February 2010

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Happy Fifteenth Birthday!

February is special for the Windows to the Universe group as it marks the anniversary of the beginning of our project. This year is very special, as it is the 15th birthday of the project! Maybe this is a nice opportunity for a little history on the project.

Windows to the Universe was started with a successful proposal that I submitted while at the University of Michigan to the NASA "Public Uses of Remote Sensing Data Bases Program" back in 1994 (the original proposal is available here if you are interested - note that the proposal mentioned "Mosaic", which was the dominant browser around at the time!). That proposal was lucky enough to be selected, from the ~300 proposals submitted, and moved forward with another ~15 projects to develop a range of different web-based programs sharing information about the Earth and space sciences with the public. We started up the project in February of 1995 - and here we are, 15 years later, in February 2010! In 2000, the project moved with me from the University of Michigan to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research here in Boulder, Colorado.

Who would have thought (certainly not I) that from these beginnings we would have built one of the most popular Earth and space science education websites in the world? At present, we have ~1.7 million visits per month from people from all around the world. Back at the beginning of the project, I recall that I used to measure our audience in University of Michigan Stadium equivalents - since the stadium holds ~100K people. I remember with pleasure the time when we got to one Michigan Stadium per month back in 1999. I'm amazed that we now have ~17 Michigan Stadium's worth of visitors per month!

Well, enough history. As we move forward, I hope new opportunities arise to improve our services to our users, in partnership with the geoscience community - including the ability to expand and better maintain our content, to update our interface, to translate to new languages, and to offer new products and services.

As we all know too well, Haiti is still in the throws of recovering from its recent terrible earthquake. We provide information below about the earthquake, with the hope that this may help you share this difficult subject with your students. In the meantime, I send my best wishes to the people of Haiti, and am so happy to see the world working together to provide relief!

New Sun and Wind Videos

We've added some new videos to the web site. Two of these short movies are from the Little Shop of Physics. One describes the creation of the Beaufort Scale of wind speeds by Sir Francis Beaufort in 1806. The second shows a demonstration of swirling fluid flows in a rotating water tank, illustrating how the Coriolis Effect influences the global circulation of the atmosphere and oceans.

The other pair of videos illustrates aspects of the Sun and its magnetic field. The first takes us on an imaginary flight beneath a sunspot, showing how looping magnetic fields give rise to solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The second portrays the way the Sun's magnetic field becomes a tangled mess over the course of an 11-year sunspot cycle, generating sunspots and solar storms in the process.

Earthquake Education Resources

A major earthquake causing widespread devastation and extensive loss of life struck the nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010. Our thoughts go out to all those affected by the earthquake, and also to those who are working so hard to help the victims.

The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale. Haiti is on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. Hispaniola lies along the boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates and there are several geologic faults running through the region. The earthquake occurred in an area called the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone.

Hazards like earthquakes are a natural part of Earth's processes. Learning more about how and why they happen, especially after such an event, can be a helpful way to connect students with our planet. And it is, of course, a reminder that the human experience and natural sciences are, perhaps, not so far apart.

The IRIS web site has excellent resources for teachers related to earthquakes, including a Powerpoint presentation for use with middle school, high school, or college students. You can also turn to Windows to the Universe to learn more about earthquakes, including where earthquakes occur and why they happen. And for a hands-on plate tectonics experience, try the Snack Tectonics activity with your classes. In this activity, students make tasty models of plate tectonic motions and then eat the evidence!

Celebrate Black History Month!

February is Black History Month. Celebrate these important people and their culture in your science classroom by taking time to do the Earth Scientist Project with your students. This is a research, writing and presentation activity where students learn about scientists. It's also a great activity to use in encouraging teamwork. Here are some scientists you might want to focus on to celebrate Black History Month:

Evan B. Forde is an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Florida. He has been an oceanographer since 1973, and was the first black oceanographer to participate in research dives aboard the submersibles ALVIN, JOHNSON SEA LINK, and NEKTON GAMMA. His current research is aimed at understanding how hurricanes form and intensify, and he is also working extensively in science education.

