January 2015

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

New Year - New Windows to the Universe Educator Membership Options!
by Roberta

As we enter this New Year, we're excited to offer new membership options for Windows to the Universe educators that include course webpage support, as well as options for homework and online quizzes.  We will continue to offer Basic Educator Membership (which provides advertising-free access to the website plus additional member benefits), but we are expanding now to offer Silver Educator Membership (Basic Educator Membership supplemented by course webpage support and course login for students) or Gold Educator Membership (with course support including online quizzes and homework upload/download and individual student subscriptions).  We also offer support for classrooms, with or without course support.  For more details, see our Educator Membership Benefits and Services page.

We hope you'll visit the Windows to the Universe web site many times in the New Year, and we hope to see you at one of our sessions at the NSTA National Conference in Chicago (see information below in our Calendar section)!

  Site and Science News

The Coldest Place on Earth

When you head to work in the dark, in the depth of (northern hemisphere) winter, it might feel like you live in the coldest place on Earth.

What is the actual coldest place on Earth?  It is a high ridge in Antarctica on the East Antarctic Plateau where temperatures can dip below -133 degrees Fahrenheit (-92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night.

Scientists made this discovery while analyzing 32 years’ worth of data from several remote sensing satellite instruments, including Landsat 8.  They found temperatures plummeted to record lows dozens of times in clusters of pockets near a high ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the ice sheet known as the East Antarctic Plateau.  The low record of -136 F (-93.2 C) was set August 10, 2010.

The study is an example of some of the intriguing science possible with Landsat 8 and other remote sensing satellites.  For more information about Landsat 8, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/landsat

Orion Spacecraft Milestone

NASA marked a major milestone on December 5, 2014, on its journey to Mars as the Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space, traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.

“[The] flight test of Orion is a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.” 

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex the morning of December 5. The Orion crew module splashed down approximately 4.5 hours later in the Pacific Ocean, 600 miles southwest of San Diego.

During the unmanned test, Orion traveled twice through the Van Allen belt where it experienced high periods of radiation, and reached an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth. Orion also hit speeds of 20,000 mph and weathered temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Orion will open the space between Earth and Mars for exploration by astronauts. This proving ground will be invaluable for testing capabilities future human Mars missions will need. The spacecraft was tested in space to allow engineers to collect critical data to evaluate its performance and improve its design. NASA flight tested Orion’s heat shield, avionics, parachutes, computers and key spacecraft separation events, exercising many of the systems critical to the safety of astronauts who will travel in Orion. 

For more information about Orion, its flight test and the Journey to Mars, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/orion

Winter Weather Safety

Late 2014 sure brought some extreme weather with snow and ice storms that affected much of the U.S. and, on the other side of the globe; Typhoon Hagupit battered the Philippines in early December.  Hopefully, 2015 will start off with calm weather across the globe.

During this winter time (in the northern hemisphere), we want to remind you about blizzard safety rules.  Winter storms can create dangerous driving conditions and cold temperatures can cause frostbite or hypothermia.  If you live in an area with cold and snowy winters, be on alert for severe weather advisories.  Improperly working furnaces, water heaters, or stoves may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, so make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home.  Remember, it is always best to prepare your car and home for winter storms and extreme cold before they are a concern.

Interested in Geology?

Geology is the study of the Earth, and many features and processes that we see on Earth occur on other planets as well.  Our geology section provides extensive information about minerals, rocks and the rock cycle, Earth's layers and moving plates, fossils and Earth history, as well as information about geoscience careers.  Our Teacher Resources section includes numerous classroom activities on topics in Geology and Geography for you to try in your classroom.  Enjoy your geologic explorations on Windows to the Universe!

What Causes Wind?

The first day of winter has come and with it -- wind!  A howling wind has ushered winter into Maryland (where I live).  When you think of windy places, Chicago comes to mind or Manhattan with the skyscrapers creating 'wind tunnels', but not the generally the mid-Atlantic!

So what causes wind?  It's a question students at any grade level might ask you.  The simple answer is that wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure.  Air flows from an area of high pressure to an area of lower pressure, and this movement is what we feel as wind.  Usually, the differences in pressure are caused by differences in how the sun's energy is absorbed.  Here's an example:  in a coastal region, land usually heats up more quickly than the ocean when the sun is shining on them.  As the air above the land warms, it begins to rise, and as it does that, the air pressure at the surface drops.  There is now a pressure difference between the air over the ocean and the air over the coast -- the pressure over the sea is higher, and air will flow from over the sea to over the land.  This creates what we know as a sea breeze -- a cool wind coming from off the ocean.

Antarctica is consistently the windiest place on Earth.  It is not unusual to have average wind speeds of 25 mph (40.2 kph).  Some places in Antarctica are even windier and that makes for obviously harsh living conditions.  At the Princess Elisabeth research station in Antarctica, average wind speeds are 53 mph (85.3 kph) and can gust up to 200 mph (321.9 kph).  But residents are putting that wind to good use!  This research station installed eight wind turbines and is now the first zero emission facility in Antarctica.  What a great alternative to diesel generators used more prominently in Antarctica.

"Chilly" Classroom Activities

January in the northern hemisphere often brings with it chilly temperatures and snow and ice to go with those dropping temperatures.  Did you know that we have a suite of activities that have to do with the poles of the Earth?  Get in the mood for some "chilly" classroom activities!

We have some powerful visual interactives that can only be used online.  Middle school to high school students can access this page to look at animations of annual variation of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, to compare images of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice side-by-side, and to utilize an interactive about the Earth's north magnetic pole.

We have several activities that cover the topic of glaciers.  Model a Moving Glacier has students make a model of glacier motion and then experiment with it.  There's also Glaciers: Then and Now where students compare photographs of glaciers to observe how Alaskan glaciers have changed over the last century.

Want to teach about polar life?  Try out our Arctic Life Mobile which you can print and use in your elementary classroom.

Simply want to have some chilly fun?  Try our polar jigsaw puzzles, polar word search, or send a polar postcard to someone you love!

Dante's Peak Movie Review - Classroom Activity

We have many classroom activities on our web site.  Once on the Classroom Activity page, use the top button bar to choose Beginner (Elementary), Intermediate (Middle School) or Advanced (High School) classroom activities.

One of my students' favorite activities when I was teaching Earth science was the Dante's Peak Movie Review.  In the activity, students pretend to be expert volcanologists writing a movie review of Dante's Peak for a local newspaper.  Students get to review and demonstrate their knowledge of volcanoes and you get to bring writing into your science classroom.  A win-win situation!

January is National Radon Action Month

I added NaCl and NaHCO3 to my Christmas cookies.  I plan to clean my floors with a little CH3COOH.  I'll take C9H8O4 if I end up with a headache tonight.  I wear a ring with a chunk of C on it.  I have a bit of Fe2O3.nH2O on my car.  And, of course, I wouldn't be able to fully wake up in the morning without showering in H2O.

How easy was it for you to read the paragraph above?  That probably depends on your familiarity with elements and chemical compounds (or your ability to do a really quick Google search!).

January is National Radon Action Month.  Radon is a gaseous radioactive element having the symbol Rn and the atomic number 86.  Exposure to radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.  Radon is a health hazard with a simple solution - read more in "A Citizen's Guide to Radon".  Of course, radon has some beneficial medical and scientific uses.  

Find out more about radon and other elements by exploring the Periodic Table.

Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peaks January 3, 2015

The first meteor shower of the New Year peaks on the night of January 3rd.  Unfortunately, the Waxing Gibbous moon (almost Full) will obscure all but the brightest meteors that night. But if you're game, try watching between midnight and dawn the night of January 3 (into the morning of the 4th). As always, take precautions during these winter months to stay warm while stargazing!

The Quadrantids are a shower with an interesting history; they are named after a now defunct constellation, and, like the Geminids, the source of these meteors is a mysterious object that may be an asteroid or an extinct comet.

Earth at Perihelion on January 4

Students often mistakenly believe that the seasons are caused by variations in Earth's distance from the Sun.  Earth's axial tilt is, of course, the real reason for our seasons.  The Earth does, however, travel around the Sun in an elliptical orbit that brings it closer to and further away from our neighborhood celestial furnace during the course of each year.  Astronomers call the point of closest approach perihelion, and the most distant point aphelion.  These words come from Greek roots:  "helios" is Sun, "peri" means near, and "apo" means away from.

