February 2012

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Thoughts on This American Life: Kid Politics
by Roberta

Some of you may have recently heard the rebroadcast of the This American Life: Kid Politics interview I had with Ira Glass and Erin Gustafson last January, regarding climate change.  I have some thoughts about that interview - the discussion itself, the outcome, and thoughts thereafter that may be valuable to some of you, so thought I'd share them.

Some background - Ira met Erin at a Glenn Beck rally in the fall of 2010 in D.C.  She seemed like a lovely young lady (14 at the time), well-spoken, and intelligent, and in the course of their conversation, it became apparent that Erin thought that global warming was a hoax, and that the scientists involved in promoting that view were all on the make.  Some time later, Ira and his staff came up the idea for a show to look at the question of asking young people to make adult decisions, and they thought climate change might be an example of that. 

The hour-long show includes two other parts.  For my part of the interview, I was located here in Boulder, Ira was in New York, and Erin was in a studio in rural Virginia.  We spoke together for 1.5 hrs total, and only something like 10 minutes of that was spliced together, with narration (of course) to put together a story.  Although I must say I didn't really realize what I was getting into when I blithely said "yes", when asked if I would be willing to talk with a 14-yr old climate skeptic (not realizing it was for radio ), I am very happy that I did the interview.  It was a very good experience, I think I learned a lot from it, and has led to interesting post-interview contacts, discussions, and extended thinking about it on my part.  I will share some of those thoughts with you, below. 

Before I do, though, I want to comment on one perspective that seems to be driven by the way the interview was presented in the 10 minute segment.  It appears, in the shortened version broadcast, that Erin did not change her mind as a result of the conversation.  That is not actually what happened.  When we started the interview, Erin stated that she did not believe that the climate was changing, and that furthermore,  she felt that the scientists promoting that view were making it up after receiving research money, i.e., they weren't credible.  1.5 hours later, her position had changed to "well, maybe climate is changing, but I'm not sure why", and "I want to learn about both sides".  From my perspective, that felt like a significant achievement - and maybe all that could be expected from a 1.5 hour long conversation. 

Also, Ira started off the interview with the statement, "Dr. Johnson, this is your chance to try to convince Erin that climate change is real."  My response to both was something like - "Hold on, let me be clear, it is not the responsibility of a science teacher to "convince" a student of anything - their job is to prepare students with an understanding of science concepts and process skills, so that they can use these to analyze observations and make science-based conclusions using this toolset".  Throughout the interview, I repeatedly mentioned that this is not about belief, but about observations and science, and I was happy that one of those statements made it into the broadcast. 

Now, onto some post-interview thoughts I've had.  I really enjoyed talking with Erin - she seemed like a lovely person - and she must be brave, to take on such a project.  She is clearly a good student, too, and has a loving family.  Several of the points she made in the interview showed that she doesn't understand some climate change concepts and probably some important aspects of Earth science in general - but she has made the effort to do independent research.  At one point in the interview, she said she wanted to see data from "both sides".  I replied that there is an enormous amount of data that I'd be happy to point her to (which I did) online, and that she could look at the data herself - that the data were from authoritative web sites from places like NOAA, NASA, and NSF (and of course, I mentioned http://www.skepticalscience.com and Windows to the Universe).  I also replied that there really isn't anything like a comparable amount of data on the "other" side, but that there are a lot of other websites, which are more focused on opinions, that include those views.  It was clear, though, that for her, NOAA, NASA, and NSF are not authoritative, that she views them with suspicion.

This experience brought into clear focus the importance of "frames", and also really got me thinking about trust.  As a scientist myself, and living in a world of scientists, I know that the lion's share of those working in this area are good, honorable, honest, and hardworking people - looking for what the scientific evidence is telling them, and not slanting that to try to get research funding.  The very large majority of these folks would never think of making stuff up, not only because it is clearly wrong to do so, but because they would get caught through review, and their careers would be ruined.  I know this - but it occurred to me, after speaking to Erin - that perhaps she doesn't (although I did mention it to Erin).  I don't know, but it may well be that she does not know any scientists - in fact, there may not even be any of them in her community.  Or maybe there are, but perhaps they do not share much about their work in their community.

