May 2013

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Successful Spring Workshops!
by Roberta

Our workshops at the National Science Teachers Association national conference in San Antonio were very successful, with between 30 to 50 participants at each workshop!  In addition, our other NESTA events were well attended (Share-a-Thons, lectures, Rock and Mineral Raffle, Friends of Earth Science Reception), allowing us to reach over 1,100 teachers at this one conference.  We welcomed many new members at the conference, and have over 200 new subscribers to this newsletter.  We hope you find this a useful resource - this newsletter has a new record, with our highest number of partner submissions yet (33!), in addition to the Windows to the Universe and NESTA highlights called out here. 

Of course, one of the biggest events of the past month was the release of the new Next Generation Science Standards.  NESTA is working with other leading geoscience organizations to help teachers address the new standards while working within the context of their specific state.  To that end, we have surveyed Earth and space science educators to identify their needs associated with the new standards.  We received nearly 1,000 responses, and are now analyzing the results.  We look forward to sharing these results with you, and moving ahead to provide the professional development so crucially needed, so that these new standards might be met. 

The Next Generation Science Standards Are Out!

On April 9, the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new set of voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education, were released.  Twenty six states and their broad-based teams worked together for two years with a 41-member writing team and partners to develop the standards which identify science and engineering practices and content that all K-12 students should master in order to be fully prepared for college, careers and citizenship.  The NGSS were built upon a vision for science education established by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, published by the National Academies' National Research Council in 2011.

Solar Max in 2013

Did you know that in 2013 we are expected to have an increase in solar activity?  The Sun’s energy output varies slightly over time, following an 11-year cycle, and that cycle is projected to reach its highest point in 2013.  This point in the cycle, called a Solar Maximum, is usually characterized by an increase in sunspots and solar flares.  During a Solar Maximum, the Earth’s auroras (aurora borealis, for instance—the Northern Lights) can be see more often and at much lower latitudes than in other years.

The increased solar activity that occurs during a Solar Maximum can also have more practical impacts on our lives.  During a Solar Maximum, the frequency at which the Sun produces coronal mass ejections (CMEs) increases.  Coronal Mass Ejections are massive bursts of solar wind that can cause geomagnetic storms and disrupt Earth’s magnetosphere.  The effects of this can range from damage to communications satellites to disruptions in electrical power grids on Earth's surface.

The solar cycle may have other effects on Earth as well, and many scientists are now trying to understand other ways that solar variation might affect us.   Some data suggest, for instance, that the solar cycle might play a large role in determining how much UVB radiation reaches the Earth’s surface, or that it might be linked to regional climate variation.  These and other aspects of the solar cycle are currently hot topics for research.

Whether you’re interested in the Solar Maximum because it might produce some spectacular night sky displays, or because it just might be what’s behind the next power outage, you can read more about it in our Space Weather section.

Arkansas Oil Spill Update and Classroom Resources

On March 29, a pipeline carrying crude oil from Canadian tar sands ruptured, spilling oil in the suburban community of Mayflower, Arkansas.  Roughly 5,000 barrels of oil spilled from a 22-foot rupture in the pipeline, and forced the evacuation of residential neighborhoods, schools, and businesses.  Cleanup efforts were underway almost immediately, and within several days much of the oil had been recovered and additional measures were in place to prevent the oil from spilling over into a nearby lake.  The company that owns the pipeline, Exxon, has also hired emergency response service contractors to assist in cleaning local wildlife and in assessing economic damage and managing monetary compensation for those affected by the spill.

Many have applauded the rapid and thorough responses by Exxon as well as local and state authorities, but the spill has also raised questions about new and much larger pipelines that have been proposed to carry petroleum products from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf coast region.  The cause of the Mayflower spill is not yet known, and the results of that investigation will very likely have major implications for the oil industry and the environment.

Updates on the Mayflower spill can be found on major news sites, and on this EPA site.

April 20, 2013, marked the 3-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.  Restoration efforts are still underway in the Gulf and the impacts of that massive oil spill are still being seen.  We've collected many resources for teaching about oil spills that you and your students might find helpful.

Fewer Trees, More Disease!

Many of us have heard about how deforestation is contributing to climate change, and that it's causing irreparable damage to local environments around the world.  Did you know that it's also a major factor in the rise of new infectious diseases?  As forest environments are transformed into farms, roads, fields, and cities, people are brought into contact with plants, animals, and other species that they have never seen before.  Many of these new species, like bats, apes, and some rodents, carry diseases that can also affect people, and when people enter their environment they are exposed to those diseases.  Unfortunately, many of these diseases are extremely dangerous, and we often have a very limited ability to treat them, so they become public health problems.

There are many examples of diseases that have arisen and spread at least in part because of deforestation and the urbanization of rural areas.  Some of the most prominent ones in recent years include malaria, HIV, monkeypox, and various viral hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa fevers.  None of these can be cured easily, and all are potentially fatal.

Emerging infectious diseases are a potent reminder that as humans move into new areas and change the ways land is used, there are often unforeseen consequences.  You can learn more about deforestation and climate change by following links from this page.

Use these links for more detail:

Factors in the Emergence of Infectious Diseases
Forests and Emerging Infectious Diseases of Humans

NASA Selects Explorer Projects To Probe Earth's Upper Atmosphere

NASA has selected a new satellite mission and a new space-based instrument to begin development as part of the agency's Heliophysics Explorer Program.  Slated to launch in 2017, the Ionospheric Connection (ICON) mission and the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will use remote-sensing and imaging instruments to probe the Earth’s ionosphere.  Fluctuations in this layer of the Earth’s atmosphere interfere with signals from communications and global positioning satellites, which can have an economic impact on the nation.

For more information about these and other missions that are part of the Explorer program, visit:

The Highs and Lows of Weather Maps

As I write this, there is a tremendous low pressure system working itself across North America.  It stretches from Canada to Texas!  The area around it on the weather map is various shades of green dotted with yellow, red and blue.  The low pressure system is marked with a red L.  Behind that system is one blue "H".  No green around that H!

Weather maps can be fascinating to study!  They certainly are ever changing.  By studying weather maps, you can be better prepared for what weather is coming your way.  Here's a very basic pressure system briefing for those of you who aren't atmospheric scientists.  If you see a red L on a weather map, that represents a low pressure system.  In general, a low pressure system will bring clouds and possibly precipitation.  Heavy rain around a "low" is marked with dark green on most weather maps, light rain is marked green, yellow means moderate rainfall, red means intense rainfall and blue means snow!

If you see a blue H on a weather map, that represents a high pressure system.  This High will bring with it good weather, i.e., clear skies.

Follow the links above to find out more about the connection between these pressure systems and the weather they bring!

Meteor Showers and Halley's Comet

The Eta Aquarids meteor shower peaks this year on May 5 in predawn hours. The waning crescent moon will not interfere with viewing.

The Eta Aquarids and the Orionid meteor shower in October are the results of Earth passing through the debris left behind by Halley's comet. This famous comet is named after English astronomer, mathematician and physicist Edmond Halley, who had suggested in 1705 that the comet observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 was the same one, and predicted its return every 76 years.

Halley's comet has actually been observed since 240 BC and is next scheduled to return in 2062. During its last appearance in 1986, the Giotto mission and several other spacecraft flew past the comet and collected a wealth of data on its different regions.

Richard Feynman's Birthday

On May 11, Richard Feynman (1918-1988) would have turned 95.  He was an American physicist and Nobel prize laureate who is widely considered to be one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century.  Feynman is known mostly for his work in quantum electrodynamics, which studies electron behavior and particle theory.  He also assisted in the development of the atomic bomb.  Feynman was also interested in education.  His book, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, is considered a classic introduction to modern physics.

Feynman was well known for his wit and his colorful personality.  His book, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, is easily the most entertaining autobiography ever written by a scientist.  Read it to find out about his numerous hobbies, including drumming, painting, juggling and playing pranks on his colleagues.

Pump it Up!

A reminder from the Environmental Protection Agency

Properly pumped-up vehicle tires save fuel and save you money - up to 11 cents per gallon!  Check your car's tires and pump them up to the recommended pressure.  The EPA is asking college students across America to host tire inflating events to help raise awareness.  Find out more!

Taking a Field Trip Soon?

Use our Snapshot Exercise to have your students write about a select moment of the trip.  We have a simple page for elementary school students where they can write down as many words as they can think of that have to do with what they see, hear, smell and touch.  For middle-high school students, we have a large list of sensory adjectives that would be helpful in writing their snapshot!

This activity makes your field trip or outing more meaningful and addresses Standards of being able to communicate effectively about science.

Resources for Teaching about Biogeochemical Cycles

What does a frog in a swamp have in common with a limestone rock?  It's the same thing that they have in common with a blade of grass, and the air in a balloon.  They all contain atoms of carbon!

Certain elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, move through the living and nonliving parts of the Earth system.  The movement of these elements is known as the biogeochemical cycles.  They are a great way to emphasize to students that the Earth is an interconnected system because these elements travel through the biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and the geosphere.

Windows to the Universe includes many resources for teaching about biogeochemical cycles - from classroom activities to online content and interactives.  These resources are highlighted for educators on the page:  Resources for Teaching about Biogeochemical Cycles.

Classroom Activity about the Solar System

Are you going to end your year by teaching about space, the solar system, stars and galaxies?  If so, check out the Great Planetary Debate Activity.  It has students work in groups of two to research a given planetary body in the solar system.  The students will then "defend their planet/moon" while competing against other teams in a Great Planetary Debate.  This is a great alternative to the solar system report, poster board or travel brochure you may have used before.

I used this activity in my high school Earth science classes, and I have to say that students were more excited about this Debate than about any other activity we did during the year!

2012 American Geophysical Union GIFT Workshop Resources Available Now!

Workshop presentations by scientists and education specialists selected to present at the 2012 AGU Geophysical Information For Teachers (GIFT) workshop are now available at  Six presentation teams were selected from among 29 applications, and their materials were ranked as the most relevant and of the highest quality, so these presentations are a must see for all Earth and space science and environmental science teachers.  We will be adding video links that supplement these resources soon!  Thanks to all of the presentation teams for their hard work.  Enjoy!

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:

Table of Contents

Sci Standards Out!
Solar Max
AR Oil Spill
Fewer Trees,Disease!
Explorer Projects
Weather Maps
Meteor Shower
Richard Feynman
Pump it Up!
Writing-Field Trips
Biogeochem Cycles
Great Planet Debate!
GIFT Resources
Join NESTA and W2U!

Am Wetlands
Natl Lab Day
Design Challenge
Night Rover
GreenSchools Webinar
Appreciate Teachers!
INTLCarbon Footprint
Intel ISEF
TRI Univ Challenge
Endangered Species
Bike to Work Day
Kids to Parks
EE Week Contest
Hurricane Prepare
Carson Contest
Summer Rocket Work
GreenWorks! Grant
Mapping Our World
Space Math @ NASA
Soil Sci Education
Project Noah
Flying Wild
Si Valley Astronomy
VHUB - Volcano
Free H2O Poster
Drought Index
Lunar Case
Global Change Survey














  Teacher Submissions

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  Announcements from Partners

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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

May is American Wetlands Month: Learn! Explore! Take Action!

May is American Wetlands Month, a time when the EPA and its partners in federal, state, tribal, local, non-profit, and private sector organizations celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation's ecological, economic, and social health.  It is also a great opportunity to discover and teach others about the important role that wetlands play in our environment and the significant benefits they provide - improved water quality, increased water storage and supply, reduced flood and storm surge risk, and critical habitats for plants, fish, and other wildlife.

EPA encourages all Americans to consider doing the following to help celebrate the month, wherever they reside:  learn about wetlands, explore a wetland near you, and take action to protect and restore wetlands.

National Lab Day

The beginning of May brings with it National Lab Day, a broad initiative designed to spark science and math education in the nation’s schools and after-school programs.  National Lab Day is more than just a day—it’s really a program to help link volunteers committed to improving science and math education in the U.S. with local schools, students, and teachers.  These collaborations are happening all year long, and in the first week of May, several large scientific organizations are sponsoring activities to celebrate people working together to build STEM education.

You can get involved by forming a group of volunteers and supporting an individual teacher, school, or project.  Teachers can post projects or recruit and communicate with STEM professionals/volunteers.  More than 3,000 people have already signed up, and the list is growing every day.  Read more about National Lab Day and the activities this initiative offers at The National Lab Network site.

NASA Launches Exploration Design Challenge

NASA unveiled an Exploration Design Challenge to give students from kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to play a unique role in the future of human spaceflight.  The challenge asks students in the U.S. and abroad to think and act like scientists to overcome one of the major hurdles for deep space long-duration exploration -- protecting astronauts and hardware from the dangers of space radiation.

NASA's Exploration Design Challenge brings cutting-edge learning to educators and students using standards-based activities, as well as print and video resources developed by leading education experts.  Students taking part in the challenge will discover how to plan and design improved radiation shielding aboard a new spacecraft.

Younger students, in grades K-4 and 5-8, will analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding for a spacecraft and recommend materials that best block harmful radiation and protect astronauts.  Students in grades 9-12 will learn about radiation and human space travel in greater detail.  Using what they have learned, they will be asked to think and act like engineers by designing shielding that protects a sensor on a spacecraft from space radiation.

To learn more about the Exploration Design Challenge and to sign up to become a virtual crew member, visit:

Registration Opens for NASA Night Rover Energy Challenge

Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, CA.  To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness.

"The goal of the Night Rover Challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems here on Earth," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  "NASA wants this challenge to generate new ideas that will allow planetary rovers the ability to take on a night shift, and possibly create new energy storage technologies for applications of benefit here on our home planet."

For information about the Night Rover Challenge and how to register a team, visit:

New Series of PLT GreenSchools! Webinars

Project Learning Tree is proud to be a part of the U.S. Department of Education 2013 Green Strides Webinar Series in conjunction with national partner, the U.S. Forest Service.  The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education.

Last year, over 800 participants joined PLT’s first GreenSchools! webinar series.  This year's series builds on that success by exploring a wider range of compelling and timely topics. 

Students and/or teachers can register now to ensure space in one or more of these informative and inspirational GreenSchools! professional development sessions.  All webinars take place from 4-5pm EDT.

  • Climate Change - May 1
  • Student Voice - May 29
  • Schoolyard Trees - October 16

Teacher Appreciation Day (May 7) and Week (May 6-10)

Teacher Appreciation Day is coming soon - May 7, 2013.  Use the whole week of May 6-10th to appreciate the teachers in your life.  We are so grateful for all of the teachers we serve, work with and interact with each year!  

Educators truly make a difference in our lives and the lives of our children!  Visit the Teacher Appreciation web site for creative ideas that honor educators.

World Asthma Day

May 7 is World Asthma day, an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve awareness of asthma around the world.  Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs, in which airways become repeatedly inflamed and swollen, leading to difficulty in breathing.  It is quite common, affecting nearly 10% of the developed world’s population.  Although there are effective treatments available for asthma, its cause is not known and there is no cure.  Asthma is typically made worse by poor air quality, and those who suffer from the disease are often very sensitive to pollution in the atmosphere.

You can read more about World Asthma Day on the GINA website (, and use the resources there to find activities in your community that you can participate in.  Check it out, and show your support for the large community of people who are affected by this disease!

International Student Carbon Footprint Challenge

Keep your students engaged in thinking about the Earth long after Earth Day by having your class participate in the International Student Carbon Footprint Challenge from April 29 - May 10, 2013.

ISCFC students use a student-oriented Carbon Footprint Calculator (note: an updated version was posted March 5, 2013!) to measure the impact of transportation, home energy, food, and personal purchase choices.

You can then share your class data with classes around the globe, and use a new communications tool developed by partners at to engage students in international conversations about carbon footprints and possible solutions to shared environmental challenges.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF)

Intel ISEF is the world's largest international pre-college science competition and will be held May 12-17, 2013, in Phoenix, AZ.  It is the premier global science competition for students in grades 9–12.  Each year more than 1,500 high school students from about 70 countries, regions, and territories display their independent research and compete for more than $3 million in awards.  We encourage you to visit the Intel ISEF 2013 homepage to learn more, view the Recent Results page for information about past Intel ISEF award winners, and check out all the latest pictures from the event on Facebook.

TRI University Challenge

University partners can develop innovative uses for Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data and related information.  Projects will benefit communities, the environment, academic institutions, and TRI.  EPA will accept TRI University Challenge applications until May 13 for projects that will begin this fall.  Find out more at

Endangered Species Day - May 17, 2013

Endangered Species Day provides an opportunity for schools, libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, agencies, businesses, community groups and conservation organizations to educate the public about the importance of protecting endangered species.  The Day also highlights the everyday actions that individuals and groups can take to help protect our nation’s wildlife, fish and plants.  For teachers and other educators, there are special educational materials.  Find an Endangered Species Day event in your area on or around May 17.

Bike to Work Day - May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013, is National Bike to Work Day.  The League of American Bicyclists, who also promotes Bike Week and Bike Month during the month of May, started national Bike to Work Day.  Since its origin, this day has grown and developed into a nationwide event.  Local, regional, and national bicycle advocacy groups participate to encourage people to commute to work using a bicycle.  There are even pit stops along some bicycle routes that provide cyclists with snacks and drinks!

Join thousands of other Americans for Annual Bike to Work Day.  Whether you are environmentally conscious or just love the exercise, biking to work is a great way to avoid the commuter traffic and stay in shape!

3rd Annual National Kids to Parks Day Event – May 18, 2013

The 3rd Annual National Kids to Parks Day is on May 18, 2013.  The National Park Trust created National Kids to Parks Day to empower kids to discover and enjoy parks in their community.  The Day's goal is to inspire healthy outdoor recreation and to cultivate future park stewards.  Over 33,500 people have pledged to go to a local park that day - will you?

National Kids to Parks Day is officially in support of the First Lady's Let's Move Outside! initiative.

Please visit the Kids to Parks Day website where you can find resources on how to plan your outing!

2013 EE Week Photo Contest

Do you have an inspiring photo of how you and your school or organization are engaging students in environmental education?  EE Week invites you to upload your photos, including those from digital cameras, camera phones and social media sites like Instagram to the EE Week Photo Contest.  Your photo can depict activities either inside or outside the classroom, before, during or after EE Week. 

The 2013 EE Week Photo Contest -- which runs from April 1 through May 31, 2013 -- is open to individuals affiliated with a school or organization providing K-12 educational programs.  Photo Contest applicants must be 18 years of age or older, have a valid email address and be residents of the United States.  Read the complete contest rules.

Entries will be judged on quality, visual appeal and the student learning that resulted from the environmental education efforts depicted in the photo. Prizes include a Samsung Galaxy Note® 10.1 (Wi-Fi) 16GB, a 14.2 Megapixel Samsung SMART Camera and a Dual-View Smart Camera with Built-in Wi-Fi.

Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013 (May 26-June 1)

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013 runs from May 26th through June 1st.

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters.  By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.  Each day will focus on a different topic like hurricane basics, storm surge, winds, flooding, planning and taking action.  Are you ready?

Rachel Carson Contest

Enter the Rachel Carson "Sense of Wonder" contest.  Show how the beauty of nature inspires you through poetry, essays, photos, songwriting or dance.  Entries must be from a team of two or more persons, and must include a young person and an older person.  The deadline for team entries is June 10, 2013.

NASA Seeks University Participants for Summer Rocket Workshop

University faculty and students interested in learning how to build scientific experiments for spaceflight are invited to join RockOn 2013 from June 15-20 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  RockOn 2013 is an annual workshop held in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia.  Registration is open through May.

During the program, participants will work together to build experiment payloads that will fly on a NASA sounding rocket predicted to reach an altitude of 73 miles.  The flight will take place June 20, the last day of the workshop, weather permitting.

"The purpose of the program is to bring together university students and instructors, and introduce them to building scientific experiments for space flight," said Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.  "We really get into the basics of building experiments, including developing circuit boards, programming flight code and working together as a cohesive team on space projects."

For more information and to register online, visit:

Apply for a PLT GreenWorks! Grant

Project Learning Tree has GreenWorks! grants of up to $3,000 available to schools and youth organizations for environmental service-learning projects.  The application form is now online and the deadline to apply is September 30, 2013.

PLT's GreenWorks! program is open to any PLT-trained educator in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The grants help students actively improve their local environments, which include both their schools and their communities.  Possible project ideas might include implementing recycling programs, conserving water and energy, improving air quality, or establishing school gardens and outdoor classrooms and integrating these projects into the curriculum.  PLT also provides grants for youth to plant trees, conserve forests, restore habitats, improve streams, construct nature trails, and more.

PLT GreenWorks! projects combine academics with service projects using the service-learning model.  In this way, students “learn by doing” through an action project they both design and implement to improve an aspect of their school or community’s environment.  The projects encourage students to partner with school decision-makers, local businesses, and community organizations to provide opportunities for student leadership.

Teachers and students can visit to download an application and apply today.  Successful applicants can expect grant funds to be awarded in December 2013.  All projects must be completed by December 2014.

Earth Science Week 2013 Theme Announced: "Mapping Our World"

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) is pleased to announce that the theme of Earth Science Week 2013 will be "Mapping Our World."

This year's event will promote awareness of the many exciting uses of maps and mapping technologies in the geosciences.  Earth Science Week 2013 materials and activities will engage young people and others in learning how geoscientists, geographers, and other mapping professionals use maps to represent land formations, natural resource deposits, bodies of water, fault lines, volcanic activity, weather patterns, travel routes, parks, businesses, population distribution, our shared geologic heritage, and more.  Maps help show how the Earth systems (geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere) interact.

Earth Science Week 2013 will be celebrated October 13-19.  For more about this week and ways to get involved, including newsletters, local events, and classroom activities, please see the Earth Science Week web site.

NASA Casts a Wide Net for STEM Education Partners

NASA is inviting potential partners to help the agency achieve its strategic goals for education.

Using its unique missions, discoveries, and assets, NASA supports education inside and outside the formal classroom to inspire and motivate educators and learners of all ages in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  The agency is seeking unfunded partnerships with organizations to engage new or broader audiences across a national scale.

Potential partnership activities are varied, and NASA is receptive to a wide range of possibilities.  All categories of domestic groups, including U.S. federal government agencies, are eligible to respond to this announcement.  NASA particularly seeks responses from creative organizations with wide-ranging areas of expertise that can affect systemic change for improving STEM education.  NASA will accept responses through Dec. 31, 2014.  Review of responses began April 1.

Organizations interested in responding to this education opportunity can access the announcement at:

Space Math @ NASA

Are you looking for a way to bring math into your geoscience curriculum?  Check out the Space Math @ NASA posted by Sten Odenwald from NASA Goddard.  To date, there are over 500 problems posted!  Problems range from upper elementary to high school level, and use math to solve real problems in the Earth and space sciences!

SSSA Offers Riches Of Soil Science Education

Six thousand members strong, the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a scientific organization that aims to support geoscience teaching and learning about soils.  This AGI member society provides an educational resources web page ( that includes lessons, activities, fun facts, sites of interest organized by soil topic and grade level, and soil definitions for the novice soil scientist.

You can also visit the online version of “Dig It,” an SSSA-sponsored exhibition on soil that ran in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History through January 2010.  Explore Dig It online and you'll find interactives, videos, educational materials, and more.

Project Noah

Project Noah is an online and mobile location-based application that encourages people to reconnect with nature by documenting local wildlife.  The tool harnesses the power and popularity of smart phones and tablets to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity.

You can earn patches, identify wildlife, go on missions and become a citizen scientist.  Join today! provides lessons, activities, handouts and articles (PK-12th grade) that apply across the curriculum.  Educators can register school and community gardens, communicate with other programs, and engage in meaningful discussions about garden activities.  Complete with how-to guides, garden stories, grants and resources, this free resource helps educators of all ages engage children in hands-on learning opportunities.

Learn more by accessing the EE Week Gardens & Schoolyards Planning Toolkit.

