February 2009

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Promising Times!

There is much excitement here about the outlook for science, and science education, with the beginning of the administration of our new President, Barack Obama. In nearly every speech, President Obama regularly stresses the importance of science and education, not only for our country, but for the world. In these difficult times, it's great to have the chance to look forward with hope to a future in which we will "restore science to its rightful place" and "transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age", as he said in his inaugural speech on 20 January 2009.

As you read our newsletter this month, you'll see that we have lots of activities planned at the NSTA meeting in New Orleans, as do many of our education partners. I hope we get to see you there. I'm excited that our Windows to the Universe Facebook group is growing, now with 23 members from across the country. I hope more of you join soon, so we can get some good discussions going about helping to improve geoscience education - sharing ideas, and getting to know colleagues from around the world.

There are a number of time critical opportunities I'd like to bring to your attention. The National Earth Science Teachers Association is running an all-day field trip on Wednesday, March 18, in New Orleans to tour the Katrina devastation area and Lake Pontchartrain. If you would like to participate in the field trip, please go to http://www.nestanet.org/php/conferences.php to find out more about the trip and register (deadline March 6 - prices are $50 for members and $65 for non-members, which includes a 1-year membership in NESTA). NESTA is also offering a ticketed sit-down breakfast with a speaker on Saturday, 21 March. The speaker will be Dr. Pamela Blanchard (Louisiana State University), who will speak on the LSU Coastal Roots program. Tickets are available at http://www.nestanet.org/php/breakfast_march_09_reg.php. Also, you have 4 days left to apply to the Consortium for Ocean Leadership's 'School of Rock', so apply soon! Finally, the deadline is fast approaching (February 15) to sign up for a fantastic trip to Iceland with fellow teachers.

Make Your Field Trip More Meaningful

Many teachers take their classes on field trips in late winter and spring. What a wonderful idea! As a teacher, I faced the challenge of making those outings meaningful.

Use our Snapshot Exercise to have your students write about a select moment of a given field trip. We have a simple page for elementary school students where they can write down as many words as they can think of that have to do with what they see, hear, smell and touch. For middle-high school students, we have a large list of sensory adjectives that would be helpful in writing their snapshot!

This activity makes your field trip or outing more meaningful and gets your students communicating about science.

Poles in Space - Saturn and its Moons

As part of the ongoing development of our new "Poles in Space" section, we've added several pages, a bunch of great images, and a short video about the poles of Saturn and its moons. Check out the strange hexagon in the clouds at Saturn's North Pole and the vast swirling polar vortex at the ringed planet's South Pole. Did you know that Earth isn't the only planet with Northern (or Southern) Lights (the aurora)? Yep, Saturn has 'em too!

The poles of two of Saturn's moons, Titan and Enceladus, are also featured. Ongoing observations by the Cassini spacecraft have revealed numerous lakes, filled with liquid methane and ethane, at Titan's poles. Scientists have also spotted clouds over both of the large moon's polar regions. Enceladus, a medium-sized, icy moon of Saturn, has a lot going on near its South Pole. Several huge "tiger stripe" cracks extend for more than 100 km. Counterintuitively, the South Pole is by far the warmest place on this frozen moon; and cold geysers fling ice crystals hundreds of kilometers into the sky above the moon's southern pole. Some of that ice even leaves Enceladus entirely and finds its way into Saturn's rings! A short video (~3 minutes) from NASA describes the discovery of ice geysers on Enceladus. Check it out!

Tackling the Global Warming Challenge

Earth’s climate is warming quickly and human activities are mostly to blame. By releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we have amplified Earth’s greenhouse effect, causing more warming. Global warming impacts our planet in many ways from sea level rise to intense storms to the extinction of species.

What can we do to maintain a habitable planet? Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere and slowing the rate of global warming is a good place to start. Technologies that produce energy without fossil fuels can make a big difference. Many companies, governments, and families have decided to become "carbon neutral". Smaller changes like driving less can make a big difference too.

Get your students thinking about their impact on the planet and how they can make a positive impact on the planet as they tackle the global warming challenge.

Darwin's Anniversary

The 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth is on February 12th. Darwin's radical ideas caused a scientific revolution and laid the foundations for the modern science of biology. He described his theory of evolution and natural selection in the book On the Origin of Species. Its 150th anniversary is coming up in November. These two events are being celebrated by events and publications around the world. Check this site for events near you.

To explore the theory of evolution on Windows to the Universe, start with the Evidence of Evolution Exploratour. The popular Adaptation Investigation classroom activity explores adaptation of bird beaks. Also check out NSF news releases: Details of Evolutionary Transition from Fish to Land Animals Revealed, How Many Species Have There Been on Earth?, The Mystery of Mass Extinction is No Longer Murky.

Join Us at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans!

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans this spring (March 19-22, 2009)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.

Time Location
Thursday, March 19
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future
8:00-9:00 am New Orleans Marriott, Mardi Gras E
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games to Explore the Delicate Balance 9:30-10:30 am Morial Convention Center, Room 357
Changing Climate, Changing World 2:00-3:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 357
Friday, March 20 Interactive Simulations and Hands-On Activities Across the Earth and Space Sciences 8:00-9:00 am Sheraton New Orleans, Bayside C
Magnetism Activities, Space Weather, and Geomagnetism 2:00-3:00 pm Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon C2
Saturday, March 21 Cut It, Stab It, Slice It, Dice It: Using the Potato in the Science Classroom 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Oak Alley
Cloudy Day Hands-On and Online Classroom Adventures Bridging Fundamental Basic Weather Science to Literacy, Arts, and ELL 5:00-6:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 356
Sunday, March 22
Water, Air, Land, Life, and Space! (WALLS!)
11:00 am - 12:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 226

Penguin Postcards

For those of you that need your penguin fix, check out the news from Jean Pennycook, our favorite Adelie Penguin correspondent! Her postcards for this year's Antarctic Field season are available in our Postcards section right here.

Inquiring Minds

I am neither a teacher nor a scientist; I am a well trained linguist and science translator who has come to love science in every way. Under the leadership of scientist Dr. Roberta Johnson, UCAR’s wonderful Education and Outreach team, and through the translation of each and every page contained in Ventanas al Universo, I have developed an inquiring mind that urges me to get out and connect with nature and learn through exploration, creativity, possibility, discovery, excitement, motivation, participation, and anticipation!

I have learned that science is the gathering of information about the world around us through observation, study, and experimentation. Windows to the Universe has really made learning about science a rich, easy, and exciting learning experience for me, my family, and friends! What an incredible science resource!

By aiding our team in workshops and presentations, I have come to understand that often times a teacher’s dilemma is that they don't have the materials they need to provide a first class science program. Windows to the Universe is a free resource with vast content covering Earth Science and Space Science in both in English and Español. And the science content is integrated with the Art and Mythology sections providing teachers, parents, and learners from around the world all they need. So much to learn about!

I hope that our team and program help you make your life better and your classroom competitive so that you can take your students from small talk to intelligent discussions, transforming their low level questioning and understanding of the world around us to a higher level of thinking and understanding!

Table of Contents

Field Trip Help
Poles on Saturn
Global Warming
Darwin's Anniversary
Penguin Postcards
Inquiring Minds

Bad Astronomy

Free IPY Posters
NSTA Partner Events
Iceland Trip











Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

The International Year of Astronomy

A fellow teacher has asked us to remind our readers that the International Year of Astronomy has begun. This effort will be the largest network ever for sharing the wonders of the Universe with the public. Much new information and even educational resources are available on the IYA web site.

The Myth of Nibiru and the End of the World

My students are already aware of the calamity alleged to be visited upon us in 2012 which will result in the end of our planet and of course, us along with it. I have been asked by my 8th grade students on numerous occasions if this catastrophe will actually occur and it is probable that many science teachers have or will be asked the same dire question.

For those not aware of this rapidly spreading rumor, a rogue planet which goes by the name Nibiru was discovered by the Mayans. According to the story Nibiru has an orbital period of 3,600 years and is fast approaching our inner Solar System and subsequently will destroy our planet as it whips around the sun in December 2012!

Educators need to be aware that the internet is alive with hundreds of websites feeding this Bad Astronomy to our students and that many take it quite seriously! I try to put their fears to rest with some Good Astonomy- if the Solar System is 4.6 Billion years old and all the planets formed at the same time,then Nibiru has swung around the Sun about 1.3 million times. Then surely it would have done in our planet on one of its previous visits!

