March 2008

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements

Busy Time of Year!

This month's newsletter is packed with information about resources on the Windows to the Universe website as well as activities of our partner organizations. Whether you're interested in teaching about magnetic fields, the coming equinox, International Earth Day, sea level rise, or activities of Women Astronauts, there are links to hidden gems across the website that can support your work with students. We also provide a complete list of our events at the coming National Science Teachers Association National conference in Boston this month - as you see - we'll be very busy! Please drop by and say "Hi" if you're there - we'd love to see you. Please let us know if you heard about our events through this newsletter.

We also provide quite a list of resources and opportunities made available through Partner Organizations including two new books offered by Dawn Publications, a free CD including Earth observations from space offered by the National Research Council, opportunities offered by the National Environmental Education Foundation, the QuestBridge College Scholarship Program, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Michigan Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Center for Learning and Investigation in Mountain Backcountry Ecosystems.

New Podcast Zone on Windows to the Universe

We have added a new Podcast Zone on Windows to the Universe. Now you can listen to short current event podcasts on your computer or download them to your mp3 player. That way you can keep abreast of current science events while you're on the go!

These podcasts are produced by the National Science Foundation and correspond to Press Releases about current science research. Enjoy!

Virtual Magnetic Fields

Have you ever sprinkled iron filings over a magnet to demonstrate magnetic fields to your students? If you would like to supplement that hands-on demonstration with some computer-based activities, or can't manage to do the "real world" version, we have some resources you might be interested in. We've just added a virtual version of the "bar magnet and iron filings" demonstration to Windows to the Universe. We also have some related Flash-based magnetism interactives, including: Bar Magnet & Compass, Earth's Magnetic Field, and Earth's North Magnetic Pole. Finally, we have a simple, inexpensive, hands-on activity that guides students through building a basic magnetometer which they can use to further explore the mysteries of magnetism. We hope you find these resources attractive!

Women Astronauts

March is Women's History Month. Check the past year's newsletter for links women scientists' pages on Windows to the Universe. This time let's talk about women astronauts.

  • Valentina Tereshkova - she became the first woman in space when she flew aboard Soviet spaceship Vostok 6 in 1963.
  • Sally Ride - first American woman in space. She flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.
  • Svetlana Savitskaya who became the first woman to walk in space in 1984.
  • Judith Resnik was the second American woman to go into space. She was killed in the explosion of Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
  • Mae Jemison - first African-American woman in space (1992).
  • Eileen Collins became the first woman pilot of the Space Shuttle in 1995.

Other U.S. and international women astronauts: Ellen Baker, Roberta Bondar, Tracy Caldwell, Kalpana Chawla, Mary Cleave, Catherine Coleman, Nancy Currie, Jan Davis, Bonnie Dunbar, Anna Fisher, Linda Godwin, Susan Helms, Kathryn Hire, Marsha Ivins, Tamara Jernigan, Janet Kavandi, Susan Kilrain, Elena Kondakova, Wendy Lawrence, Shannon Lucid, Sandra Magnus, Pamela Melroy, Barbara Morgan, Lisa Nowak, Ellen Ochoa, Julie Payette, Rhea Seddon, Helen Sharman, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Kathryn Sullivan, Kathryn Thornton, Janice Voss, Mary Weber, Peggy Whitson, Suni Williams, Stephanie Wilson

International Earth Day

This year, International Earth Day falls on March 20, 2008. The United Nations has celebrated the International Earth Day every year since 1970 on the March equinox, which is the time when day and night are the same length. It is actually a moment in time when the center of the Sun can be observed directly above the Earth's equator. In the northern hemisphere this is the spring (vernal) equinox, and in the southern hemisphere this is the autumnal (fall) equinox. John McConnell, the founder of the International Earth Day, wrote that it made sense to choose a date when day and night are equal around the world as a time when people can think about the Earth and take the opportunity to learn more about it. This month, take the opportunity to learn more about the Earth and its seasons with your students. Many countries also celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd.

Vernal Equinox is Coming March 20th

As Spring approaches in the northern hemisphere, its a great time to discuss the reason for the seasons. This year, the Vernal Equinox will occur on March 20th at 5:48 universal time.

The tilt of Earth's rotational axis and the Earth's orbit work together to create the seasons. As the Earth travels around the Sun, it remains tipped in the same direction, towards the star Polaris.

At the equinoxes, the Earth is neither tilted directly towards nor directly away from the Sun. In other words, both hemispheres receive roughly equal amounts of sunlight. Equinoxes mark the seasons of spring and autumn and are a transition between the two more extreme seasons, summer and winter.

While the vernal equinox corresponds to the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of Fall in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a great thing to note with your students and a great time to introduce or reinforce the concept of seasons. As you know, seasons are an area where many misconceptions lie (especially concerning the reason for the seasons!).

Windows to the Universe Events at NSTA Boston, March 2008

Will you be at the NSTA National Conference in Boston this spring (March 27-30, 2008)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.

Time Location
Thursday, March 27
Magnetism Activities, Space Weather, and Geomagnetism
8:00-9:00 am The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom D
Friday, March 28 Interactive Simulations and Hands-On Activities Across the Earth and Space Sciences 8:00-9:00 am The Westin Boston Waterfront, Faneuil
NESTA Geology Share-a-Thon 9:30-10:30 am The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom B
NESTA Oceans and Atmospheres Share-a-Thon 11:00 am - 12:00 pm The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom B
Playing with Ecosystem Science: Informal Modeling Games to Explore the Delicate Balance 11:00 am - 12:00 pm Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Room 160B
NESTA Space Science Share-a-Thon 12:30-1:30 pm The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom B
Bringing Writing and Reading into the Earth Science Classroom: Innovative Assessment Ideas 2:00-3:00 pm The Westin Boston Waterfront, Commonwealth C
Saturday, March 29
NESTA International Polar Year/Climate Change Science Share-a-Thon
9:30-10:30 am The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom B
Climate Change: Classroom Tools to Explore the Past, Present, and Future 12:30-1:30 pm The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom A
Water, Air, Land, Life, and Space! (WALLS!) 2:00-3:00 pm The Westin Boston Waterfront, Grand Ballroom E
Sunday, March 30
Cool Science from Cold Places! Activities and Online Resources About Science of the Polar Regions
8:00-9:00 am Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Room 052B

National Science Foundation Funded Research Results Highlighted on Windows to the Universe

We have a new portal to some great resources from the National Science Foundation (NSF)! Check out some of the best materials from NSF, including podcasts, video clips, interactive features, and news stories. These projects span many different science topics and provide a fun way to engage in science learning. We will be adding more items in each of the categories regularly, so please check back again soon to see what is available!

Some Hidden Gems for Teachers

Did you know that our website has loads of resources that are useful for teachers in the classroom? One area of particular interest is our Teacher Resources area, in which we have links to over 100 classroom activities, our online professional development courses, our Journal tool, workshops and presentations given by our staff since 2003, a Share-a-Thon area for teachers to share information about resources they recommend, and links to other resources for teachers.

Another hidden gem is our Tours section, where content that explains concepts in science is available organized sequentially rather than in a free browsing mode. Topics range from how stars evolve to volcanoes in the solar system to evidence for evolution.

Of course, these newsletters themselves are resources for you - you can access our archive of past newsletters through the link at the lower left hand corner of each newsletter, or at our newsletter archive directly.

Activities That Get Students Thinking About Sea Level Change

Global climate change does not just change Earth's temperature, it also changes the sea level. Do your students know why? Several of our classroom activities help build student understanding of sea level change - past and present. Combine Mapping Ancient Coastlines with Thermal Expansion and Sea Level Rise to teach that sea level change is no day at the beach (or perhaps it is). These lessons address middle school standards such as properties of Earth materials, structure of the Earth system, and Earth history (Content Standard D) as well as helping to develop map reading skills (National Geography Standard 1). As an extension, have students devise models to test whether melting glaciers or melting sea ice affect sea level (glaciers do and sea ice does not!).

Project BudBurst Is Underway!

Project BudBurst is officially underway for the 2008 campaign. Project BudBurst is a national field campaign for students, families, and other volunteers. BudBurst is designed to engage the public in the collection of important climate change data based on the timing of leafing and flowering of trees and flowers. Last year's inaugural event drew thousands of people of all ages taking careful observations of the phenological events such as the first bud burst, first leafing, first flower, and seed or fruit dispersal of a diversity of tree and flower species, including weeds and ornamentals. Your help in making observations and sharing information about Project BudBurst will help us in making this year even more successful. We are excited to announce new features added to the Website that will greatly expand the usability and enhance your experience while participating in Project BudBurst!

  • Expanded time to participate! Starting February 15 and continues throughout the year.
  • A myBudBurst member registration space! This allows you to save your observation sites and plants online as you monitor phenological changes throughout the year and for future years.
  • More plant species! We have expanded the targeted species list based on your feedback. Coming soon: we will include the 19 ‘calibration' species from the National Phenology Network.
  • An online geolocator! This gives you an easy way to obtain latitude and longitude coordinates for your observation sites.

For more information, please visit the Project BudBurst Website.

NEW Climate Discovery Online Course

Register now for the NEWEST course in the NCAR Climate Discovery Online Course series - Understanding Climate Change Today (deadline for registration is March 18). This online course presents some of the current and predicted impacts of global warming on our planet and human societies. Understanding Climate Change Today explores how climate models are developed and used to understand likely scenarios of future climate and how current scientific research is improving the quality of climate predictions. This seven-week NCAR Climate Discovery Online Course provides a K-12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom.

Climate Discovery is a series of three online courses for middle and high school teachers instructed by science education specialists. Each course combines geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The 2008 courses include Introduction to Earth's Climate (just completed), Earth System Science: A Climate Change Perspective (just completed), and the NEW course, Understanding Climate Change Today (coming up April 4 - May 23).

The tuition is $200/course. There is an additional fee for optional teacher recertification credits through the Colorado School of Mines. For more information, visit the NCAR Climate Discovery Online Course.

Table of Contents

New Podcast Zone
Virtual Magnets
Women Astronauts
Earth Day
Vernal Equinox
W2U at NSTA Boston
NSF Highlights
Hidden Gems
Sea Level
Project BudBurst
Online Course
Origami Spaceplane
Our Changing Climate
Going Around the Sun
Earth Observations
Environmental Ed
Field Conference
HS Climate Program


Teacher Submissions

Click here to submit your ideas to the newsletter

Origami Airplane to Launch from Space Station

According to a January 22, 2008, news release by Japanese news media, Professor Shinji Suzuki (a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Tokyo), the Japan Origami Airplane Association began wind tunnel testing on January 17 of an origami paper spaceplane which they hope to launch from the International Space Station. The origami paper airplane has a design similar in shape to NASA's Space Shuttle and is about 20-centimeters (3.1-inches) in length.

To date, the origami paper airplane has been wind tunnel tested to speeds of about Mach 7 and has reached temperatures of about 200 degree F. It is believed that because of the light weight of the origami paper airplane it will not burn up during re-entry, because it will not reach the same re-entry speeds of Mach 20 which the heavy space shuttle does. However, the origami paper airplane has been chemically treated to resist burning.
The Japan Origami Airplane Association and Professor Shinji Suzuki hope to have their origami paper airplane released from an airlock on board the International Space Station. It will then re-enter
Earth's atmosphere and glide to a landing at an undetermined location on Earth. The origami paper airplane will also have a "message of peace written upon it" by the space station astronauts. The contact information for the Japan Origami Airplane Association will also be printed on the paper airplane so that it can be returned in the event that it is ever found.

In 2006, a group of school children from Hiroshima folded a giant sheet of paper into the world's biggest paper airplane and make it fly.

Announcements from Partners

Click here to submit information about your program to the newsletter

How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate

When the weather changes daily, how do we really know that Earth's climate is changing? Two leading environmental authors have come together to produce a groundbreaking new book for middle school-age children that explains the science behind the headlines. How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming (Dawn Publications, March 2008) presents clear science and outstanding photos of the evidence from flowers, butterflies, frogs, trees, glaciers, ice cores, and much more, gathered by leading scientists all over the world.

The co-authors are Lynne Cherry, a leading children's environmental author and illustrator (The Great Kapok Tree) and photojournalist Gary Braasch (Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming Is Changing the World, University of California Press, 2007).

Of particular interest is how young people, acting as citizen scientists, are assisting scientists by gathering data, and the steps they are taking toward climate change solutions. What could be a depressing, strident or fearful book is instead, overall, empowering and hopeful. See more about these books at Dawn Publications - Sharing Nature With Children.

Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun

Today's children - the generation that may put a colony on Mars - will grow up knowing that Earth, Mars and the other planets are part of a "family of planets," in a "neighborhood" that circles the Sun. That's the kind of perspective taken in stride by a gorgeously illustrated new picture book for young children, Going Around the Sun: Some Planetary Fun by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Janeen Mason (Dawn Publications, 2008, available in both hardback and paperback).

Even though the book is for young children, pages following the illustrations are packed with age-appropriate information about our solar system. Real-life astronomers love this little book. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, in New York, wrote, "If the Sun were a poet, then Going Around the Sun captures just what it would say to its beloved family of planets." And Bruce Betts, Director of Projects at the Planetary Society, said, " Going Around the Sun combines good science with good fun." Take a look at Dawn Publications - Sharing Nature With Children.

