Perspectives on Earth and Space Science Education Blog
Many times, I have found myself thinking about issues in Earth and space science education, and occasionally have thought that it might be good to share these thoughts more widely. Recent experiences involving This American Life have given me the incentive I needed to get started with a blog on Windows to the Universe entitled "Perspectives on Earth and Space Science Education". I thought I'd let you know, in case you are interested in joining the discussion!
Celebrate Earth Day!
Earth Day is coming! Are you ready to celebrate? On April 22, more than a billion people will participate in Earth Day activities centered on the theme "Mobilize the Earth".
One major 2012 Earth Day event will occur on the National Mall in Washington DC. It's a daylong event to rally to "Mobilize The Earth and demand a sustainable future." The event on April 22 from 11am-7pm, sponsored by Earth Day Network, will feature music, entertainment, celebrity speakers and environmental activities. It’s free and open to the public.
Project Earth is hosting a national Earth Day Contest for grades K-12 featuring environmental projects, activities and actions being taken to conserve resources and protect our environment. The deadline is April 15, 2012.
Find a local event or register your own Earth Day activity on the Earth Day Network.
April Meteor Showers
I'm not sure what kind of flowers they might bring in May, but April does usher in one of the major meteor showers of the year - the Lyrids. If you manage to spot any meteors around the night of April 21st, you will be carrying on a long tradition...for Chinese astronomers first observed Lyrid meteors more than 26 centuries ago! And this year's viewing will be virtually moon-free! Typically the Lyrids produce a meager 10-20 meteors per hour, though they sporadically generate large outbursts of 100 or more meteors per hour (as happened in 1803, 1922, 1945, and most recently in 1982). Look toward the shower's namesake, constellation Lyra, on the night of the 21st to catch a glimpse of a "falling star".
NASA Releases New WISE Mission Catalog of Entire Infrared Sky
WISE launched Dec. 14, 2009, and mapped the entire sky in 2010 with vastly better sensitivity than its predecessors. It collected more than 2.7 million images taken at four infrared wavelengths of light, capturing everything from nearby asteroids to distant galaxies. These images have been combined into an atlas of more than 18,000 images that cover the sky and a catalog listing the infrared properties of more than 560 million objects, mostly stars and galaxies, found in the images. Many of these objects have never been seen before.
WISE observations have led to numerous findings, including the discovery of the elusive, coolest class of stars. Astronomers hunted for these failed stars, called "Y-dwarfs," for more than a decade. Because they have been cooling since their formation, they don't shine in visible light and could not be spotted until WISE mapped the sky with its infrared vision. WISE also took a poll of near-Earth asteroids, finding there are significantly fewer mid-size objects than previously thought.
WISE also found the first known "Trojan" asteroid to share the same orbital path around the sun as Earth. Another image shows a surprising view of an "echo" of infrared light surrounding an exploded star. The echo was etched in the clouds of gas and dust when the flash of light from the supernova explosion heated surrounding clouds. Even more discoveries are expected now that astronomers have access to the whole sky as seen by the spacecraft.
Biodiversity Hotspot - Costa Rica
In March, I had the chance to visit Costa Rica. What a wonderful experience! The people were welcoming, the food was rich and diverse, the weather was wonderful and of course, the wildlife was amazing!
Costa Rica is listed as a Biodiversity Hotspot (the Mesoamerican forests overall). What is a Hotspot exactly? To qualify as a Hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat. There are around 30 Biodiversity Hotspots in the world. All of the Hotspots are in peril and are affected by habitat loss, invasive species, and overexploitation of native species for food, medicine and pet trade.
Amphibians in the Mesoamerican forests have been especially hard hit and have experienced dramatic decline due to habitat loss, fungal disease and climate change. Here's a plug for one of the most wonderful animals we saw in Costa Rica - frogs! Participate in Save the Frogs Day April 28, 2012!
Thunderstorms and Tornadoes
It has obviously been a very rough year in the U.S. for thunderstorms and tornadoes, and many, many states and communities have been hit by these devastating storms.
It is very timely to explore the atmospheric conditions that create persistent squall lines that form over the U.S. central plains where cool, dry Canadian air masses collide with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Near the ocean, the Great Lakes, and mountains, uneven heating of land surfaces can produce spectacular afternoon thunderstorms announced by crackling thunder, life-threatening lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding. Knowing and sharing information about thunderstorm and tornado safety is very important! It could save lives!
The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about these weather conditions, including information about thunderstorms and tornadoes, how tornadoes form, and how meteorologists forecast when and where tornadoes will occur. In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.
Black Carbon - Background and a Classroom Activity
Little particles in the atmosphere called aerosols may be small, but they have the ability to change climate. These tiny particles are a natural part of the atmosphere, coming from erupting volcanoes, sea salt, and wildfires. However, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, additional aerosols have been added to the atmosphere as fossil fuels are burned. Black carbon is the term that has been given to the product of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass. It is commonly known as soot.