That then led to thoughts about the importance of scientists being engaged in their communities.  We all know about how scientists are being encouraged to be involved with education and outreach, and there has been a similar focus about getting scientists prepared to talk with the media, and to public groups.  My point is a little different.  My sense is that, perhaps out of frustration or understandable exhaustion, many scientists have tired from sharing what they do with their neighbors and in their social groups.  Perhaps they think that people won't understand, or that they won't be interested.  But if we don't share what we do, in a way that is understandable and interesting, how will our neighbors, friends, and communities learn about our science from people they trust? I fear that, by being reticent to share our science, we may have inadvertently set ourselves up to be easily classed as "the other" - someone that exists outside of the frame of "regular people" - someone too easy to not trust.

Let me briefly mention the importance of thinking carefully about and building on common values when you are reaching out with this content to different groups.  Also, recognize the value of having a trusted third party in the conversation (Ira Glass in this case), and the value of patience and respect in our discourse.  In fact, that's probably what made this interview so enjoyable.

Finally, you might be interested in a blog that erupted shortly after the interview - http://www.sindark.com/2011/01/20/roberta-johnson-and-erin-gustafson/ - the discussion there (which I weighed in on a couple of times) is pretty interesting, and sometimes scary.

Hope all is going well for you in your new semester!

Celebrate Black History Month!
by Jennifer

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.

Matthew Henson - Polar Explorer
by Jennifer

Matthew Henson was a polar explorer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was one of five men (the other four were Inuit) who accompanied the famous American polar explorer Robert E. Peary in 1909 on the final stage of an expedition in which Peary (controversially) claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole. Henson, an African-American, spent 20 years making journeys in the Far North, and was highly respected by the Inuit for his command of their language and his sled dog driving skills. Peary once remarked that Henson "was more of an Eskimo than some of them."

Global Map of Ocean Salinity
by Jennifer

The new Aquarius instrument, launched as part of an earth-orbiting satellite on June 10, produced its first global map of the salinity of the ocean surface.  Surface salinity is the last of the major ocean surface quantities to be measured globally from space and provides scientists with a new tool to explore the connections between global rainfall, ocean currents and climate changes. Aquarius is now producing continuous observations of the global oceans in unprecedented detail, including extensive low-salinity regions associated with the outflow of major rivers.

Carnival Around the World
by Julia

February 21st marks the end of Carnival, which is a celebration that occurs annually in many countries around the world, particularly those with a history and culture in which Catholicism plays a major role.  Carnival occurs just before the start of Lent, and is traditionally a time in which people feast and embrace one last time the things they will be giving up during the season of Lent.

Some historians think that the first carnival celebrations predate Christianity itself, and occurred over five thousand years ago in ancient Sumer and Egypt.  Some believe that the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia (a festival devoted to the Roman god Saturn) and Bacchanalia and other pagan celebrations of spring may have been absorbed into the Carnival.

Some of the best-known carnival traditions date back to medieval Italy, spread to the rest of Catholic Europe, and were brought to America during the Spanish conquest. The best-known carnivals, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors, happen in Venice, Italy, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and New Orleans, Louisiana (Mardi Gras).

9/10 of the Warmest Years on Record Have Occurred Since 2000
by Jennifer

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.  Scientists expect this trend to continue for at least a few more years, since atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are also at historic highs, solar activity is on the upswing, and the next El Nino will increase tropical Pacific temperatures.  To read more about how scientists combined temperature data from more than 1,000 locations around the world to analyze global temperature change, visit the project's website (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp).

Are Polar Bears on Thin Ice as the Earth Warms?
by Jennifer

Polar bears peer through cracks in the Arctic sea ice to look for ringed seals, their favorite food, in the waters below. Almost all of a polar bear's food comes from the sea and the floating sea ice is a perfect vantage point for the bears as they look for food. However, the amount of sea ice floating in the Arctic region is shrinking each year. The ice is melting as the Earth is warming. Within the next few decades, there may be no more sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during the summer. What will this mean for the polar bears? Click here to learn more about how one of the Arctic's most well known species is responding to climate change.

GRAIL Lunar Science Mission is Underway!
by Jennifer

As part of the GRAIL mission, twin spacecraft will map the Moon's gravitational field to better understand what lies beneath the lunar surface.  The GRAIL spacecraft that achieved orbit around the moon New Year's Eve and New Year's Day actually have new names, thanks to elementary students in Bozeman, MT.  Their winning entry, Ebb and Flow, was selected as part of a nationwide school contest that began in October 2011.

To read more about this project, visit the project website (http://www.nasa.gov/grail).

Earthquake Education Resources
by Jennifer

Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred on January 12, 2010.  It's hard to believe it's been over two years since that heartbreaking disaster.  Earthquakes in New Zealand struck in February 2011, bringing devastation to Christchurch and surrounding areas.  Japan is still dealing with repercussions from earthquakes that struck March 9-11, 2011.

More recently, an earthquake with magnitude 7.3 struck off the coast of Sumatra - luckily it brought very little damage.

Hazards like earthquakes are a natural part of Earth's processes. Learning more about how and why they happen, especially around the time of these earthquake anniversaries, can be a helpful way to connect students with our planet. And it is 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 PowerPoint presentations intended 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!

NESTA and Windows to the Universe Sessions at NSTA in Indianapolis
by Jennifer

We are happy to announce our events for the NSTA in Indianapolis this coming March. If you plan to be at the NSTA conference, please join us at the following sessions:


Date Title Time Location

Wednesday, March 28

NESTA Field Trip: From Glacial Till to Minerals that Thrill! (Buy tickets online!)
8am-5pm Indianapolis, IN

Thursday, March 29

NESTA Board of Directors Meeting
8:00am-noon Westin Indianapolis, Senate 3
NESTA Half Day Field Trip: Sampling Midwest Geology (Buy tickets online!)
1:00-5:00pm Indianapolis, IN
Friday, March 30 NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon
9:30-10:30am Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
NESTA Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate Change Share-a-Thon
11:00am-noon Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
NESTA Earth System Science Share-a-Thon
12:30-1:30pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
Drama in "Near Earth" Space: The Sun, Space Weather, and Earth's Magnetic Field as We Approach Solar Maximum!
2:00-3:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 3
Earth and Space Science Education Today in K–12: Status and Trends at the State and National Levels
3:30-4:30pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
Friends of Earth and Space Science Reception
6:30-8:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 1
Saturday, March 31 Activities Across the Earth System
8:00-9:00am Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
Strategies for Teaching About Charged Topics in the Earth Science Classroom
9:30-10:30am Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
NESTA Earth and Space Science Educator Luncheon: Dust in the Wind - The Geological Record of Ancient Atmospheric Circulation (Buy tickets online!)
11:30am-1:00pm Westin Indianapolis, State
NESTA Astronomy, Space Science, and Planetology Share-a-Thon
2:00-3:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
Our Changing Planet
2:00-3:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 3
NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle
3:30-5:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5
NESTA Annual Membership Meeting
5:30-7:00pm Westin Indianapolis, Grand Ballroom 5

It's Not Too Late to Sign Up for Share-a-Thons in Indianapolis!
by Jennifer

As you can see from looking through our session listings above, the National Earth Science Teachers Association will be very involved at the National NSTA conference in Indianapolis.  Join this supportive teachers' network and you can meet other NESTA members at these NSTA conferences. These NESTA members have great ideas for teaching Earth science, and their enthusiasm for the geosciences is contagious! Other membership benefits include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site, a discount on Windows to the Universe Educator Membership, and the monthly e-mail newsletter, NESTA ENews, that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events.

NESTA will host four Share-a-Thon sessions at the NSTA Indianapolis. Whether you are a NESTA member or not, you can present at those Share-a-Thon sessions.  It's not too late to sign up to be a presenter or a volunteer!

This is a fun opportunity to share your activities at a national conference and simultaneously have a chance to meet an extended group of colleagues. For people who are first-time presenters, this is an easy way to get some experience.

Not ready to share an activity? We also need volunteers to help behind-the-scenes. We need volunteers to check in presenters, greet attendees, make packets, and just generally help out. Each volunteer gets a complete set of Share-a-Thon materials.

If you are interested in being a part of a NESTA share-a-thon this March, please email our share-a-thon coordinator, Michelle Harris (michelle.harris@apsva.us). Share-a-thon presenters will need to register for the NSTA meeting, provide complete name and address, and return a confirmation form in order to participate in the event (confirmation forms will be sent out after you have signed up with Michelle). If you have any other questions, please email Michelle for more details.

A Photo Album of the Inuit Experience from the Early 1900's
by Roberta

A spectacular collection of images documenting the Inuit experience at the turn of the last century is available on Windows to the Universe at http://www.windows2universe/earth/polar/inuit_image_gallery.html.

Check out these evocative images from the Library of Congress, and explore links to related content on our website.

Make Your Field Trip More Meaningful
by Jennifer

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 encourages students to communicate about science.

Birthdays in February
by Julia

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 price for his work in biochemistry and another one for his efforts in stopping nuclear weapons testing.

In the Mood for Some Games?
by Jennifer

Did you know that the Windows to the Universe site has many educational games? Take a needed break and play one. Or recommend them to your students.

There's the Atmosphere and Clouds Word Search.  Like the rest of the site, it's available at three different levels.  How about a Jigsaw Puzzle?  The Climate Crossword Puzzle is sure to challenge you.  Are you in the mood for some Planet Sudoku?

Our Carbon Cycle Game even allows students to travel around the carbon cycle, and find out about carbon reservoirs, greenhouse gases, climate change and more. They will answer quiz questions on their way.

We hope you and your students enjoy these games and many more!

Table of Contents

Black History Month
Matthew Henson
Aquarius Salinity
Warmest Years Record
Polar Bears
GRAIL Mission
Indy Share-Thons
1900's Inuit Photos
Field Trip Help

Death by Lava!
Bad Astronomy
98 Astronomy Apps

Geoscience Program
Children's Book Year
Chasing Ice
EPA Pick 5
Free Posters!
Sci News for Kids
3rd Rock Radio
Fish and Wildlife
Train Like Astronaut
Stop the Beetle!
Green Week
Sustainable Award
Great Backyard Bird
Green Natl Conf
Bob the Bunny
Student Robotics
Moonbuggy Race
EE Week in April
Thacher Env Contest
Rocket Teams
Microgravity Teams















Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

Death by Lava!

A piece written by Ardis Herrold, Earth Science teacher

There's a great discussion on a Wired Science blog written by Erik Klemetti entitled The Right (and Wrong) Way to Die When You Fall Into Lava. Read the blog post by clicking on this link.

This seems to suit the humor and interest level of many of our students. Near the end of the post, Klemetti suggests a classroom demonstration using motor oil and styrofoam. I found this interesting, at least for the purposes of reviewing the concept of density! I suggest using vegetable oil instead of motor oil, because it has a similar density to motor oil, but is a safer classroom alternative.

The Myth of Nibiru and the End of the World

My students are already aware of the calamity that will allegedly strike in 2012 that 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 that 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 students 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. 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

98 Astronomy Apps

A piece written by Ardis Herrold, Earth Science teacher

An annotated overview of 98 astronomy applications for smart phones and tablets has been published in the online journal Astronomy Education Review. Compiled by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College), the list features a brief description and a direct URL for each app. You can access the article free-of-charge at this link.

The listing includes a variety of apps for displaying and explaining the night sky; astronomical clocks, calculators and calendars; sky catalogs and observing planners; planet atlases and globes; citizens science tools and image displays; a directory of astronomy clubs in the U.S., and even a graphic simulator for making galaxies collide. A number of the apps are free, and others cost just a dollar or two.

Astronomy Education Review is an online journal about astronomy education and outreach published by the American Astronomical Society. AER recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. You can find it at http://aer.aas.org.

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

Teachers in Geosciences Program from Mississippi State University

You can earn your Master of Science degree via distance learning through the Teachers in Geosciences program from Mississippi State University. All of the core Earth science courses are taught online, and the curriculum is designed around the Earth science content that is most relevant to K–12 educators. The program concludes with an 8- to 10-day capstone field course that is taught during the summer at a variety of locations including Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, Western Washington State, the Sierra, Central Arizona, Upstate NY, Lake Superior, the Bahamas, and the Great Plains Storm Chase.

This 12-course, 36-credit-hour graduate program is designed to take as little as two years to complete and includes courses in meteorology, geology, planetary science, oceanography, hydrology, and environmental geoscience. The program has alumni in all 50 states, and all students qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Please visit our website at www.distance.msstate.edu/geosciences/TIG/index.html or contact Joy Bailey, jbailey@aoce.msstate.edu, for additional information.

The 2nd Annual National Children's Book of the Year Contest

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT from the National Association of Elementary School Principals!

The 2nd annual National Children's Book of the Year Contest is a great opportunity for writers.

Two winners will get their book published by national publisher Charlesbridge Publishing in Boston and have it endorsed by the NAESP and its 30,000 members — reaching hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students at the schools.  The winners will be announced at the NAESP annual meeting this spring.

The contest is open to all authors.  Self-published manuscripts are accepted.  The two winners will be one children's picture book and one children's chapter book (from early reader to YA novel).

Teacher.net said, "this contest is an incredible opportunity to launch a writer's career."

The deadline for entries is March 1, 2012.

Enter at http://www.naesp.org/naesp-foundation/national-childrens-book-year-contest

Chasing Ice Premiere

"Chasing Ice" - a documentary film about one photographer's journey from a single magazine shoot to a five-year project recording climate change's impact on glaciers - premiered 23 January at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Photographer and AGU member James Balog, the subject of the film, stopped by AGU headquarters in Washington, D.C., in early January to share his tips for scientist-communicators. Watch the video interview on The Plainspoken Scientist: http://bit.ly/x4qkPn

It's Not Too Late for New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!  It's always the right time to give a gift to the environment and it's easy! Pick 5 for your New Year's Resolution! Healthy resolutions easily partner with helping the environment. Get inspired. Get involved. Decide to act, share and maintain.  Here are a couple ideas to get you started:

-Save energy and recycle more at your Super Bowl Party (or other holiday events). Visit http://www.epa.gov/osw/wycd/funfacts/holidays.htm

-Got new toys? eCycle your old cell phone, computer or TV!  Donating your used electronics benefits others by passing on ready-to-use or refurbished equipment to those who need it.  Visit http://www.epa.gov/osw/partnerships/plugin

Women@NASA Website Encourages Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

NASA has expanded its Women@NASA website to include Aspire 2 Inspire, a new feature aimed at helping middle school girls explore education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The site features four short films and one overview film that explore the careers and backgrounds of early-career women who work for NASA in each of the STEM areas. A list of community organizations and NASA-affiliated outreach programs with a STEM emphasis is also available.

The site features four Twitter feeds where visiting girls can submit questions to the young women featured in the films.

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.

Science News for Kids

Can lizards learn?  Will the Sun's cycle stay the same?  What are aftershocks?  Find answers to these questions and delve into more of life's curiosities at Science News for Kids.  The site presents timely science stories categorized by subject, along with suggestions for hands-on activities, books, articles, and web resources.

Science News for Kids is run by the Society for Science and the Public.

Project Budburst

Project Budburst is a network of people across the United States that monitors plants as the seasons change. They are a national field campaign designed to engage the public in the collection of important ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants (plant phenophases). Project BudBurst participants make careful observations of these plant phenophases. The data are being collected in a consistent manner across the country so that scientists can use the data to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to changes in climate locally, regionally, and nationally. Project BudBurst began in 2007.  Since then, thousands of people from all 50 states have participated.

Data is being collected now!  It's free to participate and Project Budburst is open to people of all ages and abilities.

Third Rock Radio

Did you know you could listen to NASA's Third Rock Radio on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Android?

"Now you can listen to great music in the same app that still provides all of NASA's amazing content wherever you are," said Jerry Colen, NASA App project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Try out the NASA app and listen to the Third Rock station.

New Resources from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) has released three new products for educators to connect more people, especially youth, to the outdoors and to increase our nation's understanding of how fish and wildlife and their habitats are conserved. The three products are Benchmarks for Conservation LiteracyOutdoor Skills Education Handbook, and Sustainable Tomorrow - A Teachers Guidebook for Applying Systems Thinking to Environmental Education Curricula.  Designed for teachers of grades 9-12, Sustainable Tomorrow uses lessons from Project WILD, Project WET and Project Learning Tree.

NASA Challenges Students To Train Like An Astronaut

An engaging new 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.

USDA Stop the Beetle Web Site

We recently created a classroom Activity called Changing Planet:  Bark Beetle Outbreaks.

There is 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 you to learn more about the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle (EAB) and protect our precious ash trees — all while having lots of fun.

NOAA Heritage Week 2012

NOAA's Heritage Week is taking place February 3-11, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Attend the guest speaker series, mini-talks, an open house, and visit the Gateway to NOAA exhibit. You'll be amazed by what you learn!

National Green Week

National Green Week is February 6-10, 2012. The ways to participate are endless!  Eco-Challenges for the week (and beyond!) include the Waste Free Snacks Challenge, the Green Energy Challenge, and implementation of a GEF recycling program for your school.

National Green Week, run by the Green Education Foundation, even has a special curriculum for themed standard-based lessons that is organized for each grade.

Samsung Sustainable Energy Award

The National Environmental Education Foundation and Samsung are partnering to offer the $10,000 Sustainable Energy Award.  $10,000 awards will be presented to the top three high schools that can demonstrate how they have engaged students and teachers in school-wide energy savings through the creative and innovative use of technology. Applications are due February 10, 2012.  Apply now!

Schools across the nation are looking for creative ways to cut spending without compromising the quality of the education they deliver. Increasing energy efficiency offers many opportunities for meeting that challenge. It is estimated that America's primary and secondary schools spend more than $6 billion annually to power their facilities.  But schools can reduce their costs by as much as 30 percent by implementing energy-saving measures.

Energy efficiency also provides an invaluable opportunity for hands-on learning for students inside their own school building. Through the application of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), students are empowered to identify solutions that cut spending and reduce energy use, giving them—and their entire community—a healthier environment and a sense of school pride. Technology, in particular, can improve school-wide energy efficiency through the use of energy-efficient fixtures such as solar panels and meters that monitor energy use. The use of tools such as smart meters allows schools to track energy and cost savings and integrate these activities into their lessons.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Citizen scientists - get ready, get set, count!  The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It's free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

The 2012 GBBC will take place February 17-20.  Kids can participate too!

Second Annual Green Schools National Conference

Be a part of the only national gathering of K-12 leaders and educators coming together to make their schools and districts green & healthy centers of academic excellence.  This national conference will be held February 27-29, 2012, in Denver, Colorado.

The conference will include over 100 breakout sessions, exhibits, and chances to network with other like-minded peers from across the country.  Find out more at http://www.greenschoolsnationalconference.org/index.php

Bob the Bunny's Environmental Cartoon Competition

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 29, 2012.

The winning team will be sent to the 2012 Volvo Adventure Final (an event you don't want to miss!). See the Volvo Adventure website for more details on how to register for the Bob the Bunny contest.

Student FIRST Robotics Competition

NASA is continuing its strong support for the annual FIRST Robotics Competition, which inspires student interest in science, technology, and mathematics. The agency is awarding grants totaling $1,386,500 for student teams in 37 states to participate in FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Each FIRST team receives an identical kit of parts and has six weeks to design and build a robot. Other than dimension and weight limitations and other technical restrictions, the look and function of the robot is up to each team. NASA volunteers support many teams throughout the process.

The competition is structured like a professional athletic event and teams compete in an arena the size of a small basketball court.  Robots must have offensive and defensive capabilities. Teams collaborate to complete tasks, while simultaneously preventing opposing teams from completing the same activity.

This year, 45 regional competitions will take place in the U.S., along with four additional international competitions in March and April. The FIRST Championship competition will be held in St. Louis in April.

For more information, visit:  http://robotics.nasa.gov

Annual Great Moonbuggy Race - Register Soon!

NASA is challenging student inventors to gear up for the agency's 19th annual Great Moonbuggy Race. Registration is open for the engineering design and racing contest set to culminate in a two-day event in Huntsville, AL, on April 13-14, 2012.

Participating high schools, colleges and universities may register up to two teams and two vehicles. Registration for U.S. teams closes Feb. 10. International registration has closed. For complete rules and to register, visit:

The race is organized annually by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and is held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, both in Huntsville. Since 1994, NASA has challenged student teams to build and race human-powered rovers of their own design. These fast, lightweight moonbuggies address many of the same engineering challenges overcome by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at Marshall in the late 1960's.

Prizes are awarded to the three teams in each division with the fastest final times. NASA and industry sponsors present additional awards for engineering ingenuity, team spirit and overcoming unique challenges -- such as the weekend's most memorable crash!

For images and additional information about past races, visit:

National Environmental Education Week is April 15-21, 2012

National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is April 15-21, 2012. Celebrate the environment as an engaging context for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts and skills with the theme Greening STEM: The Environment as Inspiration for 21st Century Learning.

Those who register for EE Week 2012 will have access to a free educator webinar, planning toolkits and several other perks (including discounts, giveaways and special offers).

2012 Thacher Environmental Research Contest

From the massive Gulf oil spill to the continued decline of Arctic sea ice, satellites and other observing instruments have proved crucial this year in monitoring the many environmental changes -- both natural and human induced -- occurring on global, regional and local scales.

The 2012 Thacher Environmental Research Contest, sponsored by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, challenges high school students (grades 9-12) to conduct innovative research on our changing planet using the latest geospatial tools and data, which in recent years have become increasingly accessible to the public. $3,500 in cash awards are available.

Eligible geospatial tools and data include satellite remote sensing, aerial photography, geographic information systems (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS). The main focus of the project must be on the application of the geospatial tool(s) or data to study a problem related to Earth's environment.

Entries are due April 16, 2012.

Student Rocket Teams Take NASA Launch Challenge

More than 500 students from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 29 states will show their rocketeering prowess in the 2011-12 NASA Student Launch Projects flight challenge. The teams will build and test large-scale rockets of their own design in April 2012.  The student teams will vie for a variety of awards for engineering skill and ingenuity, team spirit and vehicle design.

Each Student Launch Projects team will build a powerful rocket, complete with a working science or engineering payload, which the team must design, install and activate during the rocket launch. The flight goal is to come as close as possible to an altitude of 1 mile, requiring a precise balance of aerodynamics, mass and propulsive power.

In April, the teams will converge at Marshall, where NASA engineers will put the students' creations through the same kind of rigorous reviews and safety inspections applied to the nation's space launch vehicles. On April 21, 2012, students will fire their rockets toward the elusive 1-mile goal, operating onboard payloads and waiting for chutes to open, signaling a safe return to Earth.  For more information about the challenge, visit:

NASA Selects Student Teams For Microgravity Research Flights

NASA has selected 24 undergraduate student teams to test science experiments under microgravity conditions. The teams will fly during 2012 as part of the agency's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP).

The teams will design and build their experiments at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and conduct tests aboard an aircraft modified to mimic a reduced-gravity environment. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 parabolas with roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 to 2g's.

The RGEFP experience includes scientific research, experimental design, test operations and outreach activities. The program supports NASA's goal of strengthening the nation's future workforce.  For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, visit: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.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://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.