August 2011

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

School's Just Around the Corner!
by Roberta

As I'm sure you know, the start of school for many is just around the corner.  I hope you had a good, relaxing break, and a chance to get out and explore geologic features and beautiful landscapes.  The thumbnail for this newsletter entry shows a shot I took while on vacation this summer - visiting the incredible Iron Age hill fort Dún Aonghasa on Inishmore, Ireland.  It's amazing that anyone would want to live there, particularly given the sheer drop-off to the ocean - they certainly must have been trying to protect themselves from some pretty terrifying external threats!  This part of Ireland is known for a landscape covered with limestone, known as the "Burren" - one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe.  Some ancient inhabitants of this fort set up a "cheval de frise" - a defensive perimeter made of large sharp outwardly facing pieces of limestone to prevent an easy approach to the fort.  Hopefully many of you also had a chance to include some summer professional development experiences.

The start of the school year is a great time to take advantage of new opportunities, so I want to remind you of the value of joining the National Earth Science Teachers Association.  NESTA is the largest national organization representing K-12 teachers primarily, offering a suite of resources and services to our members, including advocating for the importance of Earth and space science education at the national level.  Given the difficulties Earth science education is facing today, its important that we all become engaged in helping to spread the word about the importance of Earth and space science education.  If you're not a member yet, please consider joining today, at

We're excited to announce a new opportunity for teachers, schools, and districts to subscribe to Windows to the Universe, gaining the benefits of membership for teachers and students in their classroom, school, or district. Find out more using the entry below.

Finally, please note our upcoming professional development opportunities for the fall at the NSTA conferences in Hartford, New Orleans, and Seattle (full listings are below).  We look forward to seeing you there!

National Research Council Releases K-12 Science Education Framework
by Roberta

On July 19, the National Academies released their new Framework for K-12 Science Education.  The Framework identifies the key scientific practices, concepts and ideas that all students should learn by the time they complete high school. It is intended as a guide for those who develop science education standards, those who design curricula and assessments, and others who work in K-12 science education.  Earth and space science is identified as one of the four disciplinary core ideas in the framework. The framework is available online at, either for purchase or free pdf download.  Find out more about the Framework, the process used to develop it, and next steps, at

Now Classrooms, Schools, and Districts can Subscribe to Windows to the Universe
by Roberta

We're now offering a new opportunity for teachers using Windows to the Universe in the classroom to bring the benefits of membership not only to themselves, but to their students as well.  Teachers can now join, and include their classroom students on their subscription.  In addition, subscriptions are now available at the school and district levels.  Benefits of subscription for students include:

  • Individual user-created logins and passwords for each student
  • Access to an advertising-free version of the website with login
  • Access to their own "MyW2U" area, to keep track of website resources most valuable to them and to personalize their website experience with background choices and selection of RSS feeds
  • Access to the Windows to the Universe Journal Tool, which they can use to create their own journals on the site
  • Access to a members-only regularly updated calendar of major Earth and Space Science historical events
  • A 10% discount on all products in the Windows to the Universe online store

Teacher subscribers (whether as Educator Members or through a Classroom, School, or District subscription) include the above benefits, as well as the following:

  • Access to a members-only regularly updated calendar of Earth and Space Science Education Opportunities and Events
  • Notice of special opportunities available to Educator Members, such as paid professional development or review opportunities

What's a Haboob?
by Jennifer

Haboob. Really? Ok,I'm not pulling your leg here. A haboob is a real thing - an Earth science thing! A haboob is a strong wind and accompanying sand or duststorm. In Khartoum, Sudan, they occur on average 24 times a year! Imagine a wall of sand or dust engulfing everything around you - 24 times each year!

Haboobs can happen in almost any desert region. In fact, a haboob hit the Phoenix, Arizona area on July 5, 2011, causing the international airport to close down for over an hour and leaving over 10,000 customers without power. The leading edge of the storm was almost 100 miles across and traveled 150 miles. There is an impressive video shot from a helicopter that shows this powerful storm moving into the Phoenix area. This was no doubt a bad day to be out for an evening stroll or casual drive, as Accuweather estimated the swell of dust to be over a mile (5,000 feet!) high and said winds reached 70mph!

Haboobs are named for the Arabic word for wind, habb. Haboob. Fun word to say, but not a fun thing to experience. Check out National Weather Service's safety tips for weathering a haboob.

Podcasts and ScienceCasts!
by Jennifer

Listening to science podcasts is a great way to brush up on your own content knowledge! They are easy to "carry with you" on trips and they are free! You'll glean tidbits of information that will make your subject fun and fascinating, plus relevant, for your students.

The Windows to the Universe podcast zone is a great place to find brief podcasts produced by the National Science Foundation. Other favorite podcasts of ours include Lab Out Loud podcasts produced by NSTA and Astronomy behind the Headlines podcasts produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Listen, learn and enjoy!

ScienceCasts are NASA videos created by an astrophysicist and a team of agency narrators and videographers. The videos are posted online every Thursday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. EDT. The format is designed to increase understanding of the world of science through simple, clear presentations.  Future episodes will focus on citizen science research and the search for new galaxies.  Current episodes include the causes of recent wild weather events in the United States, superflares and the mystery of the missing sunspots.

For a complete list of ScienceCast episodes that you and your students can enjoy, visit:

Perseid Meteor Shower - Best Viewing Might Be Before August 12!
by Jennifer

Possibly the best known meteor shower, the Perseids, will be peaking August 12-13 (just after midnight until just before dawn).  Unfortunately, a full moon, will affect viewing that peak night.  Luckily, the Perseids provide chances to see many bright meteors, with persistent trains, the week before the peak as well.  So look skyward toward the constellation Perseus and enjoy nature's show!

Need tips for viewing this year's meteor shower?  Watch a NASA ScienceCast video on this summer's Perseid meteor shower.

Back to School! August is National Immunization Awareness Month!
by Jennifer

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.

Ernest Rutherford's Birthday
by Julia

August 30th marks the 140th birthday of Ernest Rutherford, who is widely regarded as the father of nuclear physics. Rutherford was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist. He received a Nobel prize in 1908 for his early work, where he introduced the concept of radioactive half-life, named and identified alpha and beta particles, and showed how an element changes when it experiences radioactive decay.

His most famous work was about the structure of the atom. In 1911, he formulated Rutherford's model of the atom, in which electrons orbit a very small positively-charged nucleus much like the planets orbit the Sun. Later he discovered and named the proton, and predicted the existence of the neutron. Many groundbreaking results were achieved under his leadership in the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge.

After Rutherford's death in 1937, he was buried near Isaac Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element Rutherfordium is named for him.

NESTA at NSTA Regional Conferences
by Jennifer

NESTA is pleased to announce our sessions at the NSTA Area Conference for fall 2011. NESTA will be offering workshops at all three Area Conferences, and we look forward to seeing you there! This year, in addition to our traditional and ever-popular Share-a-Thon and exciting Rock and Mineral Raffle, we will also be offering Windows to the Universe workshops on Earth System science, climate change, and geology.

All of our events will be in the same room, scheduled for Friday at each conference – providing you with a full day of Earth science professional development from the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Our events are free with registration at the NSTA conference.

Want to present at one or more of our Share-a-Thons?  NESTA welcomes teachers and education specialists interested in sharing exemplary Earth and space science classroom activities and resources at our Share-a-Thons. If you are interested in presenting, apply at

NESTA sessions in Hartford

All events on Friday, October 28 in the Connecticut Convention Center, Ballroom C

9:30 - 10:30 am - Activities Across the Earth System
11:00 am - noon - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
12:30 - 1:30 pm - Let's Get Well Grounded
2:00 - 3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

NESTA sessions in New Orleans

All events on Friday, November 11 in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, R09

8:00 - 9:00 am - Let's Get Well Grounded
9:30 - 10:30 am - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
11:00 am - noon - Activities Across the Earth System
2:00 -3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

NESTA sessions in Seattle

All events on Friday, December 9 in the Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6E

8:00 - 9:00 am - Let's Get Well Grounded
9:30 - 10:30 am - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
11:00 am - noon - Activities Across the Earth System
2:00 – 3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

Join NESTA at

The End of an Era - Atlantis is Home
by Jennifer

Wrapping up 30 years of unmatched achievements and blazing a trail for the next era of U.S. human spaceflight, NASA's storied Space Shuttle Program came to a "wheels stop" on July 21, 2011, at the conclusion of its 135th mission.

Shuttle Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew glided home for the final time, ending a 13-day journey of more than five million miles with a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  The STS-135 crew consisted of Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim. They delivered more than 9,400 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and other supplies in the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module - including 2,677 pounds of food - that will sustain space station operations for the next year. The 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Raffaello brought back nearly 5,700 pounds of unneeded materials from the station.

Since STS-1 launched on April 12, 1981, 355 individuals from 16 countries flew 852 times aboard the shuttle. The five shuttles traveled more than 542 million miles and hosted more than 2,000 experiments in the fields of Earth, astronomy, biological and materials sciences.  The shuttles docked with two space stations, the Russian Mir and the International Space Station. Shuttles deployed 180 payloads, including satellites, returned 52 from space and retrieved, repaired and redeployed seven spacecraft.  What an era it's been!

Welcome home Atlantis!

Dawn Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Vesta!
by Jennifer

On July 16, NASA's Dawn spacecraft became the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object, asteroid Vesta, in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study the asteroid for a year before departing for a second destination, a dwarf planet named Ceres, in July 2012.