Earth passes through perihelion in early January each year, so it is closest to the Sun in the depths of the Northern Hemisphere's winter.  In 2015, Earth will pass through perihelion on January 4.  Earth is about 3% further from the Sun at aphelion (in early July) than at perihelion.  Earth's orbit is very nearly circular, so its aphelion and perihelion distances are not very different from one another.  Some planets have orbits that are much more elongated; astronomers say such orbits have a large "eccentricity".  Pluto, for instance, is about 66% further from the Sun at aphelion than it is at perihelion.

Check out these pages on Windows to the Universe to learn more about elliptical orbits, perihelion & aphelion, and eccentricity:

Science History Events in January

January is a month rich in astronomical discoveries.  On January 7, 1601, Galileo wrote a letter containing the first mention of the moons of Jupiter.  He saw three of them first, and then discovered the fourth a few months later.  The four major moons of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, are now called the Galilean satellites.  Their discovery was a key piece of evidence that the Earth was not the center of the solar system (or universe).

On January 1, 1801, Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid, which he named Ceres after the Greek goddess of grain.  In 2006, Ceres was classified as a "dwarf planet", along with Pluto and Eris.

January 31 marks the 57th anniversary of the first U.S. Satellite, Explorer 1.  Its successful flight made the United States the second nation in space, following the Soviets who had launched Sputnik 1 just four months earlier.  Explorer's major accomplishment was the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts.

On January 14, 2005, the Huygens space probe landed on Titan.  It made measurements of Titan's thick atmosphere and took pictures of the moon's surface.  A year later, on January 16, 2006, NASA's Stardust mission returned to Earth, bringing with it the first comet samples.

Other notable dates in January include the birthdays of Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, astronomer Simon Marius, and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

  Partner Announcements


AGU’s Live Education Activity Resource Network (LEARN) is a great resource for K-12 teachers. LEARN contains videos and teaching guides from AGU’s GIFT (Geophysical Information for Teachers) workshop, designed to provide geoscience educators with hands-on activities they can use to engage their students in such topics as climate change, earthquakes, planetary science, and more. All of the resources tie back to the Next Generation Science Standards. And, if you have a great activity that you’d like to share, you can also submit your own video to the LEARN collection.

Climate Smart & Energy Wise Book

The National Center for Science Education’s Mark McCaffrey has a new resource to improve your students’ understanding of the intersection of science and social policy by making climate and energy literacy the centerpiece of your curriculum. The book offers a virtual blueprint to climate and energy education, packed with resources and strategies, including:

  • A high-level overview of where climate and energy topics fit (or don’t fit) into your current curriculum
  • A discussion of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and how you can meet them with well-planned pedagogical strategies 
  • Proven methods to teach climate change and related topics in a grade-appropriate way
  • Sample learning activities and high-quality online resources from the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN)

For details about Climate Smart & Energy Wise and for ordering information, visit the publisher’s website: http://www.corwin.com/books/Book241767.

Digital Earth Watch and Picture Post Network - Activities and Tools for Observing and Measuring Environmental Change

The land, water, and air around us are changing.  Often, the changes are subtle and we cannot see them without the help of modern technology.

Repeat photographs reveal measurable changes in vegetation including phenology, growth patterns and plant health, snow and water levels, and sky conditions.  A Picture Post is an easy-to-build platform for collecting panoramic photographic data from the same vantage point.  Participants upload their pictures and share findings on the Picture Post website.  As a whole, the Network contributes to national climate change monitoring programs.

Collecting pictures is just the beginning!  Picture Post and Digital Earth Watch (DEW) are online resources for educators, students, communities, and citizens to design and carry out investigations, challenges, and environmental stewardship projects with low-cost, do-it-yourself tools and a free software program, Analyzing Digital Images (ADI), that measures spatial features in a picture and analyzes plant health based on color.

For more information, contact Dr. Annette Schloss, University of New Hampshire, 446 Morse Hall, Durham, NH 03824.  Email: picturepostsupport@picturepost.unh.edu  Phone: (603)862-0348

The Picture Post Network is part of the Digital Earth Watch (DEW) environmental-monitoring program.  Picture Post is based at the University of New Hampshire and was developed with funding from NASA.

  Calendar of Events

Seeking Teacher Testers - GLOBE Teacher's Guide Review Opportunity - Deadline January 6, 2015

NASA is seeking Earth science teachers who are NOT familiar with the GLOBE program to review and comment on an updated GLOBE teacher’s guide that is currently in development.  GLOBE comprises focus areas on atmosphere, soils (pedosphere), hydrology/hydrosphere, biosphere/phenology, and Earth as a system.

The review process will be carried out online, allowing you to work at your own pace over a period of several weeks.  No travel is required.  A stipend will be offered to compensate you for your time.  Work on each section will occur serially over the next ~4 months ending in March of 2015. We will be looking for comments and suggestions based on your work as an educator and user of the Internet.

Interested teachers should apply for this opportunity by filing out this GLOBE Teachers Guide Review Application (If you are unable to navigate to the application through the hyperlink , please cut and past the following link into your internet search bar - http://tiny.cc/GLOBEreview).

NASA Opens Registration for 2015 Exploration Rover Challenge - Deadlines January 9 and February 6

NASA has opened team registration for the 2015 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the event will be held April 16-18, 2015, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, also in Huntsville.

The challenge engages high school, college and university students in hands-on, experiential learning activities, while also testing potential technologies needed for future deep space exploration. Both U.S. and international teams may register to participate. For U.S. teams, registration closes February 6, 2015. Registration for international teams closes January 9, 2015.

Student teams participating in the Rover Challenge must design, engineer and test a human-powered rover on a mock course designed to simulate the harsh and demanding terrains future NASA explorers may find on distant planets, moons and asteroids.

"Throughout the months-long process, students gain meaningful experience and valuable feedback, while receiving encouragement to pursue technical careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Diedra Williams, an education specialist in Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office. "Students must use their educational background to apply practical designs and solve engineering problems similar to those encountered by NASA mission teams."

Registration questions may be directed to Diedra Williams at 256-544-5721 or diedra.a.williams@nasa.gov (U.S. teams) and Amy McDowell at 256-544-8411 or amy.mcdowell@nasa.gov (international teams).

2015 Gulf Guardian Awards - Deadline is January 15, 2015

The EPA is looking for nominations for the 2015 Gulf Guardian Awards. These awards recognize businesses, community groups, individuals, or organizations taking extraordinary steps to keep the Gulf of Mexico healthy, beautiful, and productive. Nominations are due January 15.

Help U.S. Cope with Climate Change: Enter NASA-USGS Data App Challenge - Phase I Deadline is January 18, 2015

NASA, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is offering more than $35,000 in prizes to citizen scientists for ideas that make use of climate data to address vulnerabilities faced by the United States in coping with climate change.

The Climate Resilience Data Challenge, conducted through the NASA Tournament Lab, a partnership with Harvard University hosted on Appirio/Topcoder, kicked off Monday, December 15 and runs through March 2015.

The challenge supports the efforts of the White House Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to leverage the federal government’s extensive, freely available climate-relevant data resources to spur innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in order to advance awareness of and preparedness for the impacts of climate change.

According to the recent National Climate Assessment produced by more than 300 experts across government and academia, the United States faces a number of current and future challenges as the result of climate change. Vulnerabilities include coastal flooding and weather-related hazards that threaten lives and property, increased disruptions to agriculture, prolonged drought that adversely affects food security and water availability, and ocean acidification capable of damaging ecosystems and biodiversity. The challenge seeks to unlock the potential of climate data to address these and other climate risks.

The challenge begins with an ideation stage for data-driven application pitches, followed by storyboarding and, finally, prototyping of concepts with the greatest potential.

2015 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching - Deadline January 20, 2015

With under a month left to apply, now is the time to go online and view a new webcast about the prestigious Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching. The free, two-minute webcast provides an overview of the competition. To view the webcast, visit

AGI has expanded the eligibility requirements. In addition to U.S. teachers, instructors in the United Kingdom may compete. The program, a major part of Earth Science Week, recognizes one full-time teacher from kindergarten to eighth grade, or the U.K. equivalent, for leadership and innovation in Earth science education.

To enter the 2015 competition, applications must be postmarked by January 20, 2015. The winner will receive a $2,500 prize and a travel grant of $1,000 to attend the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Annual Conference in March 2015 in Chicago to accept the award. To learn more, U.S. teachers should visit http://www.americangeosciences.org/education/awards/roy. U.K. teachers should visit http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/education.

NSF Summer Research Experience - Geoenvironmental Challenges - Application Deadline is February 15, 2015

The application is now available for a nine-week National Science Foundation summer undergraduate research experience for future Earth science, chemistry, and biology teachers from around the country.  Applications are due by February 15, 2015. To apply, visit the project website at http://capone.mtsu.edu/mabolins/REU.pdf  For questions, contact Dr. Mark Abolins at Mark.Abolins@mtsu.edu


* A nine-week undergraduate science research experience in the greater Nashville, TN area.

* May 31 – August 1, 2015.

* For future middle school and high school Earth science, chemistry, and biology teachers.

* Includes one-week field trip to Mammoth Caves and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

* Includes travel to the 2016 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

* $4,500.00 stipend + all expenses (including room, board, and travel to Denver).

NESTA/W2U Workshop at Chicago National NSTA Conference: Earth Science Rocks! Using Earth Science Activities to Engage Students as Scientists - March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015, 08:00 AM - 09:00 AM
McCormick Place, Skyline W375e
Chicago, Illinois

During this session, we will share engaging activities that address fundamental concepts in geology central to Earth Science disciplinary core ideas brought out in the NRC Framework (ESS-2A and 2B). Our activities will address Earth materials, plate tectonics and associated phenomena, the rock cycle, and the coupled Earth system. We will explore different types of Earth materials - igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic, and how we use them in society. We will look at simple physical models to understand how plates have moved in the past and how they move today, generating dynamic phenomena we know as eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. We will examine the rock cycle, and through simple physical models discover how sedimentary rocks are formed. We will discuss how landforms and the rock cycle are influenced by other spheres of the Earth system.

Participants will try out all activities during this hands-on workshop, ensuring that they will leave the session knowing how to use them in their classroom. Participants will receive a handout with links to lesson plans and other complimentary resources available on the Windows to the Universe educational website (www.windows2universe.org), which is a project of the non-profit National Earth Science Teachers Association.

NESTA/W2U Workshop at Chicago National NSTA Conference: Harnessing the Power of Earth System Science for Developing Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts - March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015, 02:00 PM - 03:00 PM
McCormick Place, Skyline W375e
Chicago, Illinois

The study of Earth system science provides abundant opportunities to develop student’s science practice skills and their understanding of crosscutting concepts in the context of learning about disciplinary core ideas that are timely and relevant to student experience. The NRC Framework identifies multiple core ideas – ESS2.C – 2.E; ESS3.A – 3.D – that span Earth’s systems and are linked to NGSS performance expectations. Increasingly, students will be expected to collect and analyze data, build models, and employ scientific practices to answer questions about the Earth system. This session will provide exemplary teaching resources to assist teachers in their transition to the NGSS ESS Standards. Participants will engage with hands-on lessons focused on timely topics such as black carbon, eutrophication, and climate change that utilize the cross-cutting concepts to unite core ideas and incorporate a variety of science and engineering practices. This workshop focuses on freely available materials available through the National Earth Science Teachers Association and its flagship ESS education website, Windows to the Universe, as well as resources provided through other programs sponsored by federal agencies and non-profit partners.

NESTA/HHMI Workshop at Chicago National NSTA Conference: Multimedia Tools and Classroom Resources for Teaching Earth System Science - March 14, 2015

March 14, 2015, 08:00 AM - 09:00 AM
McCormick Place, Skyline W375e
Chicago, Illinois

Earth is a dynamic planet that has undergone vast changes over geologic history. This NESTA-HHMI workshop investigates our changing Earth while modeling Earth system science classroom resources.

NESTA/ESIP/W2U Workshop at Chicago National NSTA Conference: Using Data in the Earth and Space Science Classroom to Engage Students as Real Scientists - March 14, 2015

March 14, 2015, 09:30 AM - 10:30 AM
McCormick Place, Skyline W375e
Chicago, Illinois

The past 20 years have been exciting times for the fields of Earth and Space Science (ESS) as technology has changed the way scientists view Earth and space. Measurement platforms provide a myriad of data to answer questions about Earth processes and how humans are affecting them. The Next Generation Science Standards have applied this new view in developing grade-appropriate performance expectations that mirror the work of scientists. Students will be expected to collect and analyze data, build models, and employ scientific practices to answer questions about the natural world. A central aspect of this process is data – acquisition, analysis, and interpretation. This session will provide exemplary teaching resources to assist teachers with the use of data in the classroom in meaningful applications that engage students in the study of Earth and space science. Participants will engage with hands-on lessons that utilize the cross-cutting concepts to unite core ideas and incorporate a variety of science and engineering practices. This workshop, which is offered through collaboration between the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and the Earth System Information Partnership (ESIP), focuses on freely available materials offered by ESIP-associated programs, NESTA, and its flagship ESS education website, Windows to the Universe

NESTA/W2U Workshop at Chicago National NSTA Conference: How Weird Can It Get? Developing Weather and Climate Literacy - March 14, 2015

March 14, 2015, 02:00 PM - 03:00 PM
McCormick Place, Skyline W375e
Chicago, Illinois

Join us in this activity-based workshop as we explore key topics in weather and climate that address NRC Framework ESS2.D - Weather and Climate. Using effective hands-on activities, we will explore activities that demonstrate fundamental concepts of atmospheric and climate science – radiation balance, atmospheric circulation, climate, climate change, and greenhouse gases. These activities provide opportunities for students to develop their science practice skills as well as their understanding of crosscutting concepts in the context of learning about disciplinary core ideas that are timely and relevant to student experience. Activities used in the workshop are aligned to the National Science Education Standards, and relevance to the NRC Framework and the NGSS will be highlighted. Participants will receive a handout with links to lesson plans and other free resources available on the Windows to the Universe educational website (www.windows2universe.org). This website has been developed with sponsorship from NSF, NASA, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and university sponsors since 1995. Many additional free activity lesson plans are available on the web site, a project of the non-profit National Earth Science Teachers Association.

Coming Up - Environmental Education Week 2015 (April 19-25)

EE Week, sponsored by Samsung, is April 19-25, 2015.  EE Week 2015 will focus on Greening STEM

Though it seems far away, it's not too early to prepare for the celebration of EE Week at your school, workplace or in your community.  

The EE Week blog provides educators with a forum to interact and engage with experts and their peers on a variety of topics surrounding environmental education and Greening STEM.

  Other Announcements

Hundreds of Methane Seeps Discovered Along the U.S. East Coast

Methane is often found naturally leaking from the seafloor, particularly in petroleum basins like the Gulf of Mexico or along tectonically active continental margins like the U.S. West Coast, but such plumes were not expected along passive margins, like the East Coast of North America. Now, however, the discovery of hundreds of methane seeps on the seafloor along the U.S. East Coast suggests that such reservoirs may be more common along passive margins than previously thought. The release of such methane globally may have a significant influence on climate, scientists say.

Read more about the new technologies that allowed researchers to find these seeps and what they may mean for water temperatures and climate in the December issue of EARTH magazine.

The Geology of Middle-earth

The vaguely familiar, yet primeval landscape of New Zealand served as the backdrop for the blockbuster film adaptations of the entire "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit" trilogy. The geology that created this landscape is front and center in EARTH's February cover story, "The Geology of Middle-earth."

Since the release of the first installment in the trilogy in 2001, millions of tourists have flocked to New Zealand to see "The Lord of the Rings" locations for themselves. The movie producers filmed at more than 100 locations across New Zealand's North and South Islands from the Southern Alps (which stood in for the mythical Misty Mountains) to the Rangitata River Valley (Edoras) to Mount Ngauruhoe (the other-worldly Mount Doom). They even built towns, such as Hobbiton (near the real town of Matamata), where visitors can now tour hobbit holes and enjoy libations at the Green Dragon.

Read more about the epic tale of the geology of this spectacular landscape and how it is portrayed in the movies in the February issue of EARTH magazine.

Earth Science Classroom Activities Now Searchable Online

Ever wish you could go online to search for a classroom activity tailor-made to match the Earth science topic you’re teaching? Visit the Earth Science Week Classroom Activities page - continually updated and recently redesigned - for more than 120 free learning activities.

