a system of interdependent, interconnected parts, and that we use this knowledge to make decisions that affect Earth’s sustainability.

A set of conceptual frameworks have been developed to describe what we should know to be literate about the Earth system — the atmosphere, oceans, Earth, and climate. These frameworks describe aspects of the Earth when considered alone, and they complement each other in describing the entire Earth system. They are intended to be useful to promote informed decision-making in all sectors of society, and they are a resource for teachers to use in planning curricula. In order to help you with your planning, they are linked to science education standards and benchmarks. Check out these frameworks to see how they can help you with your science teaching!

Use these links to view each of the frameworks:
Atmospheric Science Literacy
Climate Literacy
Earth Science Literacy
Ocean Literacy

Third Annual Great World Wide Star Count

Join us in October for the third annual Windows to the Universe Great World Wide Star Count. This IYA Cornerstone Project encourages everyone to go outside, look skyward after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report what they see online. Star Count is designed to raise awareness about the night sky and encourage learning in astronomy. All the information needed to participate is available on the Star Count Web site. Participation involves use of a simple protocol and an easy data entry form. During the the first two years, over 16,000 individuals from 64 countries and all 7 continents participated in this campaign to measure light pollution globally. At the conclusion of the event, maps will be generated highlighting the results of this exciting citizen science campaign. Mark your calendars and plan on joining thousands of other students, families, and citizen scientists counting stars this fall. The Great World Wide Star Count will be held from October 9 - 23, 2009. For more information visit or email

Galileo's Telescope

Four hundred years ago, on August 25, 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers. Galileo was not the inventor of a telescope but he was the first person to use a telescope to study the sky.

The word “telescope” comes from the Greek words tele (far) and skopein (to look or see). The first known telescope was built by the Dutch lens-maker Hans Lippershey in 1608. Word of this invention spread quickly. Galileo made many important discoveries with his new telescope, including the craters on the surface of the Moon and the four large moons of Jupiter. He used his telescopes to study sunspots, discovering that the Sun rotates on its axis. Galileo’s discovery of the phases of Venus was one of the most influential arguments for Copernicus' heliocentric model of the solar system.

For the past 400 years, telescopes have helped astronomers see into the depths of outer space. Today the word telescope can refer to a whole range of instruments operating in most regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. They have been placed in the middle of deserts, the top of mountains, and in outer space. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, is one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades.

Back to School!

It’s almost back-to-school time again, and that’s a big part of why the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has designated August “National Immunization Awareness Month.” Immunizations (or vaccinations) are a huge part of modern medicine, and in many ways they are the most important means of controlling infectious diseases like measles, polio, and diphtheria.

Vaccinations work by showing your body’s immune system what a potentially harmful virus or bacterium looks like, without actually exposing your body to a real infection. Once your body learns to recognize the virus or bacterium, it can deal with a real infection much more efficiently. This means that your immune system can often clear an infecting virus or bacterium without you even knowing you were exposed.

There’s a lot of discussion about vaccines’ safety these days, but it’s important to remember this—the one thing that that’s been proven again and again for more than 200 years is that vaccines save lives.

The power of k-NOW-ledge!

Let’s imagine a world where people do not have sufficient understanding of science and technology to understand complex issues like climate change, life, pollution, floods and droughts, rainforest ecosystems or health. Who will interpret current research and make informed decisions about these questions? Who will influence the decision-makers? What will the future of our planet look like?

Studies constantly remind us that youngsters are less interested in studying science and technology at a time when the demand for scientific knowledge, advances and innovation are crucial to reverse the damage done to our Planet. It is vital that nations, parents and educators understand the importance of science and technology, and the fact that every human being should have a basic understanding of both.

Our team works hard to bring science education to all. Windows to the Universe is a rich resource determined to reach educators, students and learners of all ages around the world in order to enrich their lives. It is vital that everyone understand that science and technology education is a universal requirement! The time for k-NOW-ledge is now!

Join Us at a NSTA Fall Regional!

Will you be attending one of the NSTA regional conferences in Fall 2009? We will! We would love to see you at one of the following events. Our presentations and workshops cover timely science topics like climate change, space weather and Earth system science. We try to show as many hands-on activities as we can and we always provide handouts. Please join us!

Minneapolis, MN

Time Location
Thursday, October 29 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 12:30–1:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200E
Thursday, October 29 Igniting Curiosity 12:30–1:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, L100G
Thursday, October 29 Activities from Across the Earth System 2:00–3:00 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, L100D
Thursday, October 29 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 3:30–4:30 PM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200I
Friday, October 30 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 8:00–9:00 AM Minneapolis Convention Center, 200D

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Time Location
Thursday, November 12 Igniting Curiosity 12:30-1:30 PM Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Grande Ballroom Salon D
Thursday, November 12 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 2:00–3:00 PM Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Grande Ballroom Salon B
Friday, November 13 "Aha!" Is Just a Stone's Throw Away 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Grand Floridian Ballroom B
Friday, November 13 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Floridian Ballroom A
Saturday, November 14 Activities from Across the Earth System 9:30–10:30 AM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Teleconference Room
Saturday, November 14 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Fort Lauderdale Conv. Center, Teleconference Room

Phoenix, AZ

Time Location
Thursday, December 3 Activities from Across the Earth System 8:00–9:00 AM Phoenix Convention Center, 229A
Friday, December 4 Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 224B
Friday, December 4 Math Activities in the Earth Sciences Using Interactive Multimedia from Windows to the Universe 2:00–3:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 221A
Saturday, December 5 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge in a Rapidly Changing World 8:00–9:00 AM Phoenix Convention Center, 222C
Saturday, December 5 Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 11:00 AM–12:00 PM Phoenix Convention Center, 229A

August Notable Dates

Have you checked out our Science History Calendar lately? There are several notable dates in August. Here are some of them:

  • August 1, 1818 - Birthday of Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), an American astronomer who was the first female professor of astronomy in the United States.
  • August 17, 1877 - American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars.
  • August 25, 1609 - Galileo demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers.
  • August 27, 1883 - Krakatoa island destroyed by volcanic explosion.
  • August 27, 1962 - Launch of Mariner 2, the first interplanetary spacecraft.
  • August 30, 1871 - Birthday of Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), a physicist who is considered the father of nuclear physics.