There are many websites such as the Skeptical Inquirer that are working hard to debunk this nonsense. Another good website for astronomical facts is www.badastronomy.com
Kind Regards,
Nicholas, Middle School Teacher

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

Free Downloadable Posters for the International Polar Year

UNEP/GRID-Arendal, with financial support from the Research Council of Norway (Forskningsrådet), has released a set of five free downloadable educational posters for the International Polar Year (IPY), aimed at high school students. This project supports the education, outreach, and communications efforts of IPY, which runs from March 2007 until March 2009.

The posters create awareness of IPY and its research activities by addressing the question: “Why, and how, are the polar regions and polar research important to all people on Earth?” These posters present and illustrate a broad sample of polar issues and facts and act as a “textbook” for your wall.

There are five posters, with high-school age students as the main target group. Each poster stands on its own, but is recognizable as part of the series through the common design and elements. All the posters include illustrations and text highlighting the human dimension of the poster theme - showing how people are affected by polar science and issues and why they should care. The poster titles are:
- The Polar Regions
- Climate Change and the Poles
- Polar People
- Research in the Polar Regions
- Biodiversity and the Poles

The posters are available for download in high resolution and accessible formats, in English and Norwegian texts, and are free to use.

Additional Sessions and Events Being Offered at NSTA in New Orleans

In addition to the Windows to the Universe sessions being offered at the NSTA National Conference in New Orleans this spring, the following sessions and events are being offered by our partners. We hope to see you there!

Other UCAR Education and Outreach Sessions

Time Location
Friday, March 20
Informal Science Day Session: Content on the Go - Science Education Podcasting
8:00-9:00 am New Orleans Marriott, Carondelet - Group 3
The Science, the Solutions: Addressing the Climate Conundrum 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon C2
In a New Light: The Color of Weather and Climate 12:30-1:30 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 239
Informal Science Day Session: Share-a-thon 4:00-6:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Carondelet

NESTA NSTA Sessions and Events

Time Location
Wednesday, March 18 NESTA Field Trip 8:30 am - 5:00 pm Katrina Devastation Tour and Lake Pontchartrain
Friday, March 20 NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Oceans and Atmospheres Share-a-Thon 11:00 am - 12:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Friends of Earth Science Reception 6:30-8:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, La Galerie 6
Saturday, March 21
NESTA Earth and Space Science Resource Day Breakfast - Dr. Pamela Blanchard, The LSU Coastal Roots Program
7:00-8:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bacchus Room
NESTA Natural Hazards and the Environment Share-a-Thon
9:30-10:30 am New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Environmental Issues Associated with Katrina - Dr. Bob Thomas, Loyola University of New Orleans 11:00 am - 12:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Coastal Louisiana in a World of Global Change - Dr. Torbjorn E. Tornqvist, Tulane University 12:30-1:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
Geologic Processes of Coastal Louisiana & the Impacts of Hurricanes: Can New Orleans Survive? - Dr. Randolph Mcbride, George Mason University 2:00-3:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet
NESTA Annual Membership Meeting 4:30-6:00 pm New Orleans Marriott, Bissonet

American Geophysical Union Lecture

Time Location
Friday, March 20

The Grand Isle Project - Using Service Learning to Generate Genuine Scientific Experiences for Students While Serving Society
Dr. Sadredin C. Moosavi, Tulane University

2:00-3:00 pm Morial Convention Center, Room 244/245

Archeoastronomy Resource

Visit the site With the Sun, the Moon and the Stars to learn more about Archeoastronomy. The information is available in both Spanish and English.

Exploring the Geological Wonders of Iceland

Iceland is an island of contrasts, a land of glaciers, erupting volcanoes and the midnight sun. Geology and its northerly latitude combine to shape Iceland’s culture. The sun shines round-the-clock in the summer months and under it Vikings created ancient seafaring history. Experience the natural contrasts during this 10-day excursion as you explore glaciers, icebergs, volcanoes and hot springs. Don't miss this opportunity to travel from June 13-22 with other teachers to this fascinating destination! Deadline has been extended to February 15, 2009. See this brochure for more details!

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