Try out the new Changing Planet Activity called Black Carbon - A Dusty Situation to teach about black carbon in your classroom.
The Lorax Returns!
The Lorax movie released on March 2nd. Have you seen it? Chances are, many of your students will! The Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, has sold more than 1.6 million copies and is ranked by educators as one of the top 20 books for children. The cleverly rhymed book shows how important it is to protect our natural resources, and is of course, illustrated in the classic Seuss style.
Seussville.com has created a special area for Lorax resources at The Lorax project. There's even a page on how to host a Lorax project Earth Day Event. Project Learning Tree also has some great Lorax classroom activities posted. Finally, to get in a truly green (or orange!) mood, you can send a Lorax e-card to your friends.
Of course, the Lorax isn't the first children's movie with an environmental theme. Have you seen Ferngully, Happy Feet One and Two, Dolphin Tale or Big Miracle? These movies might just be the inspiration your students need to be more engaged and active in caring for the environment.
2011 AGU-NESTA GIFT Workshop Presentations, Resources, and Videos Available Online!
We're happy to release the presentations, classroom activities, and videos taken during the AGU-NESTA GIFT workshop for K-12 classroom teachers held during the Fall 2011 AGU Meeting in San Francisco, California, on December 5-6. Please click on this Windows to the Universe page to view the workshop listings complete with presentation descriptions, and links to PowerPoint presentations, activities, supplementary materials, and videos. The workshop included presentations and activities on tsunamis, clouds, climate science field campaigns, the Pine Island glacier in Antarctic, and the dangers of airborne volcanic ash. Enjoy these valuable resources, and the accompanying videos!
Earth and Space Science DVDs, Classroom Activities, Kits, and Books on Windows to the Universe Online Store
We have recently added several new educational DVDs to the Windows to the Universe online store. Available DVDs include:
and the following resources from TASA graphics:
In the Windows to the Universe Teacher Resources section, we have many K-12 science activities on a variety of subjects including geology, water, atmospheric science, climate change, life, space weather and magnetism, and science literacy. Most of these activities are now available in PDF format.
Windows to the Universe Educator Members have free access to all downloadable PDF and PowerPoint materials in our Teacher Resources Activities section (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.
Want to save time collecting and prepping classroom materials? We have several classroom activity kits available in our online store for the following popular activities: 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.
Finally, we recently added several new titles to our collection of Earth and space science related books. New titles include:
As always, Windows to the Universe Educator Members get a 10% discount on all purchases from the online store - and this is on top of publisher discounts.
Table of Contents
April Meteor Showers
Tornadoes and Storms
Black Carbon Lesson
DVDs, Kits, Books
Natl Week of Ocean
EE Week in April
Natl Park Week
Bowling Supply Grant
Thacher Env Contest
Cherry Blossom Blitz
Deep Space Habitats
Summer Rocket Work
Climate Change DVD
WWC New Reports
Energy Lab Program
USGS ES Education
Climate Change Tool
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
The winter issue of AGI’s GeoSpectrum, the geosciences newsletter, is now available online. This issue’s highlights include a full range of news and information from AGI’s 50 member societies, as well as several opinion pieces, public policy news, meeting announcements, and educational, scholarship and career opportunities in the geosciences. GeoSpectrum is available as a free PDF at http://www.agiweb.org/geospectrum/.
National Week of the Ocean will be celebrated April 1-7, 2012. Week of the Ocean is a marine education program credited with more than three decades of learning about and caring for the ocean. It is a grassroots program that appreciates, protects and uses the ocean wisely.
Week of the Ocean offers four ocean awareness concepts: the Campus Event, the School Marine Fair, the Community Festival and the Local Chapter. Check out the schedule page for more information and to get involved.
National Environmental Education Week (EE Week) is only two weeks away! Celebrate the environment April 15-21 as an engaging context for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts and skills. This year's theme is Greening STEM: The Environment as Inspiration for 21st Century Learning.
The environment is a compelling context for teaching STEM topics as it provides teachers with a diverse range of real-world challenges that engage students in meaningful hands-on opportunities to apply and reinforce STEM concepts across multiple subject areas, according to the event organizer, the National Environmental Education Foundation.
Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. Founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, it's celebrated on the last Friday in April -- this year that is April 27th.
An Arbor Day celebration can be as large or as small as you want to make it. Your Arbor Day can be a few neighbors gathering to plant trees in a park behind your homes or at a nearby school. It can be a weeklong regional festival with activities for thousands of kids and adults. Arbor Day can be a single class project or an event for the whole school, an inner city neighborhood planting trees in a vacant lot, or a huge citywide or statewide celebration. Learn how you can incorporate Arbor Day throughout your school curricula as well.
Also in April, communities, organizations, and individuals nationwide celebrate gardening during National Garden Month. Gardeners know, and research confirms, that nurturing plants is good for us; attitudes toward health and nutrition improve, kids perform better at school, and community spirit grows.
Join in both celebrations and help to make America a greener, healthier, more livable place!
Looking for something fun, free, and fantastic to do with family and friends? Head out to America's national parks where millions of stars light up the dark night sky, deer and antelope (and a few other critters!) play on the wide-open range, and history is an unbelievable experience, not an exam.
And the best news? During National Park Week, April 21-29, ALL 397 of your national parks offer free admission, all week long! Enjoy!
Applications are now being accepted for the $100,000 Bowling To Teachers Classroom Supply Grant Program. If you are a teacher, have a teacher in your family or if you LOVE your child's teacher, please take advantage of this great opportunity.
400 ($250) classroom grants will be given to teachers in an effort to help them offset their out-of-pocket school expenses. 80 grants will be awarded monthly and awarding has begun! Apply soon!
Whether you are a nature enthusiast, book lover, young conservationist, student, teacher, or writer, you are invited to participate in America's WILD READ community discussion. This blog is provided to you by the Friends of the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in partnership with the NCTC Conservation Library. All are welcome!
A new discussion about the highly acclaimed Wild in the City book begins April 15 (through May 6) with moderators and editors Mike Houck, M.J. Cody and Bob Sallinger. Join in the discussion today!
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.
NASA, governments around the world and civil society organizations will co-host the International Space Apps Challenge on April 21-22 with events across seven continents and in space.
Hurricanes: Science and Society (www.hurricanescience.org) will be hosting a webinar series in the spring of 2012. The webinar series will provide participants with an opportunity to "meet" some of the country’s top hurricane scientists and introduce a range of hurricane topics from the basics of hurricane science to advances in forecasting hurricanes to preparing for an approaching hurricane. Each of the one hour webinars will have leading members of the hurricane research and forecasting fields discussing their research and answering questions from the "audience."
The next webinar is April 24, 2012. Webinar attendees must register in order to participate. Registration information, a full list of webinar topics, speakers, and additional information can be found at: www.hurricanescience.org/resources/webinar2012/ Questions? Please contact Holly Morin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2012 Hurricanes: Science and Society Webinar Series is presented by the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography in partnership with the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE), and the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The workshops provide resources and hands-on experiences to support the incorporation of estuary and watershed topics into classroom teaching. Participants will work with local scientists and coastal educators to explore estuary habitats, practice scientific field activities, and bring data into the classroom.
The deadline for application is April 29, 2012. For more information or to apply please visit: estuaries.noaa.gov/GetInvolved
Do you know a young person who is uncertain about their career choices? Inspiration and information will be in great supply at the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo hosted by Lockheed Martin on April 28-29, 2012, in Washington, D.C. The event supports the Earth Science Week (October 14-20, 2012) theme of “Discovering Careers in the Earth Sciences.”
Celebrate spring with Project BudBurst’s new field campaign - Cherry Blossom Blitz! In many parts of the country, the arrival of cherry blossoms is a sure sign that spring is here. These beautiful and showy trees captivate the senses with their magnificent blooms and soft scents.
Last November, scientists studying cherry blossom phenology used data from Project BudBurst to test their models about changing blossom times. The Cherry Blossom Blitz will provide scientists and the public with even more data to track changes in cherry tree blossoms. What are the cherry trees doing where you live? Share their stories with others from around the country! Be part of this inaugural campaign!
Use our Quick Reference Guide to Cherry Trees (http://budburst.org/cherry/pdfs/quickreferencesheet.pdf) to find a tree to observe. Help us reach our goal of 500 reported observations during this campaign. That’s an average of only 10 observations per state. Together, we can learn more about how plants respond to changes in their environment. Visit http://budburst.org/cherry to learn more. Here is a downloadble handout to help encourage phenological observations of cherry trees - http://neoninc.org/budburst/pdfs/CBB_Flyer.pdf.
NASA is offering college and university students a chance to help design a deep space habitat. The Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is accepting applications for the 2013 challenge, inviting students to design, manufacture, assemble and test systems for use on NASA's deep space habitat prototype.
This year, students in multiple disciplines can choose projects from a variety of possibilities, including photovoltaic solar arrays, a workstation to support human-robotic collaboration or a telepresence and holodeck conceptual system. Students will work together on potential solutions to needs future astronauts might have living and working outside Earth.
The goal for the X-Hab Challenge is to help NASA inspire the STEM workforce of the future and the next generation of explorers. Winners will receive between $10,000 and $49,000 to produce functional products based on their designs. Proposals are due May 2, 2012, and awardees should expect to deliver their product to Johnson in May or June 2013.
Bats are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies worldwide. As primary predators of night-flying insects, bats consume enormous quantities of agricultural pests and reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
2012 is the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and this year's Sense of Wonder contest will focus on water. To honor this anniversary, the contest has been renamed the Sense of Water Contest for 2012. Entries must be from a team of two or more persons - a young person and an older person - and can be poetry, essay writing, photography or dance. The deadline for entries is June 1, 2012.
University faculty and students are invited to join a weeklong workshop June 16-21 to learn how to build and launch a scientific experiment to space. Registration is open through May 1. For more information and to register online, visit: http://spacegrant.colorado.edu/rockon
Nowhereisland is a public art project conceived by artist Alex Hartley, who is known for his photographic and sculptural depictions of remote landscapes. It is one of 12 arts projects across the UK, funded by the Arts Council of England, which will form part of the Cultural Olympiad in summer 2012.
Imagine an Arctic island travelling south - a landscape on the move. After leaving the Kingdom of Norway, the island enters international waters and is declared a new island nation - Nowhereisland. This new nation continues its journey to the southwest coast of England, where it opens its embassy and participates in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Will you become part of the story of this new nation? Sign up today!
According to predictions by NOAA scientists, debris from the tsunami that devastated Japan could reach the United States throughout this spring. However, there is still a large amount of uncertainty over exactly what is still floating, where it is located, where it will go, and when it will arrive.
Information on significant marine debris sightings in the North Pacific Ocean and on the United States western coast is greatly needed and can be reported to the NOAA Marine Debris Program at DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. Educators who might be interested in taking students into the field to conduct surveys should send an email to MD.email@example.com to receive a shoreline monitoring field guide. Additional FAQs are available at http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaqs.html.
Created in partnership with The Workshop, MissionExplore.Net is now live! Discover a world of slightly warped adventure by finding, doing and reporting on missions created by a range of Challengers including National Geographic Education and OPAL.
Designed to inspire and reward explorers, the site is an innovative way to engage people in exploring and seeing the world in new ways. Start today at http://www.missionexplore.net/aboutus.
Did you know that Windows to the Universe is on Facebook? "Like" the group's page to follow the latest Windows to the Universe happenings and to participate in a wonderful science education community.
NASA has also launched a new endeavor on Facebook - its first multi-player online game to test players' knowledge of the space program. Who was the first American to walk in space? Who launched the first liquid-fueled rocket? These are only a few of the questions players can answer in Space Race Blastoff. Enjoy!
URBAN EARTH is a project to (re)present some of the largest urban areas on our planet by exploring, experiencing and expressing thoughts about them. Discover more about the project, join a planned walk or organize your own.
The Understanding Global Climate Change DVD that covers the basics of climate change (developed by teachers and used in online professional development for those in careers outside of education) is downloadable (and free) in both English and Spanish from Byrd Polar's website (direct links below).
The instructions to burn a DVD (if you'd like to make a physical copy of the DVD for distribution) are available. It's recommended that users work from a downloaded version (resident on each computer) where possible. This is especially important for groups - to avoid server slowdowns.
What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released two reports recently on interventions for science education. The reports are available through the following links and there is a reference fact sheet for further information.
Chemistry That Applies: http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/interventionreport.aspx?sid=595
American middle schools and high schools are now eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Laboratory Equipment Donation Program (LEDP). For over 30 years, this program has enabled colleges and universities to acquire hundreds of millions of dollars in high-quality surplus laboratory equipment from the department’s National Laboratories.
Did you know that the American Geophysical Union hosts a collection of Earth and space science blogs? Explore topics like extreme weather, landslides, volcanoes, astronomy, earthquakes and climate change. And, of course, you and your students can join in discussions about these topics!
Looking for teaching resources? Check out a page called "Freebies for Science Teachers" on the National Science Teachers Association web site.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offers a wealth of information on virtually every Earth science topic, from natural resources and hazards to geospatial data.
The Funworks web site, developed by the Educational Development Center, features a collection of STEM career exploration resources. The site helps middle and high school aged students think about what they enjoy and how to connect those interests to STEM jobs they never knew existed!
The Teachers' area has lesson plans and activities, career counseling links and other resources.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provides learning opportunities for teachers and students at all levels. For example, DOE’s Energy Education & Workforce Development web site offers hundreds of K-12 lesson plans. For standards-based activities covering topics from energy basics to biofuels, hydropower, and wind energy, see http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/education/lessonplans. The annual National Science Bowl (http://science.energy.gov/nsb/) tests middle and high school students’ science knowledge.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a free collection of resources to enhance middle school students’ understanding of climate change impacts on the United States’ wildlife and ecosystems.
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.