Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to all subscribers of the Windows to the Universe Educator Newsletter! We hope you have all enjoyed a relaxing holiday break, and are storing up energy for when school starts up again soon.
Greetings to everyone we had a chance to meet this past fall at NSTA Area conferences in Louisville, Atlanta, and Phoenix, as well as new subscribers from the Science Teachers Association of New York conference in Rochester and the AGU-NESTA GIFT workshop in San Francisco! We look forward to seeing those of you who can make it to our workshops in April in San Antonio - please see a list of our NSTA events below. Note also that our mobile version is now live - please enjoy!
Finally, just a reminder to those of you who are Windows to the Universe Educator Members - be sure to login to the website to get free access to all the formatted activities, worksheets, and PowerPoints available to you as members. Non-members can access html versions of these resources on the website at no charge, or download individual formatted resources for a small fee in the Teacher Resources/Activities section.
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 which 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 2013, Earth will pass through perihelion on January 1 at 11pm CST (January 2, 05 UT). 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 much different from one another. Some bodies have orbits which 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:
The first meteor shower of the New Year peaks on January 3rd, in the wee hours of the night just before dawn. A waning gibbous moon does not provide a completely dark sky for this year's show, which can otherwise challenge the Perseids and Geminids in numbers (the Quadrantids can produce over 60 meteors per hour in a dark sky).
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. Look for the Quadrantids on the morning of January 3rd; to learn more about them, click here.
The mobile version of Windows to the Universe is live! We hope the new site will make it more convenient for you to plan your lessons or explore Earth and space science while on the road.
Please note that, depending on your phone, some Java and Flash games might not work. If you notice any problems other than that, please let us know. Do not forget to tell us your phone model and the page where you noticed the problem. Thanks! We appreciate your feedback!
Scientists have unveiled an unprecedented look at our planet at night. A global composite image, constructed using cloud-free night images from a new NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite, shows the glow of natural and human-built phenomena across the planet in greater detail than ever before.
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft studying Mercury has provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis that the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.
MESSENGER's onboard instruments have been studying Mercury since March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.
Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, seems to be an unlikely place to find ice. However, the tilt of Mercury's rotational axis is less than 1 degree, and as a result, there are pockets at the planet's poles that never see sunlight. The new observations from MESSENGER support the idea that ice is the major constituent of Mercury's north polar deposits. These measurements also reveal ice is exposed at the surface in the coldest areas, but buried beneath unusually dark material across most of the deposits. This dark material is believed to be a mix of complex organic compounds delivered to Mercury by the impacts of comets and asteroids.
For more information about the Mercury mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/messenger
Scientists using NASA satellite data and climate models have projected that drier conditions will likely cause increased fire activity across the United States in coming decades. They used climate projections to examine how the length and strength of fire seasons are expected to change under future climate conditions, and their results suggest more fire seasons that are longer and stronger across all regions of the U.S. in the next 30-50 years.
Through August of this year, the U.S. burned area topped 2.5 million hectares (6.17 million acres). As the U.S. land area burned by fire each year has increased significantly in the past 25 years, so too have carbon dioxide emissions, which is something many scientists are concerned about.
For images and additional information on this research, visit:
The first day of winter has come and with it -- wind! A howling wind has ushered winter in to the mid-Atlantic. 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). Other 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 has recently 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.
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 careers in geoscience. 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!
We have many classroom activities on our web site. Once on the Classroom Activity page, use the top button bar to choose Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced 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!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
8:00am-2:30pm NESTA Board of Directors Meeting, Independence Room, Grand Hyatt Hotel
Friday, April 12, 2013
9:30am Geology Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
11:00am NESTA Ocean and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
12:30pm NESTA Earth System Science Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
2:00pm Climate Change Classroom Toolkit, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
3:30pm Let's Get Well Grounded!, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
6:30-8:00pm NESTA Friends of Earth and Space Science Reception, Lone Star D, Grand Hyatt Hotel
Saturday, April 13, 2013
8:00am Activities in Earth System Science, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
9:30am Exploring Planetary Science and Astronomy - What Would Galileo Do?, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
11:00am NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
12:30pm NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lunchtime Lecture by Dr. Mark Nielsen, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
2:00pm Our Changing Planet, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
3:30pm NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
5:00pm NESTA Annual Membership Meeting, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
Are you looking for resources and support to help you bring the best to your students? Are you concerned about the state of Earth and space science education today? Now is the time to join the National Earth Science Teachers Association! Membership benefits are many and include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site and the monthly e-mail newsletter that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events. There are also many special NESTA events at professional meetings. Plug into this supportive network. Cost is low! Join today!
