October 2008

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements


This month brings a new section of the Windows to the Universe website to our users, and we hope you enjoy it. Beginning October 15 and continuing through November, a scientific campaign will be underway off the coast of Chile to better understand the tightly linked atmosphere, ocean, biosphere, and land system in this region. Many scientists will be participating from countries around the world, using their instruments for observations on ships, aircraft and from the land. Our new portal for this campaign, "Climate Science from the South-East Pacific", explains the science of the campaign (called the Variability of the American Monsoon System Ocean-Cloud-Atmosphere-Land Study Regional Experiment or VOCALS for short) and shares the biographies and stories of campaign participants. During the campaign ~18 scientists will be sharing news of their activities through our "Postcards from the Field" section. A new innovation we've been able to introduce during this effort is the incorporation of Google Maps into Windows to the Universe - for example on our new Easter Island page. Look for these to gradually be made available on many relevant pages over the coming months.

In addition to VOCALS, this month's newsletter highlights content on the website about the ocean, the winds, other greenhouse gases, weather in poetry and pictures, and news from the frontier of science from the National Science Foundation. In addition, we highlight our upcoming events, including our two Citizen Science campaigns - Project Budburst and the Great World Wide Star Count as well as our events at the Fall Area NSTA conferences. We hope that you can participate in these events! Don't forget to check news from our Partners, announcing opportunities you and your students might be interested in!

A last minute note, regarding the other greenhouse gases item below. There has been a recent observation of rapid methane release by a team of Swedish scientists working on board a ship on the Arctic region, who report "an extensive area of intense methane release" that was "so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface".

Surface Ocean Currents - A New Resource for the Upper Elementary Classroom

Check out our new resource on surface ocean currents for the upper elementary classroom! The Ducks in the Flow module is intended for grades 3-5 and includes a storybook and three classroom activities.

In the storybook, three kids work collaboratively to explore and investigate surface currents found in the ocean and the Great Lakes while learning about the journey of a seafaring plastic duck. Three hands-on activities for the classroom further explore the science content and provide instruction in basic science process skills. These materials are aligned with the National Science Education Standards.

The Southeast Pacific Flash Interactive

The Southeast Pacific will come alive for your students with our new interactive. It is highlighting the climate data in this area that the VOCALS campaign will be studying. Change the wind speed to see how it affects the clouds, temperatures, upwelling and marine life. Or click on the pictures to discover how the system works in more detail.

The Other Greenhouse Gases

Everyone talks about carbon dioxide. It's making headlines. It's coming out of tailpipes. And more of it in the atmosphere is causing our planet to get warmer and warmer. But what about the other greenhouse gases? There are others and, although they may not be as well known, some of them are pretty powerful agents causing global warming.

Carbon dioxide's fellow greenhouse gases include nitrous oxide, methane, and water vapor. There were greenhouse gases in the atmosphere before humans started creating air pollution. The most common greenhouse gas, water vapor, is part of the water cycle. Even some carbon dioxide is a natural part of Earth's atmosphere. The increase in greenhouse gases is what is causing Earth to warm.

Only about one molecule out of half a million in our atmosphere is methane, yet it is an important greenhouse gas accounting for about 20% of greenhouse warming in the atmosphere. The concentration of methane in our atmosphere has risen by about 150% since 1750, largely due to human activities.

The amount of nitrous oxide, which is known in dentist offices as “laughing gas”, has increased in our atmosphere too. The increase is largely due to fossil fuel combustion, farm animals, sewage, and fertilizers.

Yes, carbon dioxide is an important and rapidly increasing greenhouse gas. But next time you hear the term "carbon" mentioned as the reason for global warming, remember those other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that cause warming too!

New Videos from NSF

We've added some more videos from the National Science Foundation to our web site. Check out "Improbable Research - the Ignoble Prize", "Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge", and "Cosmic Inflation and the Accelerating Universe".

Weather Poetry and Pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But just what words are they?

A new feature of Windows to the Universe - Weather Poetry and Pictures - lets you consider just that.

We invite you and your students to submit original poems about the weather image of the month. And check back next month to write a poem about another weather image.

More information about the fine art images that are featured in Weather Poetry and Pictures can be found in the Clouds in Art interactive, which allows you to match the correct cloud type to each painting.

Different Names of Winds

The wind is air in movement that blows around Earth (and around other planets too). They can be soft or strong. As Earth rotates, the winds tend to move differently in each hemisphere. In the North hemisphere winds move towards the right and in the Southern hemisphere towards the left. This is what we know as the Coriolis effect.

In ancient times, winds received different names according to the season, origin and magnitude! In Greek mythology winds were known as Anemois (Greek word meaning ‘winds’). In Roman mythology, winds were known as Ventis (Latin word meaning ‘winds’). Boreas was the name given to the hurricane winds of the North and Noto was the name given to the winds of the south. Euro was the name given to winds of the east and Zephyr was the name given to the winds of the west.

The winds lost part of their mythological mystery when Francis Beaufort from France classified them in a scale known as the Beaufort Scale for Wind Speed Estimation. The instrument that measures wind speed is called an anemometer.

Join us at NSTA this Fall!

Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in either Portland, OR (November 20-22, 2008) or Cincinnati, OH (December 4-6, 2008)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.

Portland NSTA Regional Conference

Time Location
Thursday, November 20
Magnetism Activities, Space Weather, and Geomagnetism
8:00-9:00 am Oregon Convention Center, Room E147/148
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 8:00-9:00 am Doubletree Lloyd Center, Oregon Room
Project BudBurst and The Great World Wide Star Count 12:30-1:30 pm Doubletree Lloyd Center, Oregon Room
Cool Science from Cold Places! Activities and Online Resources About Science of the Polar Regions 3:30-4:30 pm Doubletree Lloyd Center, Ross Island/Morrison Room
Friday, November 21 NESTA Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Ballroom 201
Water, Air, Land, Life, and Space! (WALLS!) 12:30-1:30 pm Oregon Convention Center, Room E147/148
Saturday, November 22
Microworlds! Online Tools Exploring Earth's Atmosphere, Water Cycle, and Greenhouse Gases
11:00 am -12:00 pm Doubletree Lloyd Center, Oregon Room

Cincinnati NSTA Regional Conference

Time Location
Thursday, December 4
Microworlds! Online Tools Exploring Earth's Atmosphere, Water Cycle, and Greenhouse Gases
8:00-9:00 am Duke Energy Center, Room 207
NESTA Share-a-Thon 2:00-3:00 pm Duke Energy Center, Room 206
NESTA Rock Raffle 3:30-4:30 pm Duke Energy Center, Room 206
Friday, December 5
Cool Science from Cold Places! Activities and Online Resources About Science of the Polar Regions
9:30-10:30 am Duke Energy Center, Room 204
Magnetism Activities, Space Weather, and Geomagnetism 2:00-3:00 pm Duke Energy Center, Room 207
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 5:00-6:00 pm Duke Energy Center, Room 204
Saturday, December 6
Water, Air, Land, Life, and Space! (WALLS!)
11:00 am -12:00 pm Duke Energy Center, Room 206

It's Time to Count Stars!

Join us later this month for the second annual Windows to the Universe Great World Wide Star Count. This international event encourages everyone to go outside, look skyward after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report what they see online. During the 2007 inaugural event, over 16,000 individuals from 64 countries and all 7 continents participated in this campaign that measures light pollution globally. 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. At the conclusion of the event a map 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 20 through November 3, 2008. For more information visit www.windows.ucar.edu/starcount or email starcount_info@ucar.edu

What seasonal changes do you see?

Fall is a wonderful time to participate in Project BudBurst. Don’t let our name fool you – we are interested in the timing of the changes at all stages of the plant life cycle - from bursting buds in the spring to leaf color change and seed dispersal in the fall. Join thousands of volunteers across the United States in collecting important climate change data through Project BudBurst, a Windows to the Universe citizen science event! By recording the timing of the leaf color change and seed dispersal of native and other plant species each year, we can learn more about the prevailing climatic characteristics in a region over time. With your help, we will be compiling useful environmental information that is submitted to a national database. Project BudBurst is ideal for teachers and students, families interested in participating in a science project, scouts and 4-H groups, gardening clubs, botanical gardens and others interested in contributing to a socially and scientifically relevant research study. All information needed to participate can be found at the Project BudBurst Web site (www.budburst.org).

Earth Science Week 2008 (Oct. 12-18)

Earth Science Week this year will be October 12-18th. There are many events happening around the world at museums and science centers. Or celebrate at your school or within your classroom with special Earth Science activities. Contests for students are available as well.

For more ideas, go to http://www.earthsciweek.org. Or order your Earth Science Week Toolkit, which includes a geoscience activity calendar, posters, brochures, bookmarks, CDs and more. To order, visit http://www.earthsciweek.org/materials/index.html.

Table of Contents

Ocean Currents
Greenhouse Gases
Videos from NSF
Weather Poetry
Names of winds
Stat Count
Bud Burst
Earth Sci Week 2008

Thacher Award
Astronomy Contest
NESTA Fall Events
Gold Coast Science


Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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2008 Thacher Scholars Award for Use of Geospatial Tools

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) announces the 2008 Thacher Scholars Award. This national competition for secondary school students was founded in honor of former IGES board member Peter Thacher, who died in 1999. Peter Thacher was former deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, NASA advisor, and, at the time of his death, president of the Earth Council Foundation/U.S. He was a leader in promoting the use of satellite remote sensing.

The 2008 Thacher Scholars Awards will be given to secondary school students (grades 9-12) demonstrating the best use of geospatial technologies or data to study Earth. Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning System (GPS). The main focus of the project must be on the application of the geospatial tool(s) or data to study a problem related to the Earth's environment.

Student Awards: Three cash awards will be given -- 1st place - $2,000, 2nd place - $1,000 and 3rd place - $500. Cash awards for team entries will be split among the winning team members.

Teacher Awards: In addition to prizes for the winning students, the teachers of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place students/teams will receive a $200 amazon.com gift card. If the student's participation is part of an after-school club or other activity independent of school, the student can identify an adult "coach" on their entry form who would be eligible for this award (e.g., a parent, club leader, etc.). Only one teacher or coach recognition award will be provided for each 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entry.

For more information about this opportunity, go to http://www.strategies.org/education/index.aspx?sub=education&sub2=scholars&sub3=scholars2008.

NESTA/Astronomy Magazine Young Astronomers Video Contest

The National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) has teamed up with Astronomy magazine to make available an exciting contest for small teams of science students. Similar to the way scientists work to solve a problem, students will work together as a team in this contest to create a DVD demonstrating knowledge of an astronomical topic.

The topic for middle school students (grades 6-8) : "Is Pluto a planet or not?" The topic for high school students (grades 9-12) is "What is a black hole?" Send a video (DVD format) that is three minutes or less in length. It can be in the form of a documentary, talk show, news broadcast, commercial, anything! Students can win really cool prizes for themselves and for their school. Submissions go to Astronomy Magazine, but the judging will be done by NESTA.

For complete details follow the link to the NESTA/Astronomy Magazine Young Astronomers Video Contest. From here you can download the application form and a copy of the official rules. Check out the prizes that will be won too! The deadline for entries is November 7, 2008 – so get moving!

NESTA Fall Events

The National Earth Science Teachers Association announces its upcoming events at the Fall Area Conferences of the National Science Teachers Association:

NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock and Mineral Raffle
Friday, October 31, 2008, Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlotte Convention Center, Ballroom B

NESTA Share-a-Thon: 3:30 - 4:30 pm
NESTA Rock & Mineral Raffle: 5:00 – 6:00 pm

NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock and Mineral Raffle
Friday, November 21, 2008, Portland, Oregon, Oregon Convention Center, Ballroom 201

NESTA Share-a-Thon: 9:30 - 10: 30 am
NESTA Rock & Mineral Raffle: 11:00 am - Noon

NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock and Mineral Raffle
Thursday, December 4, Cincinnati, Ohio, Duke Energy Center, Room 206

NESTA Share-a-Thon: 2:00 – 3:00 pm
NESTA Rock & Mineral Raffle: 3:30 - 4:30 pm

Gold Coast Science Network

The Gold Coast Science Network is a small organization in California for science teachers. They have a small conference (compared to NSTA) every 18 months. Usually about 100-200 teachers attend. This years event, "The Taste of Science", will be held on November 15 in Oxnard, California. If you are interested in presenting, attending, or finding out more about the conference, please be in touch with Debbie Bereki at berekid@education.ucsb.edu.

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