January 2014

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 Boston (see table below).

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 recent 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 new 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

Winter Weather Safety

Late 2013 sure brought some extreme weather with snow and ice storms that affected much of the U.S., Typhoon Haiyan bringing destruction to the Philippines in November, rare tornadoes that blew through the Midwestern U.S., and even the heaviest snowfall that the Holy Land had seen in decades.  Hopefully, 2014 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.

Hubble Traces Subtle Signals of Water on Hazy Worlds

Using the powerful eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.

Hubble's high-performance Wide Field Camera 3 is one of few capable of peering into the atmospheres of exoplanets many trillions of miles away.  These exceptionally challenging studies can be done only if the planets are spotted while they are passing in front of their stars.  Researchers can identify the gases in a planet's atmosphere by determining which wavelengths of the star's light are transmitted and which are partially absorbed.

The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.  Scientists agree that these findings are only the beginning, and that further studies can now begin to compare how much water is present in the atmospheres of different kinds of exoplanets.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

What Can Be Done About Rising Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions?

According to the Global Carbon Project, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production increased by 2.1% in 2012, with a total of 9.7±0.5 GtC (billion tonnes of carbon) emitted to the atmosphere, 58% above 1990 emissions (the Kyoto Protocol reference year).  The study released by the Global Carbon Project on November 19, 2013, and co-led by researchers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, estimated that carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase by a further 2.1% in 2013. 

In order to understand and then reduce global carbon emissions, we definitely need to obtain the most accurate global measurements we can.  NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 spacecraft will do just that.  Slated for launch in July 2014, the NASA observatory will make the most precise, highest-resolution, and most complete, space-based measurements of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. 

What else can be done about rising carbon dioxide emissions?

It is clear from this report and from current carbon dioxide measurements, that in order to sustain our way of life on Earth, we need to hold companies accountable for their carbon emissions.  

And no matter where you live, you personally can work to reverse this rising carbon emissions trend by trying to be more "carbon neutral" at or near home.  Being "carbon neutral" means removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we put in.  How can we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere?  One way is to buy "carbon offsets".  This supports projects like wind farms, solar parks, planting trees, and the development of green technologies.  It helps make clean energy more affordable.  It reduces future greenhouse gas emissions to make up for our travel and electricity use today.

You can also reduce your carbon footprint by choosing to use less energy every day.  Traveling by walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation instead of driving a car will reduce your carbon footprint.  In the market for a new car?  Consider one that is more fuel efficient (added benefit -- spend less money at the gas pump!).  Turning off lights, televisions, computers, and radios when they are not in use is a great way to save energy.

As teachers you can also challenge your students to reduce their carbon footprint.  Who knows?  They may challenge their parents and grandparents to do the same!  A few minutes of teaching about these topics can make a big difference!

Finally, plant trees and plants (they act as carbon sinks).  Get your students and school involved!  Every Earth Day in April, the students in my classroom would spend their hour with me planting seeds and seedlings donated by local nurseries.  They felt good about the project and the school looked better too.  You'd be surprised how many seeds and seedlings 130 high school students can plant in one day!

Use this Carbon Calculator to figure out your carbon footprint.  Here's to a Carbon-Reduced New Year!

NASA, CASIS Make Space Station Accessible for Stem Cell Research

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) are enabling research aboard the International Space Station that could lead to new stem cell-based therapies for medical conditions faced on Earth and in space.  Scientists will take advantage of the space station's microgravity environment to study the properties of non-embryonic stem cells.

Stem cells are cells that have not yet become specialized in their functions.  They display a remarkable ability to give rise to a spectrum of cell types and play a primary role in tissue regeneration.  Experiments on Earth and in space have shown that microgravity induces changes in the way stem cells grow, divide and specialize.  Stem cell biology in microgravity could inform fields ranging from discovery science to tissue engineering to regenerative medicine.

NASA is interested in space-based cell research because it is seeking ways to combat the negative health effects astronauts face in microgravity, including bone loss and muscle atrophy.  Mitigation techniques are necessary to allow humans to push the boundaries of space exploration far into the solar system.  This knowledge could help people on Earth, particularly the elderly, who are afflicted with similar conditions.

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 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.

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!

NASA iPad Application Shows Earth Changing Before Your Eyes

Human activities, a changing climate and natural disasters are rapidly altering the face of our planet.  Now, with NASA's free Images of Change iPad application, users can get an interactive before-and-after view of these changes.