Wangari Maathai is a Kenyan environmental activist, and the founder of the Green Belt Movement, an organization that promotes environmental conservation and community development. In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement works to organize poor rural women and promote the planting of new trees to fight deforestation and stop soil erosion. Dr. Maathai was the first East African woman to earn a PhD in 1971, and for her efforts to protect the environment and the poor of Africa she was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

Warren Washington is a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where he is currently the head of the Climate Change Research Section. He has been a climate scientist for nearly 50 years, and has served as a key advisor to many different government agencies. From 2002-2006 Dr. Washington served as the Chairman of the National Science Board, which helps to oversee the National Science Foundation and advises the President and Congress on scientific matters. He has won many awards and honors over the course of his career, and is a nationally recognized expert on climate change.

Birthdays in February

Windows to the Universe is celebrating its 15th birthday this month (see Roberta's corner). We share this birthday month with many prominent scientists.

  • February 8 - Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) - a Russian chemist who created the first version of the periodic table of elements.
  • February 11 - Thomas Edison (1847-1931), a famous American inventor who patented over a thousand inventions, including the light bulb, phonograph and a motion picture machine.
  • February 12 - Charles Darwin (1809-1882), English naturalist whose book On the Origin of Species laid the basis of modern evolutionary theory.
  • February 15 - Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), an Italian physicist, astronomer and philosopher who was called "the father of modern science" by Albert Einstein.
  • February 19 - Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) - a Polish astronomer and mathematician who introduced the heliocentric model of the universe.
  • February 25 - Maria Kirch (1670-1720), a German astronomer who discovered the comet of 1702.
  • February 28 - Linus Pauling (1901-1994) - an American chemist who was awarded a Nobel prize in chemistry for his work in biochemistry and a Nobel peace prize for his efforts to stop nuclear weapons testing.

Translating Science

When I started my career as a Science Translator/Interpreter, I was excited about all that I would learn about science. I was right in thinking that I would learn a lot, but I also thought that communicating science was just a matter of translation--on that, I was wrong!

Although translating potentially difficult terminology is a key part of communicating science, I have learned that there are other parts that are just as important. One of these is making science tangible, so that students (or anyone else learning about science) can relate to it directly. Another is the importance of reaching out to students on their own level, and this is what Education and Public Outreach programs are all about--trying to bring science to people in a way that lets them understand it and see how it affects their lives.

Over the course of my career with Windows to the Universe, I have translated websites, newsletters, scientific papers, posters, and many other things, and along the way I have become literate in science and technology (thanks to the W2U team of professionals!). I am now able to connect with a wide range of people and help them understand nature and science in their native language, and this is an incredibly rewarding experience.

What am I working on right now? Lately I've been focused on translating pages in the Eureka! NSF Science Research Portal and CMMAP - Studying Clouds and Climate section.

Join Us at the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in Philadelphia this spring (March 18-21, 2010)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.

Time Location
Thursday, March 18
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games to Explore the Delicate Balance
8:00-9:00 am Sheraton City Center Hotel, Freedom G
Point, Game, Set, Match: Science Wins With Tennis Ball Containers 9:30-10:30 am Convention Center, Hall D, Room 29
Magnetism Activities, Earth's Magnetism, and Space Weather from Windows to the Universe 3:30-4:30 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Freedom G
Cut It, Stab It, Slice It, Dice It: Using the Potato in the Science Classroom 3:30-4:30 pm Convention Center, Hall D, Room 6
Friday, March 19 NESTA Geology Share-a-thon 9:30-10:30 am Sheraton City Center Hotel, Liberty A/B
NESTA Oceans and Atmospheres Share-a-thon 11:00-12:00 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Liberty A/B
NESTA Space Share-a-thon 12:30-1:30 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Liberty A/B
Activities from Across the Earth System 2:00-3:00 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Philadelphia North
Simulations and Interactive Multimedia Across the Earth Sciences from Windows to the Universe 5:00-6:00pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Freedom F
Saturday, March 20 Tackling the Global Warming Challenge 8:00-9:00 am Sheraton City Center Hotel, Philadelphia South
NESTA Earth System and Environmental Science Share-a-thon 9:30-10:30 am Sheraton City Center Hotel, Liberty A/B
Cloudy Day Activities Bridging Cloud Science, Literacy, and Art 9:30-10:30 am Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, Independence A
Getting Students Involved in Climate Change Research with Project BudBurst 2:00-3:00 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Philadelphia South
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future
5:00-6:00 pm Sheraton City Center Hotel, Liberty C

Table of Contents

Videos: Sun and Wind
Black History Month
FEB Birthdays
Translation Update
NSTA in Philadelphia


TWB - Haiti
2010 ES Award
Natl HS Challenge
IPY Summer Institute
Pick Pixels on Mars!
Summer of Innovation
Env Research Contest
Be a Martian!











Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

Teachers Without Borders - Haiti Earthquake Resources

On January 12th, a massive earthquake struck Haiti a mere fifteen miles from the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The Haitian Red Cross estimates between 45,000 and 50,000 people have died as a result of the earthquake with 3 million left hurt or homeless. Haiti, already the poorest nation in the western hemisphere before the earthquake, has experienced a disaster that can only be described as catastrophic.

Teachers Without Borders believes that teachers are leaders in their classrooms, schools and communities. Haitian teachers, as leaders in their own local communities, now need immense support from the global teaching community. How can you help?

Teachers Without Borders has collected many Haiti Earthquake Resources including Earthquake Science Lessons, the science behind the earthquake and information on organizations working on relief efforts. For a very real and specific way to help, TWB is looking for French translators and proofreaders to help make the Earthquake Education curriculum available to Haitian school communities. Please fill out this brief survey if you are interested in volunteering for this opportunity.

AGI Accepting Applications for 2010 Award for Excellence in Earth Science Teaching

The AGI is accepting applications for the 2010 Edward C. Roy Award for Excellence in K-8 Earth Science Teaching, which recognizes leadership and innovation in earth science education. The winner receives a prize of $2,500, as well as an additional grant of $1,000 to enable him/her to attend the 2010 National Science Teachers Association Annual Conference. For more information, and to apply or nominate someone, please see the award website. To be eligible for the 2010 competition, applications must be postmarked by February 1, 2010.

Announcing the 2010 Classroom Earth National High School Challenge

Apply now for the 2010 National High School Challenge, a program encouraging teachers to incorporate environmental education into all subject areas through innovative teaching strategies. Teachers from around the nation can receive up to $4,000 to make their ideas become reality.

Teachers from all subject areas should apply, and the deadline is Monday, February 22, 2010.

Classroom Earth’s mission is to increase the ability of high school teachers to integrate environmental education into curricula so that students are prepared to be a part of environmental solutions.

For details and to apply go to: http://classroomearth.org/challenge/2010

IPY STEM Polar Connections

The University of Massachusetts IPY Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Polar Connections program is designed to promote the teaching of science concepts and processes related to the polar regions. It includes a one-week summer institute (July 12-16, 2010) hosted at UMass Amherst as well as regular online discussion forums, and features a variety of proven techniques for effective teaching. For more information, and to apply, please visit the program's website. Applications are due by April 1, 2010

Public Invited to Pick Pixels on Mars

NASA announced recently that the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will soon be taking requests from the public. The camera, which has already recorded nearly 13,000 images of the Martian terrain, will be targeting new locations on Mars based on suggestions from the public, which can be submitted using NASA's new "HiWish" tool online. Visitors to the site will be asked to suggest locations to be photographed, to explain the scientific benefit of imaging each site, and to title each observation. More information and the HiWish tool can be found at the project website.

Summer of Innovation Will Bring Students the Universe

In support of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign for excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, NASA recently announced that this year they will launch the "Summer of Innovation" program, which will work with thousands of middle school teachers and students to stimulate math and science education. The 2010 program will be a pilot program, and NASA will use their considerable educational assets to bolster existing, evidence-based summer learning programs at the state level. Up to seven states will be selected for the 36 month-long pilot program, and more information can be found at http://nspires.nasaprs.com.

Environmental Research Contest for Grades 9-12

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) is sponsoring the 2010 Thacher Environmental Research Contest for students in grades 9-12. Cash prizes will be given to entries that demonstrate the best use of satellites and other geospatial technologies or data to study Earth's evolving environment. Both individuals and teams are eligible to enter, and entries must be postmarked by April 5, 2010. For more information, please see the contest website.

A Perfect Time to Join NESTA!

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!

NASA and Microsoft Work Together to Bring Mars to Earth

NASA and Microsoft Corp have collaborated to create a web site where members of the public can become citizen scientists and help analyze data from studies of Mars. The "Be a Martian" site will allow users to explore the details of the Martian landscape, help NASA scientists analyze survey data, and ultimately assist in producing better maps of the Red Planet's surface. The site also provides a virtual forum where users can ask questions and propose topics for online talks by Mars experts that will be given via the site. To learn more, and begin exploring, visit http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Newsletter archive
Log in to visit our members' area, change your registration information or newsletter options.

The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © The Regents of the University of Michigan. Windows to the Universe® is a registered trademark of UCAR. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer