February 2013

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Happy Birthday Windows to the Universe!
by Roberta

February is special for the Windows to the Universe group as it marks the anniversary of the beginning of our project.  This year marks the 18th birthday of Windows to the Universe!  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, 18 years later, in February 2013!  In 2000, the project moved with me from the University of Michigan to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  In 2010, with the help of support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the project moved to its new home at the National Earth Science Teachers Association, where it can serve teachers and students from around the world, in addition to the public, in support of NESTA's mission "to facilitate and advance excellence in Earth and Space Science education".

These days, the site is visited by more than 1 million people per month from all around the world, with heavy usage in conjunction with K-12 and undergraduate education.  We're delighted that the website has served so many people over the past 18 years - we'll pass 1 billion page views soon!

The Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy

The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades.  Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest-known spiral, based on archival data from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission. 

Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy.  The galaxy's unusual size and appearance stem from its interaction with a much smaller disk galaxy named IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass of NGC 6872.  The odd couple is located 212 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pavo.

Astronomers think large galaxies, including our own, grew through mergers and acquisitions -- assembling over billions of years by absorbing numerous smaller systems.  Intriguingly, the gravitational interaction of NGC 6872 and IC 4970 may have done the opposite, spawning what may develop into a new small galaxy.  At the far end of one of NGC 6872’s spiral arms is an object that appears to be a tidal dwarf galaxy, which shows signs of bearing a large number of stars much younger than the rest of NGC6872.

To read more about this study and its interesting findings, visit:  http://go.nasa.gov/WpGpDJ

Arctic Amplification

We tend to think of the Arctic Ocean as always covered completely with ice, but the amount of Earth’s northernmost sea that is frozen actually fluctuates with seasons and with global warming and cooling trends.  In fact, the Arctic region is very sensitive to small changes in Earth’s atmosphere or weather, and during global warming or cooling trends, Arctic surface temperatures tend to fluctuate more than temperatures around the rest of the world—this phenomenon is called ‘Arctic Amplification.’ 

Arctic amplification affects us all, because as Arctic temperatures change and ocean ice is gained and lost, there are atmospheric effects around the world.  During an Arctic amplification, temperature differences between the Arctic and regions closer to the equator are smaller, which weakens the air currents that normally serve as boundaries between temperate and much colder regions (like the Jet Stream in the United States).  In their weaker state, these air currents are more prone to shift north or south, creating unseasonably warm or cold weather for large areas.

The Earth is currently in the early stages of a warming trend, and since the late 1980’s scientists have observed signs of Arctic amplification.  To read more about this phenomenon, see this article (http://www.earthgauge.net/wp-content/CF_Arctic_Amplification.pdf) that covers the topic in depth.

Evidence for Asteroid Belt Around Vega

Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a large asteroid belt around the star Vega, the second brightest star in northern night skies.  The scientists used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory.

The discovery of an asteroid belt-like band of debris around Vega makes the star similar to another observed star called Fomalhaut.  The data are consistent with both stars having inner, warm belts and outer, cool belts separated by a gap.  This architecture is similar to the asteroid and Kuiper belts in our own solar system.

What is maintaining the gap between the warm and cool belts around Vega and Fomalhaut?  The results strongly suggest the answer is multiple planets.  Our solar system's asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, is maintained by the gravity of the terrestrial planets and the giant planets, and the outer Kuiper belt is sculpted by the giant planets.

Similarly, inside the large gap between the two belts around Vega and Fomalhaut, it is likely there are several undetected planets, Jupiter-sized or smaller, creating a dust-free zone between the two belts.  If unseen planets do in fact orbit Vega and Fomalhaut, these bodies will not likely stay hidden.

Cosmic Rays

Cosmic rays are a type of radiation that comes from space.  They aren't really "rays" at all, but a type of particle radiation.  There are several different types (and corresponding sources) of cosmic rays: solar cosmic rays, galactic and extragalactic cosmic rays, and anomalous cosmic rays. Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere shield us from most of this high-energy radiation, though astronauts in space and satellites aren't so lucky.  Future missions to the Moon and Mars will need to take special precautions to protect crews and equipment from cosmic rays.  

Surprisingly, the greatest threat from cosmic rays is not at the time when the Sun is at the most active phase of its 11-year solar cycle.  Radiocarbon dating using carbon-14, with its many applications to archeology and other fields that delve into our past, would not be possible if there were no cosmic rays.  Want to know more?  Click here to delve deeper into the mysteries of cosmic rays!

New Chandra Movie Features Neutron Star Action

Unlike with some blockbuster films, the sequel to a movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is better than the first.  This latest movie features a deeper look at a fast moving jet of particles produced by a rapidly rotating neutron star, and may provide new insight into the nature of some of the densest matter in the universe.

The hero of this Chandra movie is the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed.  The Vela pulsar is about 1,000 light-years from Earth, about 12 miles in diameter, and makes a complete rotation in 89 milliseconds, faster than a helicopter rotor.  As the pulsar whips around, it spews out a jet of charged particles that race along the pulsar's rotation axis at about 70 percent of the speed of light.  The new Chandra data, which were obtained from June to September 2010, suggest the pulsar may be slowly wobbling, or precessing, as it spins.

If precession is confirmed, it would be the first time a neutron star has been found to be this way.  It would also suggest that the Vela pulsar would be a persistent source of gravitational waves, making it a prime target for the next generation of gravitational wave detectors designed to test Einstein's theory of general relativity.

For Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/chandra and http://chandra.si.edu

Magma in Earth's Mantle Forms Deeper Than Once Thought

A team funded by the National Science Foundation put very small samples of peridotite, rock derived from the Earth's mantle, under high pressures in a laboratory and found that the rock can and does liquefy, at least in small amounts, at pressures equivalent to those found as deep as 250 kilometers down in the mantle beneath the ocean floor.  This is far deeper than geologists previously thought which answers several questions about Earth's inner workings.  

Geologist Rajdeep Dasgupta of Rice University led the research team that made this exciting discovery.  To find out the details, check out NSF News.

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 also works 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

Do you share a birthday with one of these famous 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) - an 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.

Looking for a Gift to Show Someone They Are Loved? We Have Valentine's Day Rocks and Minerals!

Nothing says "You Rock!" to someone better than a rock!  And we have plenty in our online Store.  These unique, timeless gifts show off your creativity and nature's beauty, and they can be a symbol that celebrates the strength and strong foundation of a relationship.  

Our mineral and fossil specimens (made available through Nature's Own) include amber with insects, ammonites (pairs of phylloceras inflatumblack and white ammonites), banded ironbismuthcelestitecharoitecompressed labradoritecoprolites (50 million year old fossilized turtle poop), fluorite, fossilized shark teeth (megalodon and odotus obliuus), almandine garnetshematite with rutilemeteoritesnative coppernautiloidsolivine xenoliths in basaltphlogopite micapyrite "dollars""penetration twins"black tourmaline, and trilobites, in addition to a wonderful mineral and fossil collection including 18 minerals and 12 fossil specimens.

For those inclined to show their love of minerals and fossils by wearing them, we also offer a fabulous assortment of jewelry including: pendants of ammoniteamethystjaderuby, and ruby zoisite; earrings of amethyst and peridot; pendant and earring sets of charoiteeudialyte, and paua shell; and beautiful necklaces of kyanite and ruby.

Don't forget our beautiful household goods - banded onyx wine goblets, bowls (8"12", or a pair of 5" noodle bowls), vases (5" or 6"), and a mortar and pestle.  They make exceptional gifts for anyone on your Valentine's Day list!

NESTA at the 2013 National Conference in San Antonio

Thursday, April 11, 2013

8:00am-2:30pm NESTA Board of Directors Meeting, Independence Room, Grand Hyatt Hotel

Friday, April 12, 2013

9:30am Geology Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
11:00am NESTA Ocean and Atmosphere Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
12:30pm NESTA Earth System Science Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
2:00pm Climate Change Classroom Toolkit, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
3:30pm Let's Get Well Grounded!, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
6:30-8:00pm NESTA Friends of Earth and Space Science Reception, Lone Star D, Grand Hyatt Hotel

Saturday, April 13, 2013

8:00am Activities in Earth System Science, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
9:30am Exploring Planetary Science and Astronomy - What Would Galileo Do?, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
11:00am NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
12:30pm NESTA Advances in Earth and Space Science Lunchtime Lecture by Dr. Mark Nielsen, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
2:00pm Our Changing Planet, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
3:30pm NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A
5:00pm NESTA Annual Membership Meeting, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Ballroom A

The Mobile Version of Windows to the Universe is Live!

The mobile version of Windows to the Universe is live!  We hope the new site will make it more convenient for you to plan your lessons or explore Earth and space science while on the road.

Please note that, depending on your phone, some Java and Flash games might not work.  If you notice any problems other than that, please let us know.  Do not forget to tell us your phone model and the page where you noticed the problem.  Thanks!  We appreciate your feedback!

Join NESTA and Windows to the Universe Today!

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!

Available for only $10/year for NESTA members (50% off the non-NESTA rate), you can also join Windows to the Universe as an Educator member.  Experience benefits tailored just for educators!

Windows to the Universe also provides these other membership and partnership opportunities:

Classroom Activities and Kits

Classroom activities are a great way to engage students in their science learning.  The Teacher Resources section on Windows to the Universe includes over 100 K-12 science activities for you to use with your students.  Topics range from geology, water, atmospheric science, climate change, life, ecology, environmental science, space weather and magnetism, to science literacy and art.  HTML versions of the activities, worksheets, and supplementary materials are all freely available, as are PPT shows that you can use with your students. 

Windows to the Universe Educator Members have free access to all downloadable PDF activities, worksheets, supplementary materials and PowerPoints (a $230 value!), in addition to other benefits and services for Earth and space science teachers.  If you are not a Windows to the Universe Educator Member, you can purchase individual PDF-formatted student worksheets, classroom activity descriptions, and supplementary materials (including downloadable PowerPoints) in our online store.

If you'd like to save time collecting and prepping classroom materials, we offer several classroom activity kits for purchase: Glaciers: Then and Now, Traveling Nitrogen Game, CO2: How Much Do You Spew?, and Feeling the Heat - Part 2.  Most activity kits are available in a variety of sizes to fit your classroom needs.

Table of Contents

Largest Sp Galaxy
Arctic Amplification
Vega Asteroid Belt
Cosmic Rays
Neutron Star Action
Magma Forms Deep
Black History Month
FEB Birthdays
V Day Rocks
NESTA in San Antonio
Mobile Site is Live!
Join NESTA and W2U!
Classroom Activities

Day of Remembrance
PBS Earth Program
Green Schools Conf
Sleuths at Duke
What If?
Bob the Bunny
Painting Competition
Space Apps Challenge
World Map Contest
Climate Diversity
EE Week Coming!
Toilet Water
Weathering Wall
Geo Society London
Mastodon Matrix
Climate Fact Sheets
Spot Space Station
Young Meteorologist
Big Ideas Videos














  Teacher Submissions

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  Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

Information about Opportunities with Stipends, Honorariums, or Awards for Teachers/students
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.

A Day of Remembrance on February 1

NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Friday, Feb. 1, the 10th anniversary of the Columbia accident.  NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.  Flags across the agency will be flown at half-staff in their memory.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other NASA senior officials will hold an observance at the astronaut memorial at Arlington National Cemetery Friday morning.  At 10 a.m. EST, NASA Television will provide live coverage of a wreath-laying ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial located in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.  The observance is hosted by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation.