The app presents sets of images of places around the world that have changed dramatically.  Some of these locations have suffered a disaster, such as a fire or tsunami, or illustrate the effects of human activities, such as dam building or urban growth.  Others document impacts of climate change such as persistent drought and rapidly receding glaciers.

The Images of Change app makes NASA's climate change resources, images and interactive tools more accessible to citizens and decision makers.  Viewers can look at the images side-by-side or overlay them using a slider bar to travel from past to present.  Each image pair includes background information about what the viewer is seeing and its location on a map.

Climate Change - The Physical Science Basis + Educational Resources

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report entitled "Climate Change 2013 - The Physical Science Basis."  This report contains contributions from more than 800 authors from around the world, and includes chapters on sea level change, the carbon cycle, El Niño, the science of clouds, an evaluation of climate models, radiative forcing, and extensive coverage of both near- and long-term climate change projections.   If you’re interested, the IPCC has set up a website at which you can read the IPCC’s report, or you can read more about how this group of scientists worked together to assemble it.

With the release of this IPCC Report, the prominence of climate change in the news continues to grow.  Windows to the Universe is continuing to expand our resources in support of climate change education.  Visit our climate education in the classroom page for links to resources you can use in your classroom, and our climate change course page for resources you can easily use in support of your courses.

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!

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 56th 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 Issac Newton, Ben Franklin (1706-1790), astronomer Simon Marius (1573 - 1624) and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (born in 1942).

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, 2014

The first meteor shower of the New Year peaks on the night of January 3rd.  The new Moon will create ideal viewing conditions for those in the Northern hemisphere any time after sunset and before dawn.  Expect up to 80-100 meteors per hour!  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 2014, 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 much 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:

Join Us at the NSTA National Conference in Boston

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in Boston this spring (April 3-6, 2014)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.  We'd love to see you there!

Date Title Time Location
Friday, April 4 NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Oceans and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon 11:00-12:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Earth System Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: It's Elementary! Effective Approaches for Addressing the Earth Science Next Generation Science Standards in the Elementary Classroom 2:00-3:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
AGU Lecture / Title TBD 2:00-3:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 210 A/B
NESTA Session: Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom 3:30-4:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-8:00pm Seaport Hotel - Room Seaport C
Saturday, April 5 NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Space Science Share-a-Thon 8:00-9:00am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom 9:30-10:30am Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World 11:00-12:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lunchtime Lecture 12:30-1:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom 2:00-3:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Session: National Earth Science Teachers Association Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B
NESTA Annual Member Meeting 5:00-6:00pm Boston Convention Center and Exhibit Center - Room 052A/B

Table of Contents

Earth's Coldest Spot
Winter Weather Safe
Hubble Water
Carbon Neutral
Stem Cell ISS
What Causes Wind?
Interested Geology?
iPad App-Change
IPCC Climate+Ed Res
Dante's Peak Review
Science History
Radon Month
Q Meteor Shower
Earth Perihelion 1/4
NSTA in Boston

NOAA Education
Endangered Sp Cont
Natl Center Sci Ed
GEN Workshop Chicago
Robot Prize Compete
2014 Roy Award
REEL Sci Contest
Presidential Innovat
Student Des Challeng
EE Week 2014
PISA Scores Released
NSF Climate Change
Spot Space Station
Seismic Learning
Free Posters!
Train Like Astronaut
Sci News Students
Stop the Beetle!
Risks of Hazard Res













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Educator members of Windows to the Universe should log into the website and go to the Member Special Offers page for details about these opportunities. If you're not a member, join today and find out how to apply to these opportunities! Additional information for non-members is available at http://www.windows2universe.org/offers.html.

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.

Endangered Species Youth Art Contest (March 15) + Endangered Species Day (May 16)

President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28, 1973.  Our legislators understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation's living resources would become extinct.

What are some ways that you can help protect endangered species?  Celebrate Endangered Species Day on May 16, 2014, gain the public's attention by tweeting what the ESA has meant to you (#myESA), or celebrate endangered species by entering the Endangered Species Youth Art Contest (deadline of March 15, 2014).  Of course, preserving wildlife habitats and cleaning up the outdoors where you live goes a long way too!