Activities are organized and searchable by various criteria, including specific Earth science topics. To find the perfect activity for your lesson, just click on “Search Classroom Activities.” Search by grade level and science education standard. Maybe most useful, you also can search among 24 categories of Earth science topics, from energy and environment to plate tectonics and weathering.

This database-driven resource is ideal not only for supplementing a prepared curriculum, but also for generating activities that address current events such as fossil discoveries and volcanic eruptions.

NOAA Teaches Educators About Oceans, the Atmosphere, and Climate

The U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) promotes educational resources and opportunities for students and teachers about oceanic, atmospheric, and climate change science.

On NOAA’s Education Resources Website, you’ll find lesson plans, interactive activities, educational games, videos, images, scholarships, career opportunities, and detailed information on weather, climate change, oceans, and satellites.  Also, look for information on NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program, which allows a K-16 teacher to serve aboard a NOAA ship as a researcher.

In addition to online offerings, NOAA’s Office of Education conducts teacher development workshops throughout the year to help improve oceanic, atmospheric, and climate literacy among science teachers.  Find out where a workshop is being held in your area.

Improving Indoor Air at School

The new "Energy Savings Plus Health" guidance offers practical solutions to help school districts protect school indoor air quality and increase energy efficiency during school renovations. Nearly 55 million elementary and secondary students attend school, but about 25 million are not yet protected by indoor air quality management programs.

I'm A Geoscientist - Free Lapel Pins From AGI

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) encourages U.S.-based geoscience professionals, faculty, students, and enthusiasts to sign up and receive their own free lapel pin stating "I'm a Geoscientist." Enter in mailing information at this link and be part of increasing the visibility and diversity of the profession.

AGI and its member organizations started the "I'm a Geoscientist" campaign to celebrate that all scientists who study the earth are geoscientists, even if they approach it from different perspectives and methods. AGI, the umbrella organization to 49 different geoscience member societies, works with a community of over a quarter million geoscientists promoting a diverse body of work necessary to increasing the public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources, resiliency to natural hazards, and interaction with the environment.

The pin features a glyph that attempts to capture the full breadth of the geosciences while conveying a sense of convergence to represent how the AGI federation brings all parts of the geosciences together. Each color represents a different part of the geosciences community: red is deep-earth geosciences, gold is crustal geoscience and surface processes, blue is for oceans, surface, and groundwater, green is for life. These colors form a horizon of the globe. The light blue is for atmospheric sciences and black is for space and planetary sciences, which are part of the greater geoscience community represented by AGI through its Member Societies.

EPA Has Climate Resources For Teachers and Students

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a climate education web site for students, teachers, and school administrators, including information and activities related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In one activity, for example, middle school and high school students estimate and conceptualize their schools’ emissions and explore ways to mitigate them. Also, teachers can learn from climate experts and search a database of lesson plans, videos, books, and tools. Visit the EPA web site at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/school.html.

Spot the Space Station Over Your Backyard with NASA Service

For over 14 years, crews have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station.  You can see the orbiting laboratory when it passes over your home!  NASA's "Spot the Station" service will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.

"It's really remarkable to see the space station fly overhead and to realize humans built an orbital complex that can be spotted from Earth by almost anyone looking up at just the right moment," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations.  "We're accomplishing science on the space station that is helping to improve life on Earth and paving the way for future exploration of deep space."

When the space station is visible -- typically at dawn and dusk -- it is the brightest object in the night sky, other than the moon.  On a clear night, the station is visible as a fast moving point of light, similar in size and brightness to the planet Venus.

The ISS's trajectory passes over more than 90% of Earth's population.  To sign up for "Spot the Station," visit:  http://spotthestation.nasa.gov

NASA Challenges Students To Train Like An Astronaut

An engaging NASA program brings the excitement of space exploration to children learning to live a healthy lifestyle.  Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiativeNASA's Train Like an Astronaut program aims to increase opportunities both in and out of school for kids to become more physically and mentally active.

The program uses the excitement of space exploration and astronaut training to challenge, inspire and educate kids to set physical fitness goals and practice fitness and proper nutrition.  Kids will explore mission challenges, learn the science behind nutrition and learn to train like an astronaut.

The activities align with National Education Standards that are part of physical education and health curriculum in schools throughout the country.  Teachers can easily modify the activities to create an environment that supports all learners.  No special equipment is required and the activities involve no heavy lifting.  Although designed for 8-12 year olds, the program is for anyone who is curious about space exploration and what it takes to be an astronaut.  Participants simply visit the website, find a favorite exercise and get started.

ScienceNews for Students

Can you observe a species evolving?  Can lizards learn?  Will the Sun’s cycle stay the same?  Has ADHD been linked to air pollution?  Find answers to these questions and delve into more of life's curiosities at ScienceNews for Students.  The site presents timely science stories categorized by subject, along with suggestions for hands-on activities, books, articles, and web resources.

ScienceNews for Students is run by the Society for Science and the Public.

The Young Meteorologist Program (YMP)

The Young Meteorologist Program (YMP) is an innovative, fun, and informational online game designed to help students learn to prepare for weather-related disasters. YMP was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the non-profit organizations American Meteorological Society (AMS) and PLAN!T NOW as a free resource that can be utilized in classrooms to help students comprehend complex natural phenomena, and learn actions they can take to keep themselves and their families safe.

Weather is a feature that inspires curiosity and fear, and impacts every person on Earth. The AMS is distributing this online game to its vast network of U.S. K-12 science teachers, ensuring this resource reaches thousands of AMS-trained science teachers and their students. Educators can use this activity to supplement general Earth science lessons at their schools. There is an expanded section for educators available on the Young Meteorologist website that includes lesson plans, related math activities, videos, and discussion pieces ideal for helping teach about weather.

YMP is set up as a five-module game covering natural disasters including hurricanes, lightning, flooding, tornadoes, and winter storms. Using new media, students follow Owlie, a young owl led by two meteorologists, and Girdie, a wise bird who challenges common misconceptions people have about weather events. The game is filled with clever rhymes, familiar games, and some math to reinforce safety messages, and is best suited for middle school-aged students. The entire game takes 1-2 hours to complete, ending with a certificate of completion to share with family and friends.

National Parks’ Web Rangers Explore Geoscience

The National Park Service wants you to become a Web Ranger! The interactive Web Ranger program helps people of all ages learn about the national parks. For example, enter White Sands National Monument in New Mexico from your desktop and identify animal tracks left in the 275 square miles of gypsum dunes that give the park its name.

“Rock Around the Park,” another geoscience activity for Web Rangers, shows how erosion has shaped the landscapes of national parks such as Arches National Park in Utah and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Or you can explore over 220 national parks with fossils, including dinosaur fossils.  Learn about what dinosaurs munched on millions of years ago in “Dino Diets.”

Find all of this and more on the Web Rangers site. Play more than 50 games, invent a Web Ranger name, create a personalized ranger badge, find out what parks are in your area and start learning about Earth science in the national parks at http://www.nps.gov/webrangers/ today!

USDA Stop the Beetle Web Site

We have a Windows to the Universe classroom activity called Changing Planet:  Bark Beetle Outbreaks.  The USDA Stop the Beetle web site has a lot of information available about the Emerald Ash Borer beetle as well.  

USDA even has a kid's corner where students can play a role in helping to protect ash trees.  These creative tools and activities will enable students to learn more about the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (EAB) and protect our precious ash trees — all while having lots of fun.

Table of Contents


Earth's Coldest Spot
Orion Milestone
Winter Weather Safe
Interested Geology?
What Causes Wind?
"Chilly" Activities
Dante's Peak Review
Radon Month
Q Meteor Shower
Earth Perihelion 1/4
Science History

Climate Smart/Energy
DEW & Picture Post

Seeking Testers
Rover Challenge
Gulf Guardian Awards
Climate Challenge
2015 Roy Award
NSF Summer Research
Earth Science Rocks!
Earth System Science
Chicago - Multimedia Tools
Chicago NSTA - Using Data
How Weird Can It Get
EE Week 2015

Methane Seeps
Geology Middle-earth
ES Classroom Lessons
NOAA Education
Air Quality School
Free Pins From AGI
EPA Climate Resource
Spot Space Station
Train Like Astronaut
Sci News Students
Young Meteorologist
Web Rangers
Stop the Beetle!














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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.