Table of Contents

Teacher Resources
Mercury/Dwarf Poles
Summer Heat
Science Literacy
Star Count
Future Generations
NSTA Fall Regionals


Climate Online
Field Test Teachers
JOIDES Research
Hydrograf(x) 2009











Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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Register for Climate Discovery During August and Save $25!

Registration is now open for the NCAR 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 fall, NCAR offers a series of 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 from September 18 through November 8.

  • CD501 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.
  • CD502 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.
  • CD503 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 can save $25 if you register before September 1st! For complete course schedule and registration information, visit

The QuestBridge National College Match

The QuestBridge National College Match helps high-achieving high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to some of the nation's most selective colleges. If you are the teacher of a promising student who has excelled academically while facing economic challenges, encourage that student to apply.

The QuestBridge National College Match application provides students with a single, free application to our partner colleges. It is designed to offer high-achieving students the opportunity to highlight their strengths and the obstacles they have overcome. The application is available on the QuestBridge web site ( and is due September 30th, 2009.

QuestBridge is a venture of the Quest Scholars Program, a nationally focused non-profit organization that has worked since 1994 to connect outstanding students with college admissions, scholarships, and other educational opportunities.

A Perfect Time to Join NESTA!

Are you headed back to school soon? What a perfect time to join the National Earth Science Teachers Association! Membership benefits are many and include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site and the monthly e-mail newsletter that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events. There are also many special NESTA events at professional meetings. Plug into this supportive network. Cost is low! Join today!

BSCS Seeks Field Test Teachers!

I am pleased to announce a field-test opportunity for an important research project funded by the US Department of Education!

BSCS is seeking eighth grade middle school science teachers to field test a standards- and inquiry-based unit between November 2009 and March 2010. The overall goal of the project is to improve learning in science for all students. Teacher-collaborators will choose one major content area from an eighth grade multidisciplinary science program currently under development (Life Science, Earth/Space Science, Physical Science, or Science and Society) and will teach a unit on that content area to their students. Teacher and student feedback will play a key role in influencing the revision of the materials.

As a former classroom teacher, I can assure you that BSCS is developing this program with the best approaches to student learning in mind. These approaches are based on current research in learning and teaching for conceptual understanding and include literacy strategies, sense-making strategies, and a constructivist approach to teaching/learning science. Each unit addresses standards that closely align with state and national standards for eighth grade science.

The final application deadline is 25 September 2009.

Sue Kowalski
Science Educator, Field Test Coordinator

The JOIDES Resolution Research Vessel and You!

If you teach Earth science, ocean science, the sedimentary record, tectonics, extreme science, climate change, biology, chemistry, physics, or the nature and process of science, then YOU need the JR.

The 470-foot JOIDES Resolution (JR) is one of the most important and largest earth and ocean science research vessels in the world. The JR is run by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program and the core samples and data that its scientists and crew bring up from the seafloor hold exciting and significant clues to Earth's history, climatic changes, geologic events, and much more.

NOW you and your students can get involved in this dynamic research through On this interactive new site, you can ask real scientists questions, track the ship's location, explore daily ship blogs, watch up-to-the-minute real time videos (be sure to check out PNN News on the home page!) and take advantage of other real time resources. Become a friend of the JR on Facebook, follow it on Twitter, and explore teaching activities for young children through college - including suggestions for how to use the website and real data from the ship. We also offer free posters, inflatable JR tracking globes, and other classroom materials. Check it out and pass it along!

Hydrograf(x) 2009 Short Film Competition

CUAHSI's Hydrograf(x) is a competition for short films in hydrology open to undergraduate and graduate students. This includes both pre- service and in-service K-12 educators doing continuing education coursework to meet professional certification requirements.

The goal of this competition is to foster greater understanding and appreciation of hydrologic science. This competition also provides you with an opportunity to present principles of hydrology in a non- traditional format as well as a means to interact with audiences that would not regularly be reached through more formal means.

A simple definition of hydrology is the science focused on understanding the terrestrial components of the global water cycle. This would include the movement of water, and materials contained in the water, into and within/on the surface and subsurface of the earth as well as the "storage" on the surface (e.g., lakes) and subsurface (groundwater).

You may use any (or all) of three general types of formats in the development of your project:

* documentary - live action
* animation – such a cell, stop action or computer generated
* visualization - graphical images generated from data sets

Entries will be reviewed in one of two categories – based upon your intended audience: professional/technical and general audiences.

Entries will be posted to the Hydrograf(x)-2009 Community at (a "YouTube for science" hosted at San Diego Supercomputer Center).

Cash prizes will be awarded in each category for First ($100.00) and Second ($50.00) places. Additionally there will be a Producers Award for the entry with the highest viewer rating on SciVee.

The deadline for submission is 15 November 2009. More information is available at:

The winning entry from the 2008 competition "Visualization in Hydrology using Google Earth" can be viewed at

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