Windows to the Universe also provides these other membership and partnership opportunities:
Classroom activities are a great way to engage students in their science learning. The Teacher Resources section on Windows to the Universe includes over 100 K-12 science activities for you to use with your students. Topics range from geology, water, atmospheric science, climate change, life, ecology, environmental science, space weather and magnetism, to science literacy and art. HTML versions of the activities, worksheets, and supplementary materials are all freely available, as are PPT shows that you can use with your students.
Windows to the Universe Educator Members have free access to all downloadable PDF activities, worksheets, supplementary materials and PowerPoints (a $230 value!), in addition to other benefits and services for Earth and space science teachers. If you are not a Windows to the Universe Educator Member, you can purchase individual PDF-formatted student worksheets, classroom activity descriptions, and supplementary materials (including downloadable PowerPoints) in our online store.
If you'd like to save time collecting and prepping classroom materials, we offer several classroom activity kits for purchase: Glaciers: Then and Now, Traveling Nitrogen Game, CO2: How Much Do You Spew?, and Feeling the Heat - Part 2. Most activity kits are available in a variety of sizes to fit your classroom needs.
We've added a bunch of new educational DVDs from TASA Graphics to the Windows to the Universe online store. New additions include:
These are in addition to our previous offerings from TASA graphics:
We also offer quality DVDs on climate change and astronomy:
As always, Windows to the Universe Educator Members get a 10% discount on all purchases from the online store - and this is on top of publisher discounts!
Table of Contents
Earth at Perihelion
Mobile Site is Live!
Earth at Night
Ice on Mercury
What Causes Wind?
Browse Geology Sect
Dante's Peak Review
NESTA in San Antonio
Join NESTA and W2U!
Girls in STEM
Edward C. Roy Award
AMS DataStreme Proj
Talk to Astronauts!
Toshiba Am Grants
Green Schools Conf
Bob the Bunny
Solar Max Coming!
Spot Space Station
Climate Fact Sheets
Big Ideas Videos
Announcements from Partners
Information about Opportunities with Stipends, Honorariums, or Awards for Teachers/students
NASA is offering high school junior girls from across the United States an opportunity to jump-start their future by participating in the Women In STEM High School (WISH) Aerospace Scholars program for 2013.
Registration is now open for the 20th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, which challenges high school, college and university students around the world to build and race fast, lightweight "moonbuggies" of their own design.
NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, MA, are seeking teams to compete in this year's robot technology demonstration competition, which offers as much as $1.5 million in prize money. The registration deadline is approaching - January 7.
The competition is planned for June 2013 in Worcester, Mass., and will attract competitors from industry and academia nationwide. For more information about the Sample Return Robot Challenge and WPI, visit http://challenge.wpi.edu
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is accepting nominations for the Edward C. Roy Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching. Given annually, this award is presented to one full-time K-8 teacher in the U.S. or U.K. whose excellence and innovation in the classroom elevates students’ understanding of the Earth and its many processes.
NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate is accepting scholarship applications from graduate and undergraduate students for the 2013-2014 academic year. The application deadline is Jan. 14, 2013.
NASA expects to award 20 undergraduate and five graduate scholarships to students in an aeronautical engineering program or related field. Undergraduate students who have at least two years of study remaining will receive up to $15,000 per year for two years and the opportunity to receive a $10,000 stipend by interning at a NASA research center during the summer.
The American Meteorological Society’s DataStreme Project is an expenses-paid, professional development program for in-service K-12 teachers. Graduate-level courses in meteorology, oceanography, and climate science are offered each fall and spring semester by Local Implementation Teams (LITs) across the country. Teachers construct a Plan of Action for educational peer-training following course completion.
Please contact your nearest LIT leader to register. The spring 2013 course offering begins in mid-January. For more information on DataStreme, go to www.ametsoc.org/amsedu and follow the links to course pages for the list of LIT leaders. DataStreme receives support from NOAA, NASA, and NSF.
College students - get your school to participate in a friendly competition to see who can recycle the most on campus. EPA's Wastewise is a co-sponsor. The registration deadline is January 17. Check out the RecyleMania tournament today!
NASA is offering opportunities for schools and educational groups to speak with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to learn about living and working in space. Crewmembers will be available for question and answer sessions in 2013.
Nominate a teacher! The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education. Two teachers from each EPA region will be selected to receive the award. 2012-13 nominations are due January 31.
Teacher awardees will receive a commemorative plaque and an award of $2,000 to be used to further the recipient's professional development in environmental education. The teacher's local education agency will also receive an award of $2,000 to fund environmental education activities and programs of the teacher.
Meet the 2011-12 winners: http://www.epa.gov/education/teacheraward/winners.html
The Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision is a science competition that encourages students of all grade levels to imagine what technology might be like in the future. Teacher sponsors lead groups of students in researching and developing a project idea. Regional winners will receive a Toshiba product, national finalists will win a trip to Washington, D.C., and overall winners will receive U.S. EE Savings Bonds worth $10,000 at maturity for first place and $5,000 at maturity for second place. The entry deadline is January 31, 2013.
The Volvo Adventure, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program, is an educational program that rewards environmental activities and the decision-makers of the future. To enter, you form a team of 2 to 5 members (ages 13 to 16), perform an environmental project in your local community, and submit the project online. The competition deadline is January 31, 2013.
Projects are judged and the best projects are selected for an all-expense-paid trip to Göteborg, Sweden, where teams can win the following prizes: 1st place = $10,000, 2nd place = $6,000 and 3rd place = $4,000.
Wanted: Classroom Innovators! Toshiba America Foundation is currently accepting applications from teachers who are passionate about making science and mathematics more engaging for their students.
Do you teach 6-12 science or math? Do you have a wish list of instructional equipment that will make learning more exciting for your students? If the answer is yes to these questions, Toshiba America Foundation would like to hear from you.
Grade 6-12 applications for $5,000 or less are accepted on a rolling basis, throughout the calendar year. Grant requests of more than $5,000 are reviewed twice a year (the next semiannual deadline is February 1st!).
The Green Schools National Conference examines environmental literacy, energy efficiency, healthier food, eco-friendly purchasing and more. The 3rd annual Green Schools National Conference, set for Feb. 22-24, 2013, in West Palm Beach, FL, is sponsored by the Green Schools National Network (GSNN) and is focused on "developing healthy and sustainable schools across America." Regular registration is now through February 1st.
The Green Schools National Network advances the national green and healthy schools movement by connecting like-minded and passionate education, non-profit, corporate and public sector individuals and organizations.
Bob the Bunny's environmental competition is aimed at young adventurers aged 10-12 years old.
To enter, you form a team of 1 to 3 members, identify a local environmental issue and create a cartoon strip illustrating the issue and actions that you might take to solve the problem. Submissions should be sent in by February 28, 2013.
The International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment is organized every year by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE), Bayer and the Nikon Corporation.
It has been held since 1991 and has received more than 3 million entries from children in over 150 countries.
The theme of the 22nd painting competition will be “Water: The Source of Life” and children will have until February 29, 2013, to submit their entries.
The American Meteorological Society has partnered with Second Nature, administrator of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, to implement the AMS Climate Studies course at 100 minority-serving institutions over a 5-year period. As part of this NSF-supported Diversity Project, AMS is recruiting 25 MSI faculty for the Course Implementation Workshop (May 19-24, 2013). Faculty will be trained to offer the climate course and will receive presentations from top-level NASA, NOAA, and university scientists. The AMS Climate Studies course was developed and pilot tested with NASA support.
Applications for the May 2013 workshop must be received by March 15, 2013. The workshop is expenses-paid and the AMS Climate Studies license fee is waived for the first two years the course is offered. For more information, please visit www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/online/climateinfo/diversity.html.
Environmental Education Week 2013 will be held April 14-20, and will explore how technology can enhance environmental learning both inside and outside the classroom. This year's official theme is Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors.
As part of Taking Technology Outdoors, EE Week will highlight the growing opportunity to engage today's students in learning about the environment with new technologies that enable scientific research and develop 21st century skills, including creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.
Get a jump-start by accessing the top 10 Apps for taking technology outdoors.
Are you an Outstanding Earth Science Teacher? Do you know one?
The National Association of Geoscience Teachers annually presents OEST awards for "exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth Sciences at the pre-college level." Any teacher or other K-12 educator who covers a significant amount of earth science content with their students is eligible. Ten national finalists are selected, one from each NAGT regional section. Some sections also recognize state winners.
Individuals may apply themselves or nominate a colleague for the award. To nominate a teacher for this award, please complete the online nomination form and upload any supporting documentation. You can find information on which section you live in by checking out the Sections Page.
In 1859, the largest recorded coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, known as the Carrington Event, disrupted what little electrical technology was used at the time. Back then, that meant the temporary disruption of the telegraph system. Today, without an effective warning mechanism in place, a solar storm of that magnitude could wreak havoc on our technology-dependent world. And with the solar maximum predicted to occur later this year, scientists and policymakers are scrambling to prepare us for when the next big solar storm hits.
For more than 35 years, scientists from the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program have been scouring glacial landscapes in search of meteorites. Since 1976, teams of physicists, meteorite specialists, and mountaineers have recovered thousands of untouched specimens from meteoroids, the moon and even Mars. Despite subzero temperatures and razor-sharp winds, scientists are lining up for the chance to experience the ultimate hunt for alien objects.
June Lockhart, William Shatner and Wil Wheaton are the latest entertainment icons featured in new public service announcements that highlight how some of NASA's outstanding accomplishments in space have improved our life on Earth.
Spanning generations of silver screen and television portrayals of humanity's exploration of space, the accomplished actors talk about how science fiction has become science fact, resulting in new commercial products and services that are tangible returns on investments in space technology. Much of the technology we rely on daily was developed by NASA for space exploration and then adapted or enhanced for use here on Earth. This includes many technologies used in schools, homes, cars, computers and American industry.
If you teach about fossils, consider participating in the Mastodon Matrix Project. The Project uses citizen volunteers to analyze actual samples of the matrix (dirt) from a site where a 14,000-year-old mastodon was excavated in New York. Your students will learn the process of science and will work like a paleontologist on real research material.
To join the project, you must sign up and pay an $18 participation fee. You will be sent a one-kilogram bag of matrix, enough for about 20-25 students to explore with simple tools. It is possible to find shells, bones, hair, pieces of plants, and rocks from the time when the mastodons lived and roamed the Earth. The matrix and discoveries are then sent back to the Paleontological Research Institution, where they will be cataloged and further analyzed by paleontologists to help scientists form a true picture of the ecology and environment of the late Pleistocene.
To learn more about the project, go to http://www.museumoftheearth.org/research.php?page=Mastodon_Research/Mast_Matrix
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 inspires curiosity and awe, and impacts every American. 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.
NASA announced a new service to help people see the International Space Station when it passes overhead. "Spot the Station" 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.
Did you know that Earth Gauge produces in-depth fact sheets every few months that cover a variety of climate topics? The fact sheets, including images and links, cover topics like Arctic amplification feedbacks and links to midlatitude weather (written in December 2012), heliophysics (written in November 2012), wildfires in the West (written in September 2012), Earth's cloud feedback, polar climate trends, drought in North American, paleoclimate and the ocean ecosystem.
Check out these fact sheets and others at Earth Gauge Climate Fact Sheets. You won't be disappointed!
AGI now offers award-winning videos and other electronic resources to help students, educators, and others explore the “big ideas” of Earth science all year long. AGI’s Big Ideas videos recently won three prestigious awards: Digital Video (DV) Winner in Education, DV Winner in Nature/Wildlife, and Videographer Award of Excellence.
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.