Earth Observations from Space from the National Research Council

by Anne Jurkowski, The National Academies

Observations from space over the past 50 years have fundamentally transformed the way people view the Earth, ushering in a new era of multidisciplinary Earth sciences. Weather tracking, monitoring of atmospheric pollutants, GPS-enabled navigation, and the synthesis of global climate data are just a few examples of the many achievements made possible by satellite-based observations. The new National Research Council report Earth Observations from Space: The First 50 Years of Scientific Achievements highlights these and many other ways satellites have impacted the Earth science endeavor. While supplies last, complimentary copies of the report’s companion CD—which includes an electronic copy of the full report, as well as more than 30 images and 18 satellite-based animations—are available upon request. Order copies of the CD or explore a wealth of related images and animations at Earth Observation from Space.

Sign up now to participate in National Environmental Education Week 2008!

by Jill Schulte, National Environmental Education Foundation

As the nation's largest environmental education event, National EE Week, made possible by Canon, promotes understanding and protection of the natural world by actively engaging K-12th grade students and educators in an inspired week of environmental learning before Earth Day. As partners in EE Week, educators have access to:

If you work with children in a school, nature center, zoo, museum, aquarium, or other educational setting, you can join EE Week's efforts and gain national recognition for your work. Log on to to register. If you have questions, please email or call (202) 261-6484.

QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship Program

The QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship Program is now available for applications through March 31, 2008. QuestBridge helps outstanding low-income high school juniors complete for admission to top-ranked colleges. Information about the mission of QuestBridge and this program is available at the QuestBridge web site. QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that partners with colleges across the country.

NESTA Events at NSTA in Boston

The National Earth Science Teachers Association has loads of events at the upcoming National Science Teachers Association National Conference in Boston. Please see the NESTA website conference page for more information about these events. There are two NESTA events for which you need tickets, and space is running out, so sign up today! These are the NESTA Field Trip - Pudding Stone, Woods Hole, Seafood, Glacial Geology, and Plymouth Harbor on Wednesday, March 26, 2008. The cost is $50. Sign up for the field trip online by March 15, 2008. The other ticketed event is the NESTA Earth and Space Science Resource Day Breakfast on Saturday, March 29 from 7-8:30 am at the Westin Waterfront, Adams Room. Our speakers will be Louise Huffman and Julie Dooley of the ARISE program, who will speak on "Searching for the Climate 'Rosetta Stone' in Antarctica: ARISE Teachers' Experience on Ice". Tickets for the breakfast are $38.00. Sign up for the breakfast online by March 15, 2008.

If you're not already a member of NESTA, join NESTA today!

NESTA / MESTA summer field conference, "Astronomy in Arizona IV"

Submitted by Parker Pennington, NESTA President

NESTA is co-sponsoring a 10-day summer field conference, "Astronomy in Arizona IV" with the Michigan Earth Science Teachers Association. The field conference will explore these areas of astronomy: field observations, technology, research, classroom applications and interdisciplinary themes. Behind-the-scenes tours of numerous facilities in the area, including the major observatories (Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Mt. Graham International Observatory, and Kitt Peak National Observatory) are planned as well as interaction with amateur and professional astronomers. You will see everything from archeoastronomy to astrogeology to space art! Return to your classroom with special stories and treasures as well as new activities, knowledge and a network of new colleagues!

Astronomy in AZ will start in Phoenix on June 22, 2008 and officially conclude on July 2nd in Tucson (although there is an optional fluorescent mineral collecting night at the Purple Passion Mine on July 3).

The NESTA / MESTA "Astronomy in Arizona IV" Home Page contains background information, a trip financial planner, things to bring, a registration form, and information about possible graduate credit. For complete field conference information visit NESTA/MESTA.

Space is limited so don’t delay.

Climate Research Program for High School Students

The Center for Learning and Investigation in Mountain Backcountry Ecosystems (CLIMBE) is an environmental training and research center for high school students who have an interest in field and laboratory science. CLIMBE is in search of high school participants for its Summer 2008 Climate Awareness Program. This week-long experiential program includes backpacking / camping near Mount Mitchell (highest peak in eastern U.S.), intensive field lessons, data collection and analysis, and interactions with Ph.D. scientists. CLIMBE follows established scientific protocols for data collection and provides young scientists with hands-on field data collection, analysis, and reporting on basic ecological and environmental concepts at remote research stations. Data collection procedures involve the use of state of the art technology which meets standards established by the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). CLIMBE depends on educators to identify and recommend students to its programs. If you would like to recommend a student, please visit CLIMBE for the Student Application materials.

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © 1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; © 2000-07 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved.