December 2007

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Happy Holidays!

It's hard to believe that it's already December! Our best wishes go out to all of you for this holiday season. Welcome, also, to our new newsletter subscribers we had a chance to meet in Denver at the NSTA Regional Conference. We hope you enjoy our newsletter, and find it valuable. This month's newsletter includes a number of important items, including a new opportunity to support Windows to the Universe through tax-exempt donations, an update on the adventures of ANDRILL teachers in the Antarctic, a highlight on our new clouds in art activities, information on the December solstice, celebrating a "Green" holiday, and the original seven US Astronauts.

We have also recently added a new item to our store, by popular demand - our first classroom activity kit - the Nitrogen Cycle Game! Of course, you don't need to buy this kit to use this activity (or any of our other activities). We work hard to keep the costs of our activities down so real teachers can use them, and they are all available on the website for free. However, many teachers have asked us to prepare such kits, since they really don't have the time to pull the resources together. So, we're testing this idea, to see if they are popular. If so, we will work on putting similar kits together for some of our other activities. Let us know what you think!

Finally, a word about Virtual Postcards. We've recently had numerous comments from teachers using our website in the classroom, asking that we put back the Virtual Postcard capability, as many students really liked it. We'd love to - unfortunately spammers abused the system we had up previously, so we had to take it down several months ago. We've heard you, though, and are working on another way of offering Virtual Postcard capability which is less vulnerable to abuse by spammers. We'll let you know as soon as we're ready to offer this again - hopefully in a few months at the latest.

Once again, best wishes for a joyful and relaxing holiday!

Support Windows to the Universe!

As we approach the end of the year, many of us are thinking of how we can help efforts we value and support. If you value Windows to the Universe, please consider a donation to our project, either online or by mail. As a non-profit corporation, contributions to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), where Windows to the Universe is developed and maintained, are tax exempt. We need your help, in addition to the support of our sponsoring institutions and agencies, to keep our website up to date and to support our teacher professional development program (including providing this newsletter). You'll notice that we don't have ads on our website, and we'll work hard to keep it that way. But, given the constant pressure on education funding from our sponsors, we need to find additional ways to raise funds to keep the website current and growing, as well as to support our work with teachers. Your support will help us avoid putting ads on the site! Please check out our sponsorship page to find out more about how you can support our efforts.

More Postcards from ANDRILL Teachers in Antarctica

Teachers working with the ANDRILL Program in Antarctica continue to send us new "Postcards from the Field". Take a look at Scott's Discovery Hut (built during the Discovery Expedition of 1901 to 1904, led by Robert Falcon Scott), or find out what's for dinner when you pop in on Life in an Antarctic Field Camp. Check out the latest ANDRILL postcards!

The ANDRILL Program is a scientific research project involving more than a hundred scientists from several nations. ANDRILL (ANtarctic geological DRILLing) is recovering seafloor sediment cores from beneath the Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station in Antarctica. These cores provide information about past climates in the region, which will help us better understand possible future climate change. An educational effort associated with ANDRILL called ARISE (ANDRILL Research Immersion for Science Educators) takes teachers "to the ice" along with the scientists to help bring the science back to an educational audience. ARISE teachers are currently in Antarctica and continue to submit "Postcards from the Field" to Windows to the Universe. Click here to browse the list of ANDRILL postcards submitted so far.

Green Ideas for the Holidays

Many will be celebrating various holidays in the month of December. We wish that your holidays might be happy and peaceful. Here are some ideas for keeping those holidays "Green". Please share them with your students and hopefully, they will share them with family and friends. It's when everyone pitches it, that it makes a difference!

Our "Green" Ideas from UCAR's Education and Outreach Department:
1. With guests around, you'll likely have more dishes to wash and laundry to do. Don't run the dishwasher or washing machine unless it's full. And use cold water to wash clothes. These ideas save energy and money!

2. Put small electric candles in your windows as a house decoration versus the long strings of lights and light bulbs. Use compact fluorescent bulbs in the candles. Turn them off when you turn in for the night or use timers so that you don't forget!

3. When shopping for holiday meals, don't worry about the question of paper or plastic - bring your own reusable bags to the store! Many stores give monetary credit for your effort and you keep paper or plastic out of landfills.

4. When you're on the road for a quick meal, remember to take a minimum of napkins. Many people take a large handful, only to throw away many unused napkins. If everyone does this, we can save billions of pounds of waste from needlessly filling landfills. At home, use cloth napkins.

5. Use gift bags instead of wrap, they can be reused for several years. Or make your own gift wrap out of old newspapers! Also, you can always visit the remnants bin at the local fabric store for present wrapping "paper". There are many, many pieces large enough to wrap just about anything. Plus the cloth is re-usable year after year!

6. Choose your gifts wisely. For example, gifts of food add less to our collective "accumulating domestic mass", and significantly reduce our CO2 emissions. Vegan, locally-produced, organic food, with it's own natural packaging (e.g. a pie one bakes from locally grown pumpkins, or bushel of avocados, etc.) are perfect!

Happy and "Green" Holidays!

The December Solstice

The solstice occurs in the month of December. This year the solstice falls on December 22nd, which is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere. The solstices (winter and summer) and equinoxes (spring and fall) are astronomical events that mark our seasons. Because of the tilt of Earth's axis, the Sun appears to climb higher (in the summer) and sink lower (in the winter) in the sky as viewed from our planet. The solstice is when the Sun shifts the direction of this apparent migration. The word "solstice" comes from two Latin roots: "sol", which means "Sun", and "sistere", which translates as "stand still".

The winter solstice is the shortest day (and longest night) of the year, and the summer solstice is the longest day (and shortest night) of the year. Many cultures around the world celebrate the winter solstice. These celebrations include festivals of light or celebrations of rebirth. Historically, in many places in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice included a large feast because it occurred just before the coldest part of the winter set in, and this was a good time to slaughter livestock so they wouldn't have to be fed during the winter. This can provide some "food for thought" for your students as we head into our own season of holiday celebrations!

Classroom Activity Kits at the Windows to the Universe Store

After numerous requests, we are pleased to announce that a classroom kit for the Traveling Nitrogen Activity is now available for purchase in the Windows to the Universe Store. In this version of the activity, students play the role of nitrogen atoms and travel through the various reservoirs of the nitrogen cycle, stamping their passport worksheets with little graphic "stamps" to record their journey. Visit the Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit at the Windows to the Universe Store for more information. And, as always, you are welcome to access the online directions for the Traveling Nitrogen Activity, which remain freely available online in the Teacher Resources section of the Windows to the Universe web site.

Clouds in Art

Have you explored the humanities content on Windows to the Universe? Our new Clouds in Art activities bring art and atmospheric science together. Landscape painters have been representing clouds in their art for centuries. In the Clouds in Art interactive, students attempt to identify cloud types in 25 landscape paintings by artists spanning five centuries. The Clouds in Art Gallery presents the paintings used in this interactive with links to cloud type pages. Finally, The Educator's Guide to Combining Clouds and Art is an activity exploring clouds and art connections, which includes a Powerpoint presentation of the cloud images.

Look for more information about clouds in our newly expanded and revised clouds section.


The first U.S. astronauts were selected in 1959, before human spaceflight operations began. At that time, NASA asked the military services to provide them with a list of personnel who met very specific qualifications. After a really careful screening, NASA announced its selection of seven men as the first American astronauts, all pilots. They were known as the "Original Seven". They were Walter Schirra, Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glenn, M. Scott Carpenter, Alan B. Shepard, Virgil I. 'Gus' Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper.

Since then, NASA has selected 18 more groups of astronauts. Astronauts are selected from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds. From the thousands of applications they receive, only a few are chosen for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program. NASA has selected 321 astronauts to date! Our Windows to the Universe History and People section provides you with a menu of U.S. and international astronauts and cosmonauts which includes school teachers, doctors, scientists, and engineers. The table also highlights a number of astronauts and their accomplishments as is the case of Kathryn Sullivan who in October 11, 1984, became the first U.S. woman to walk in space! Also, it highlights Mae Jemison who was the first African American woman astronaut in 1987.

Table of Contents

Please Support W2U!
ANDRILL Postcards
Green Holidays
Activity Kits
Cloud Art
Original Seven
Climate Discovery


Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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Sign up for NCAR's Climate Discovery Online Courses!

The Winter 2008 Climate Discovery Online Courses for Educators are now open for registration! NCAR is again offering secondary science teachers a professional development opportunity that will enhance their qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into science classrooms. Climate Discovery is a series of three six-week, online courses for middle and high school science teachers. Each course combines geoscience content, current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion.

  • Introduction to Earth's Climate (January 11 - February 22, 2008), the first course in the series, 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.
  • Earth System Science: A Climate Change Perspective (January 18 - February 29, 2008) 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.
  • Understanding Climate Change Today (April 4 - May 16, 2008) 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.

The tuition is $200/course. There is an additional fee for optional teacher recertification credits. Sign up by January 2, 2008 for the 1st 2 courses and by March 7, 2008 for the 3rd course. For more information, visit If you have questions, contact Dr. Sandra Henderson.

WeatherFest is coming to New Orleans!

Weatherfest, a free public event, is an interactive science and weather fair promoting science and math literacy as well as weather safety. Join scientists and science teachers on January 20, 2008, from 12:00-4:00 PM at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA, for hands-on demonstrations that convey aspects of the science of weather and climate. The event will happen in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, a professional society of meteorologists, oceanographers, researchers, students and teachers. For more information: Visit the WeatherFest Information Page.

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