NASA also is paying tribute to the agency's fallen astronauts with special online content available at:

For NASA Television downlink information, schedule information and streaming video, visit:

"Earth from Space" PBS Program

"Earth from Space" is scheduled to air nationwide at 9 p.m. EST Feb. 13 on Public Broadcasting Service television stations.  The two-hour special explores how satellites are transforming our view of Earth and features interviews with scientists and new visualizations of our complex planet.  The centerpiece of the program is an animation of the globe composed of 23 layers of satellite-based data and more than 125,000 images from space.

For more information on "Earth from Space," visit:

3rd Annual Green Schools National Conference

The Green Schools National Conference examines environmental literacy, energy efficiency, healthier food, eco-friendly purchasing and more.  The 3rd annual Green Schools National Conference, set for Feb. 22-24, 2013, in West Palm Beach, FL, is sponsored by the Green Schools National Network (GSNN) and is focused on "developing healthy and sustainable schools across America."  Early bird registration runs through February 15.

The Green Schools National Network advances the national green and healthy schools movement by connecting like-minded and passionate education, non-profit, corporate and public sector individuals and organizations.

Summer Science Sleuths at Duke

The Duke Center for Science Education is now accepting applications from current 7th & 8th graders for a 2-week, recreational, residential summer camp on the campus of Duke University in Durham, NC.  Campers who are selected to attend will receive a full camp scholarship and travel assistance to join us June 16-June 29, 2013.  Returning 8th grade campers receive priority, but we anticipate that there will be a few places for new 8th graders.

We are looking for curious, bright, fun-loving campers who include science on their list of interests.  Science doesn't have to be their best subject.  We would like to diversify our mix of students to include those who like science, but do not yet have that spark for considering science as a real career option in the future (we would like to have the opportunity to provide that spark!).

Applicants for the 2013 camp must be U.S. citizens.  The three-part application, which is available online, consists of a camp application to be completed by the parent/guardian, a camper survey to be completed by the student, as well as a teacher nomination form.   Applications are due by March 5, 2013 from returning campers and on February 25, 2013 from new applicants.  Campers will be notified of selection status in April.

For more information, visit sciencesleuths.

What If? Live Student Design Challenge

Candy, soda and other everyday items will be the tools of the trade for teenage rocket makers competing in the What If? Live Student Design Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Ahoora Foundation of Plano, Texas.  Registration is open through Feb. 28 for the worldwide contest, in which 14- to 18-year-old students will design experimental propulsion systems using materials that are cheap and easy-to-get.

What If? is designed to excite students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  The goal is to develop their creative and analytical abilities by learning about the growing need for green fuels and designing a vehicle propulsion system using commonly available materials, including sweet treats and carbonated beverages.  Students in two age categories, 14-16 and 17-18, may work alone or in groups of as many as four.  They must create a research plan, write a research paper, develop and build the propulsion system, make a video showing the vehicle in action, and submit the video to judges via YouTube.com.

A panel of scientists, astronauts and educators will judge the entries and select finalists.  There will be one winning design in each age category.  Winners will be announced in May and will receive special recognition from NASA and Ahoora.

To register, submit research, and learn more about vehicle design, the official rules and other information about the What If?  Live Student Design Challenge, including a two-minute video of the propulsion system in action, visit:  http://www.whatifprize.org

Bob the Bunny 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 28, 2013.

The winning team will be sent to the 2013 Volvo Adventure Final in Sweden (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.

Tunza International Children's Painting Competition

The International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment is organized every year by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE), Bayer and the Nikon Corporation.

It has been held since 1991 and has received more than 3 million entries from children in over 150 countries.

The theme of the 22nd painting competition will be “Water: The Source of Life” and children will have until February 29, 2013, to submit their entries.

NASA Launches Second International Space Apps Challenge

NASA and government agencies worldwide will host the second International Space Apps Challenge April 20-21, with events across all seven continents and in space.  Participants are encouraged to develop mobile applications, software, hardware, data visualization and platform solutions that could contribute to space exploration missions and help improve life on Earth.

The two-day event will provide an opportunity for government to harness the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers to help address global challenges.  During the event, representatives of NASA and other international space agencies will gather with scientists and participants to use publicly released open data to create solutions for 50 software, hardware and visualization challenges, including robotics, citizen science platforms and applications of remote sensing data.  Challenges selected to be worked on during the event will be published online prior to the event.

The 2012 challenge engaged more than 2,000 participants who collaborated on more than 100 open source solutions to 71 featured challenges.

Twelve locations in the United States will host an International Space Apps Challenge event:  Atlanta, Austin, Cape Canaveral, Cleveland, Detroit, Easton, New York, Philadelphia, Reno, Rochester, San Francisco and Syracuse.  38 other events will be held in 30 other countries:  Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Poland, Macedonia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom.  Also participating will be McMurdo Station in Antarctica and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Registration for citizen participation will open on March 1.  To learn more about the International Space Apps Challenge, visit: http://spaceappschallenge.org

Children's World Map Competition

In 2013, youth from around the globe will be participating in the 20th Annual Barbara Petchenik International Map Competition, organized by the International Cartographic Association.  The competition is open to children and youth age 16 and under and is organized into 4 different age groupings: under 6, ages 6-8, ages 9-12, and ages 12-16.  The aim of the competition is to promote children’s creative representation of the world, to enhance their cartographic awareness and to make them conscious of their environment.

The theme of the 2013 competition is “My Place in Today’s World”.  Youth cartographers can bring their own creativity into their project, as maps may be illustrated in any way, using pictures, drawings, words, objects, or other graphical elements.  So have your students get out the paint brushes, pencils, chisels, leaves, recycled materials, and start working on their maps today!

For teachers, students, and families wishing to submit maps in the United States, download this flyer with the full rules for submission.  Entries must be received by March 15.

AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project

The American Meteorological Society has partnered with Second Nature, administrator of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, to implement the AMS Climate Studies course at 100 minority-serving institutions over a 5-year period. As part of this NSF-supported Diversity Project, AMS is recruiting 25 MSI faculty for the Course Implementation Workshop (May 19-24, 2013).  Faculty will be trained to offer the climate course and will receive presentations from top-level NASA, NOAA, and university scientists.  The AMS Climate Studies course was developed and pilot tested with NASA support.

Applications for the May 2013 workshop must be received by March 15, 2013. The workshop is expenses-paid and the AMS Climate Studies license fee is waived for the first two years the course is offered. For more information, please visit www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/online/climateinfo/diversity.html.

EE Week is April 14-20

Environmental Education Week 2013 will be held April 14-20, and will explore how technology can enhance environmental learning both inside and outside the classroom.  This year's official theme is Greening STEM:  Taking Technology Outdoors.

As part of Taking Technology Outdoors, EE Week will highlight the growing opportunity to engage today's students in learning about the environment with new technologies that enable scientific research and develop 21st century skills, including creativity, innovation, communication and collaboration.  

Get a jump-start by accessing the top 10 Apps for taking technology outdoors.

Drinking Toilet Water – The Science (and Psychology) of Wastewater Recycling

Would you drink water from a toilet?  What if that water, once treated, was cleaner than what comes out of the faucet?  Although the imagery isn't appealing, as climate change and population growth strain freshwater resources, such strategies are becoming more common around the world — and in the United States.

Over the last several decades, local and regional water shortages have become increasingly common.  These shortages have led to increased friction over water resources.  Technologies are currently being developed to help make wastewater recycling more efficient and less expensive, but talking people into drinking "flush to faucet" water is the bigger challenge, experts say.  Will recycled wastewater become the norm where you live?  And will enough wastewater be available to offset expected freshwater shortages?  Read the story and find out in the February issue of EARTH Magazine. 

Building Stones of the U.S.

Weathering is not only one of the key concepts of Earth Science, it is a common Standard and sadly, most classroom activities don't do it justice.  You might like to try this virtual weathering activity and challenge developed by NIST.

By examining the NIST Stone Wall virtually via the Internet, students will determine the weathering rate of various rocks from the U.S. and other countries.  The Stone Test Wall was constructed to study the performance of stone subjected to weathering.  It contains 2,352 individual samples of stone, of which 2,032 are domestic stone from 47 states, and 320 are stones from 16 foreign countries.  Over 30 distinct types of stones are represented.  There are many varieties of the common types of stones used in building, such as marble, limestone, sandstone, and granite.  This site presents the existing data and pictures for each particular stone.

Using this data students will then pick a rock to use in building their “dream house” and justify their choice.  Students should have a background in types of rocks before doing this lesson.  A lesson plan ideal for use by middle and high schools students is also available.

Superquakes, Supercycles, and Global Earthquake Clustering

The size and type of earthquakes a given fault system may produce remain poorly understood for most major fault systems.  Recent superquakes, such as the March 2011 magnitude-9 off Japan and the December 2004 magnitude-9-plus off Sumatra, have been far larger than what most scientists expected those faults to produce.  The problem is that current models rely on short historical records, and even shorter instrumental records.  Today, scientists are working to rewrite these models based on new paleoseismic and paleotsunami data to create a more comprehensive picture of earthquake activity through time.  What they're finding might alarm you!

With the limited records available, almost every significant earthquake is "new" to geologists.  However, as more data are accumulated, we are beginning to see a more complex record of global strain cycles that may help to predict earthquake behavior in the future.  In the January issue of EARTH Magazine, scientists looked at long-term cycling in the northeast Japan Trench and the paleoseismic record in the Cascadia Subduction Zone to try and piece together a clearer picture of earthquake activity in those regions.  What will these new data tell us about future earthquakes?  Read the story online and find out at http://bit.ly/UyycOp.

Are Your School and Community StormReady?

As I write this, tornadoes and storms with damaging winds are threatening the South, Midwest and East.  And it's only January!

Are your school and community “StormReady”?  The United States is, by far, the country with the greatest number of hazardous weather situations in the world.  We get about 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes, plus hurricanes, wildfires, winter storms, and other severe weather conditions, resulting in about 500 fatalities and billions of dollars of damage each year.  But thanks to efforts to prepare for these emergencies under the coordination of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) StormReady program, the impact has been greatly diminished in many communities.

Nothing can prevent weather disasters, but StormReady communities have been able to cope with and recover from events much more efficiently.  Warning Coordination Meteorologists from NOAA’s National Weather Service offices across the country work with local, regional, state, and national emergency management planners to develop education and awareness strategies, as well as detailed contingency plans that have made significant differences when events occur.  The StormReady web site provides links to success stories, and information on how to apply to the program, listings of local contacts, and more.

Working closely with NOAA is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA’s Citizen Corps program also assists communities in preparing for emergencies.  A webinar in August helped many schools and others to get ready for whatever may come their way, and you can benefit from viewing the recorded version.

The Geological Society of London (GSL)

The Geological Society of London (GSL) offers two new online resources for learning about key geoscience topics.  Reinforcing the “Mapping Our World” theme of Earth Science Week 2013 (Oct 13-19), electronic map-based resources are the focus of GSL’s “Plate Tectonics” page (http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Plate-Tectonics).  In addition, a new site is being launched to accompany GSL’s “Rock Cycle” online module (http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/rockcycle).

Founded in 1807, GSL is the oldest geological society in the world.  Learn more about GSL, the United Kingdom’s national society for geoscience, online at http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/education.

Mastodon Matrix Project

If you teach about fossils, consider participating in the Mastodon Matrix Project. The Project uses citizen volunteers to analyze actual samples of the matrix (dirt) from a site where a 14,000-year-old mastodon was excavated in New York. Your students will learn the process of science and will work like a paleontologist on real research material.

To join the project, you must sign up and pay an $18 participation fee. You will be sent a one-kilogram bag of matrix, enough for about 20-25 students to explore with simple tools. It is possible to find shells, bones, hair, pieces of plants, and rocks from the time when the mastodons lived and roamed the Earth. The matrix and discoveries are then sent back to the Paleontological Research Institution, where they will be cataloged and further analyzed by paleontologists to help scientists form a true picture of the ecology and environment of the late Pleistocene.

To learn more about the project, go to http://www.museumoftheearth.org/research.php?page=Mastodon_Research/Mast_Matrix

In-Depth Climate Fact Sheets from Earth Gauge

Did you know that Earth Gauge produces in-depth fact sheets every few months that cover a variety of climate topics?  The fact sheets, including images and links, cover topics like Arctic amplification feedbacks and links to midlatitude weather (written in December 2012), heliophysics (written in November 2012), wildfires in the West (written in September 2012), Earth's cloud feedback, polar climate trends, drought in North American, paleoclimate and the ocean ecosystem.  

Check out these fact sheets and others at Earth Gauge Climate Fact Sheets.  You won't be disappointed!

Spot The Space Station Over Your Backyard With New NASA Service

NASA announced a new service to help people see the International Space Station when it passes overhead. "Spot the Station" will send an email or text message to those who sign up for the service a few hours before they will be able to see the space station.

"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

The Young Meteorologist Program (YMP)

The Young Meteorologist Program (YMP) is an innovative, fun, and informational online game designed to help students learn to prepare for weather-related disasters.  YMP was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the non-profit organizations American Meteorological Society (AMS) and PLAN!T NOW as a free resource that can be utilized in classrooms to help students comprehend complex natural phenomena, and learn actions they can take to keep themselves and their families safe.

Weather inspires curiosity and awe, and impacts every American.  The AMS is distributing this online game to its vast network of U.S. K-12 science teachers, ensuring this resource reaches thousands of AMS-trained science teachers and their students.  Educators can use this activity to supplement general Earth science lessons at their schools.  There is an expanded section for educators available on the Young Meteorologist website that includes lesson plans, related math activities, videos and discussion pieces ideal for helping teach about weather.

YMP is set up as a five-module game covering natural disasters including hurricanes, lightning, flooding, tornadoes and winter storms.  Using new media, students follow Owlie, a young owl led by two meteorologists, and Girdie, a wise bird who challenges common misconceptions people have about weather events.  The game is filled with clever rhymes, familiar games, and some math, and is best suited for middle school-aged students.  The entire game takes 1-2 hours to complete, ending with a certificate of completion to share with family and friends.

Explore the "Big Ideas" of Earth Science in Award-Winning Videos

AGI now offers award-winning videos and other electronic resources to help students, educators, and others explore the “big ideas” of Earth science all year long.  AGI’s Big Ideas videos recently won three prestigious awards: Digital Video (DV) Winner in Education, DV Winner in Nature/Wildlife, and Videographer Award of Excellence.

Big Ideas videos are brief video clips that bring to life the big ideas of Earth science - the nine core concepts that everyone should know.  The Earth Science Literacy Initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, has codified these underlying understandings of Earth science which form the basis of the Big Ideas videos.

View the Big Ideas videos on YouTube or TeacherTube.  The Earth Science Week web site provides related resources.  Educators can find dozens of classroom activities to help students build understanding of the big ideas online at http://www.earthsciweek.org/forteachers/bigideas/main.html.

Spinoff Technology Highlighted by Celebrities

June Lockhart, William Shatner and Wil Wheaton are the latest entertainment icons featured in new public service announcements that highlight how some of NASA's outstanding accomplishments in space have improved our life on Earth.

Spanning generations of silver screen and television portrayals of humanity's exploration of space, the accomplished actors talk about how science fiction has become science fact, resulting in new commercial products and services that are tangible returns on investments in space technology.  Much of the technology we rely on daily was developed by NASA for space exploration and then adapted or enhanced for use here on Earth.  This includes many technologies used in schools, homes, cars, computers and American industry.

In addition, hundreds of examples of NASA spinoff technologies and innovations adapted for use in our everyday lives are available on NASA's Spinoff website at:  http://spinoff.nasa.gov

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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.