Observations will provide unprecedented data to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system. The data also will help pave the way for future human space missions.  Be sure to check out Dawn's Multimedia section to view the first images of Vesta, animations and other videos.

Join others to celebrate a Vesta Fiesta from August 5-7, 2011!

Coming Soon - Additional Changing Planet Videos and Classroom Activities with Biology Connections
by Roberta

NESTA and Windows to the Universe are continuing our work with NBC Learn to add additional classroom activities to our existing set with a focus on biology connections for climate change.  As usual, each activity will accompany videos related to our Changing Planet, with support from the National Science Foundation. For each video, we provide an introductory page linking to the video on the Windows to the Universe website, links to related pages on the website and elsewhere, and a link to a classroom activity that teachers can use to explore the related science with their students. Go to the Our Changing Planet section on Windows to the Universe to access all of the existing videos and lesson plans, and keep your eyes posted for new activities starting in late August. We hope to offer a workshop on these materials at the Spring NSTA in Indianapolis next year.

The current topics are as follows:

Table of Contents

What's a Haboob?
Perseid MS
End of Shuttle Era
Dawn Spacecraft
Changing Planet Bio

Shark Week!

MSStare Program
2011 Zero Robotics
Apps Environment
Lexus Eco Challenge
Geoscience Work
Green Schools Grant
K-5 Math/Sci Grants
ES Week Contests
IGES Photo and Essay
Power Up!
Home Energy Chall
PEYA 2011















Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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Shark Week!

Discovery Channel's Shark Week runs from July 31st through August 5.  Find out why Great White sharks are swimming just off the beaches from South Africa to Australia, and up and down the coast of California.  Find out how sharks hunt and if certain sharks might "go rogue" like in the hit movie Jaws.  Get your shark fix with the many available TV shows, online videos and games, photos, news and even shark apps!

Namibia & Botswana Natural History Tour

April 15 – 31, 2012

This 16-day tour will provide participants with an exciting opportunity to experience the wonderful natural history of south Africa. Safaris will allow folks to view some amazing wildlife. You will visit the highest dunes in the world, experience cheetahs firsthand at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, observe the largest elephant population in Africa, see the “Cradle of Civilization," and have a chance to spend time at world-famous Victoria Falls. A naturalist/guide will be with our group the entire tour. You will be making game drives, both day and night, in open safari vehicles which allow excellent opportunities for photography!

All Accommodation and lodging are intended to provide maximum comfort and security. Most meals are included on the tour.

For the past 30 years, Richard Duncan has taken folks on many international tours. For additional information and a complete itinerary, contact Richard at:, or 503.744.0794.

Teachers in Geosciences Program from Mississippi State University

You can earn your Master of Science degree via distance learning through the Teachers in Geosciences program from Mississippi State University. All of the core Earth science courses are taught online, and the curriculum is designed around the Earth science content that is most relevant to K–12 educators. The program concludes with an 8- to 10-day capstone field course that is taught during the summer at a variety of locations including Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, Western Washington State, the Sierra, Central Arizona, Upstate NY, Lake Superior, the Bahamas, and the Great Plains Storm Chase.

This 12-course, 36-credit-hour graduate program is designed to take as little as two years to complete and includes courses in meteorology, geology, planetary science, oceanography, hydrology, and environmental geoscience. The program has alumni in all 50 states, and all students qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Please visit our website at or contact Joy Bailey,, for additional information.

2011 Zero Robotics Challenge

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are offering high school students the opportunity to design experiments that will be tested in space.

The 2011 Zero Robotics challenge utilizes bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.  The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, are used inside the station to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. The three satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. Test results support satellite servicing, vehicle assembly and spacecraft that fly in formation.

The challenge requires high school student teams to write their own algorithm to fly the satellites in the station. Teams must register before Sept. 5 at:

Entries will be evaluated using simulations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., will host a final ground testing competition in October. The top 27 teams will have their code sent to the station, where an astronaut will program the SPHERES satellites to run their tests.

Apps for the Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing its “Apps for the Environment” challenge to encourage the development of innovative environmental applications for people and communities. The challenge invites the information technology community to create applications that help people make informed decisions about environmental issues that can affect their health. EPA is engaging students, colleges and universities, and developers across the U.S. to develop and submit an app.

The challenge is a step towards a longer-term objective of engaging developers and raising awareness about the availability and usefulness of EPA’s data. Applications for the challenge must use EPA’s data and be accessible via the web or a mobile device. Submissions are due by September 16, 2011. EPA experts will select finalists and winning submissions based their usefulness, innovation, and ability to address one or more of EPA's seven priorities for the future. In addition, the public will be able to vote for a “People’s Choice” winner. Winners will receive recognition from EPA on the agency’s website and at an event in Washington, D.C., in the fall, where they’ll be able to present their apps to senior EPA officials and other interested parties.

For more information on the challenge, visit

Lexus Eco Challenge

The Lexus Eco Challenge offers an opportunity for students in grades 6-12 to address environmental issues in three challenges: Land/Water, Air/Climate, and a Final Challenge. Teams have the opportunity to win $10,000 in each of the first two challenges and up to $30,000 in the Final Challenge. For each challenge, teams must choose a topic and use PowerPoint to illustrate an action plan.  Official rules outline details for judging.  Deadlines range from September 2011-February 2012.

Geosciences 2011

AGI has released its report on the "Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2011." The 2011 report has been updated and substantially expanded from the 2009 edition, and integrates all available data sources, including original data collected by AGI, as well as data from federal, community, and industry sources.

The report covers trends in K-12 education, community college programs, four-year institutions, employment sectors, and economic metrics of the geosciences. To download a free PDF of the 2011 Report Overviews and Samples, go to

Remember, the annual Geosciences Congressional Visits Day is on September 20-21, 2011.  Decision makers need to hear from geoscientists. Become a citizen geoscientist and join your colleagues for this two-day event uniting geoscience researchers, professionals, students, educators, engineers, and executives to raise visibility and support for the geosciences.

A constructive visit from citizen geoscientists about the importance and value of Earth science research and education is the most effective way to inform and impact federal science policy. Visit to learn more.

Grant for Green Schools Project

Dream in Green is partnering with Global Green USA to promote their contest, sponsored by Pureology, awarding $65K cash to a U.S. school for a green schools project.  In addition to $65K to implement the actual project, the school will get another $65K in tech support to film the project. Go to for more information.  The deadline for submission is September 30, 2011.

Toshiba America Foundation Grants for Grades K-5

Toshiba America Foundation offers grants of up to $1,000 to support innovative projects designed by elementary teachers to make their classrooms more exciting for students. Any K-5 teacher in a public or private school is eligible. Proposed projects must advance the teacher's science and math teaching units.  Deadline for submission is October 1, 2011.

Earth Science Week Contests

AGI is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2011. The photography, visual arts, and essay contests - all focused on the event theme of “Our Ever-Changing Earth” - allow both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about Earth science, and compete for prizes.

The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “A World of Change in My Community.” The visual arts contest, titled “Picturing Our Ever-Changing Earth,” is open to students in grades K-5. Finally, students in grades 6-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest, “How Change Shapes Our Planet.” Essays of up to 300 words should describe how interactions among Earth systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - change our planet over time.

Entries may be submitted any time up to the Friday of Earth Science Week, Oct. 14, 2011. The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and a copy of AGI’s “Faces of Earth” 2-DVD package. To learn more about these contests, including how to enter, visit

Students Snap Stunning Photos of Our Changing World

A majestic Virginia sunset, a magnificent Great Blue Heron, and an inquisitive weed-clearing goat are among the winners in a national photography contest for grades 5-8.  To view the winning photos from this year and previous years, and to get a bit of inspiration from some promising photographers, please visit:

This was the fifth-annual Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest held by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES). More than 250 students from across the country took part in the effort to photograph and write about our changing world.  IGES staff judged entries based on relevance to the contest theme (depiction of change in the environment), uniqueness and overall appearance of the photo, and quality of the written explanation.  Congratulations winners!

Power Up Online Game

Power Up, developed by IBM and the TryScience project team at the New York Hall of Science is an exciting, 3-D, action-strategy game that allows students to learn about engineering and science principles by saving the imaginary planet Helios from ecological devastation. Students must, for example, carry out missions to supply solar, wind and water power to the planet. The game is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems and is accompanied by lesson plans on energy.  Try it today!

America's Home Energy Challenge

America's Home Energy Challenge is designed to teach students in grades 3-8 about energy, its use and the link between saving money and energy. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by the National Science Teachers Association, the two parts of the Challenge aim to have students gain knowledge of energy and awareness of energy use and then learn about energy saving methods.  Participating schools compete for more than $200,000 in prizes that will be distributed at regional and national levels.  The submission period is between December 1-31, 2011.

2011 President's Environmental Youth Awards

The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with the EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. who are protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the most important ways the EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s young people. One outstanding project from each region is selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, school classes (K-12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote environmental stewardship. Thousands of young people from all 50 states and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to the EPA for consideration. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of subject areas, including:
-environmental science projects
-recycling programs in schools and communities
-construction of nature preserves
-major tree planting programs
-videos, skits, and newsletters that focus on environmental issues

Evaluation results consistently demonstrate that the experience is a life-changing event for many of the young people and sponsors who participate.

Find out how to apply. The annual deadline for the regional award program is December 31.

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