The National Center for Science Education

The National Center for Science Education is a non-profit organization that defends the integrity of science education.  NCSE provides information and resources for schools, parents, and concerned citizens working to keep evolution and climate change in formal and informal education, educates the press and the public about the scientific and educational aspects of controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution and climate change, and supplies needed information and advice to defend good science education at local, state, and national levels.

NCSE is affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers Association.  NCSE itself is politically non-partisan and religiously neutral; its 5,000 members are scientists, teachers, clergy, and citizens with diverse religious and political views.  Visit NCSE on the web (with its bimonthly journal Reports of the NCSE at http://reports.ncse.com), or on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Galileo Educator Network Workshop in Chicago

The NASA Galileo Educator Network (GEN) is a program from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) and various other partners.  GEN helps classroom teachers with new and innovative ways to advance science learning with students, through the use of Galileo-inspired activities, NASA content, and astronomy teaching reflecting the Next Generation Science Standards.  In this workshop, teachers will align lessons to the new Next Generation Science Standards, investigate the Nature of Science, and learn how to use and create models while teaching astronomy content.

Here are some of the basics.  Contact Melanie Mudarth, GEN Fellow, at Mudarth@gmail.com for more information.

January 11 + 18

8:30 am-4 pm, Adler Planetarium, Chicago

Attendance is required on both dates.

$25 registration fee.  Fee covers a light breakfast and lunch for both sessions.

Teacher benefits

• 15 CPDUs
• 1 copy of The Universe at Your Finger Tips DVD
• Free astronomy swag
• Free admission to the Adler Planetarium
• Free parking
• Free movie with teacher ID
• Raffle prizes

This workshop is open to teachers and pre-service teachers for grades K-12.  Register here.

The Challenge is On: NASA-WPI 2014 Robot Prize Competition

In pursuit of new technological solutions for America's space program and our nation's future, NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are overseeing the $1.5 million 2014 Sample Return Robot prize competition.

Planned for June 2014 at WPI, industry and academic teams from across the nation will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrains without human controls.  Teams that meet all competition requirements will be eligible to compete for the NASA-funded $1.5 million prize.

"The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies that NASA could incorporate into future missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington.  "Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore an asteroid or Mars, and advance robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth."

Register a team for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge.  Regular registration is open until January 7, 2014.

2014 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching

AGI has announced details for the 2014 Edward C. Roy, Jr. Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching.  Each year, this award recognizes one full-time, U.S., K-8 teacher for leadership and innovation in Earth science education.

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 April 2014 to accept the award.  The National Earth Science Teachers Association will host the 2014 award ceremony at the NSTA Boston Conference.  To be eligible for the 2014 competition, applications must be postmarked by January 10, 2014.

This award is named in honor of Dr. Edward C. Roy, Jr., a past president of AGI, who was a strong and dedicated supporter of Earth science education.  To learn more, visit http://www.agiweb.org/education/awards/ed-roy or view a free, two-minute webcast that provides an overview of the competition.

Recyclemania Tournament for College Campuses

College students:  get your school to participate in a friendly, annual competition to see who can recycle the most on campus!  EPA's Wastewise is a co-sponsor.  Registration deadline is January 17.  Learn more at http://recyclemaniacs.org

NASA’s REEL Science Communication Contest

NASA’s REEL Science Communication Contest invites high school students to try their hand at producing video to help their counterparts in middle school better understand Earth science.

Open to all U.S. residents ages 13 to 18, the new contest asks for a two-minute video on one of the following science concepts:  how ice impacts climate and climate impacts ice; forest fire effects on air quality; or water on the water planet.

Entries are due February 21, 2014.  Winners will have their videos posted on the NASA web site, and will have the opportunity to be a NASA producer, working on a communication project with NASA scientists and communications experts during the month of July 2014.  Enter this contest online.

Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is currently accepting applications for the third annual Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.  The award recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers and their local education agencies nationwide for excellence in integrating environmental education into their lessons and demonstrating the connection between health and the environment for their students.

Successful applicants demonstrate creativity, innovation, community engagement and leadership as students learn more about civic responsibility and environmental stewardship.  Past winners have increased student participation in local watershed cleanup efforts, created school-wide recycling programs and implemented green land stewardship practices.  Winners went on to use their awards to bring high-tech science equipment into the classroom and expand the number of students on field trips and in labs.

Applicants have until February 28, 2014, to apply for the award under updated criteria released in November.  Up to twenty teachers nationwide will receive award plaques and a financial award of $2,000 to support their professional development in environmental education.  Each teacher’s school will also receive a $2,000 award to help fund environmental education activities and programs that support the teacher.  Winners will also be considered for the National Environmental Education Foundation’s Richard C. Bartlett award, which recognizes outstanding teachers who engage students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges.

Find out more information about the program and how to apply. 

Student Exploration Design Challenge -- Deadlines Extended!

NASA is extending deadlines for its Exploration Design Challenge, an educational program connected to Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) -- the first mission for NASA's new Orion spacecraft, scheduled to launch in September 2014 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The challenge invites students from kindergarten through 12th grade to research and design proposed solutions to help protect astronauts from space radiation during Orion's future long-duration deep space missions to an asteroid and Mars.  Participating students will analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding for human space travelers aboard the Orion spacecraft.  After participating in activities guided by their teachers, students will recommend materials that best block harmful radiation.  Older students can take the challenge a step further by designing a shield to protect a sensor inside Orion from space radiation.

The new deadline for older students to submit designs has been extended to February 28.  The deadline for all students to complete a radiation learning module and fly their names on EFT-1 now is June 30.

Coming Up - Environmental Education Week 2014

EE Week, sponsored by Samsung, is April 13-19, 2014.  EE Week 2014 will focus on Engineering a Sustainable World

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 new 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.

2012 PISA Scores Released

Results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, were released in December and are the focus of widespread media coverage.  Highlights:

  • In science, the United States' mean score (497) trailed the average (501) for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD);
  • The United States ranks twenty-seventh out of thirty-four OECD countries in math performance with a mean score of 481; and
  • In reading, the United States' mean score (498) was higher than the OECD average of 496.

Read the report.  Read the Education Week article "U.S. Achievement Stalls as Other Nations Make Gains."  Read the Washington Post article, "How Public Opinion about New PISA Test Scores is Being Manipulated" by Valerie Strauss.

NSF Offers Online Climate Change Resources

For Earth science teachers and students searching for the latest, most up-to-date information on climate change, the National Science Foundation (NSF) now offers a useful web site.

“Our planet’s climate affects - and is affected by - the sky, land, ice, sea, life, and people found on it.  To understand the entire story of climate change,” according to the site, “we must study all of the natural and human systems that contribute to and interact with Earth’s climate system.”

Use the NSF Climate Change site to read an NSF report summarizing the current state of knowledge about climate change, as well as resources dealing with related news, discoveries, statistics, and publications.

Spot the Space Station over Your Backyard with NASA Service

For over 13 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

SSA Resources Produce Seismic Shift in Learning

Want to shake up education?  Start with the Seismological Society of America (SSA), the international scientific association devoted to advancing seismology and the understanding of earthquakes for the benefit of society (including imaging Earth’s structure and mitigating earthquake hazards).

SSA, an AGI member society, offers a number of links to educational web sites, including geoscience activities related to seismic science and earthquakes.  Sponsored by Purdue University, the site features seismic eruption models, wave animations, plate tectonics simulations, information on tsunamis, and much more.

SSA also offers publications, information on seismology careers, a distinguished lecturer series, and an electronic encyclopedia of earthquakes.  Learn more about SSA online.

Free Life of the Forest Posters

Learn about tree rings, seeds, leaves, bark, and needles, and learn how trees eat, drink, and breathe using these colorful posters from the International Paper Learning Center.  Each 16 x 20 inch poster features photos and facts about the topic (e.g., did you know that “happy” trees produce evenly spaced tree rings?) and includes an accompanying handout.  K-6 teachers can order a free poster set or download them directly from the web.

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?  What is the oldest galaxy ever found?  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.

USDA Stop the Beetle Web Site

We recently created a 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.

Navigating the Risks of Hazard Research

When individuals die in a natural disaster or property damage from a natural disaster is costly, can anyone be blamed?  After the 2012 conviction of six Italian geoscientists on manslaughter charges related to communication prior to the L'Aquila earthquake in 2009, scientists worldwide are keen to understand the risks of their hazards research.

From the meaning of liability, defined on an international spectrum, to the legal lessons learned from climate scientists, EARTH Magazine investigates the complicated and often nuanced risks scientists face in hazard research.  Read the entire feature story.

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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.