Flying Wild: An Educator's Guide to Celebrating Birds

Flying WILD's focus on migratory birds is designed to inspire young people to discover more about the natural world.  It encourages students to get involved in activities that promote environmental learning and stewardship.  The Flying WILD program places special emphasis on reaching urban schools with student populations that traditionally receive few opportunities to participate in environmental education initiatives.

The Curriculum Guide's many activities can be used to teach classroom lessons or to initiate service-learning projects that help birds and improve natural habitats.

Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness

The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) is a wonderful community with more than 500 different teaching resources on climate, climate change, and energy.  These resources (including classroom activities, experiments, and visualizations) are reviewed by educators and scientists, and are annotated and aligned with standards and benchmarks making it easy to locate the best resources to meet your needs.  Make climate literacy and energy awareness a priority by visiting the CLEAN web site.

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Now on YouTube

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific is happy to announce that the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures, featuring noted scientists giving nontechnical illustrated lectures on recent developments in astronomy, are now available on their own YouTube Channel at:  AstronomyLectures.  The talks include:

  • Frank Drake discussing his modern view of the Drake Equation,
  • Michael Brown explaining how his discovery of Eris led to the demotion of Pluto,
  • Alex Filippenko talking about the latest ideas and observations of black holes,
  • Natalie Batalha sharing the latest planet discoveries from the Kepler mission,
  • Anthony Aguirre discussing how it is possible to have multiple universes, and
  • Chris McKay sharing Cassini's latest discoveries about Saturn's moon Titan.

The lectures are taped at Foothill College near San Francisco, and are co-sponsored by NASA's Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Note that the top page of the channel shows the lectures in the order they happened to be uploaded to YouTube.  If you want to see them in chronological order, select the Playlist option.  Both new and older talks in the series will be added to the channel as time goes by.  Many noted astronomers have given talks in this series since its founding in 1999; recent lectures are being recorded so that people around the world can "tune in" and learn more.

VHub - Volcano Resources

VHub is a site for collaborative volcano research and risk mitigation.  Use the Resource Warehouse to locate a plethora of quality educational resources including posters, crossword puzzles, slide shows, factsheets, and activities.  This is your one-stop free shop for all things volcanic!

Free Water Cycle Poster for Kids

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have teamed up to create a water-cycle diagram for students in elementary and middle schools.  It is available in Spanish and a number of other languages.  To view or print a copy of this poster go to

Widely Used Index May Have Overestimated Drought

For decades, scientists have used sophisticated instruments and computer models to predict the nature of droughts.  With the threat of climate change looming large, the majority of these models have steadily predicted an increasingly frequent and severe global drought cycle.  But a recent study from a team of researchers at Princeton University and the Australian National University suggests that one of these widely used tools — the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) — may be incorrect.

The PDSI was developed in the 1960s as a way to convert multiyear temperature and precipitation data into a single number representing relative wetness for each region of the United States.  The PDSI, however, does not originally account for potential evaporation, which depends on solar radiation, wind speed and humidity.  The new model developed by Justin Sheffield, a hydrologist at Princeton and the lead author of the study, and his team accounts for this deficiency, and is subsequently producing different numbers.  Has the reported increase in drought over the last 60 years been overestimated?  And what might that mean for the future?

Read the full article in the April issue of EARTH Magazine.

Scientists Reopen a Lunar Cold Case

When Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on December 19, 1972, it ended an era of manned spaceflight to the moon.  The science, however, continues.

Armed with analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, researchers around the country have been re-examining the more than 380 kilograms of lunar rocks collected four decades ago during the Apollo missions.  Using new investigations, such as petrographic and chemical composition studies and updated solar radiation and engineering measurements, these "cold case" scientists, many of them young innovators, are extracting new knowledge about our nearest celestial neighbor.

How will their new analyses help us better understand our moon?  Read the full story in the April issue of EARTH Magazine.

AGI Survey on Geoscience Impacts of the Sequester

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has started a web-based survey to gather information on whether the sequester is having an impact on the geosciences and, if so, to gauge the nature of the effects.  AGI is urging as many people as possible to respond, ideally on a weekly basis (as impacts are likely to increase over time).  They would like to hear from geoscientists across the spectrum including those in industry and academia in addition to those with direct links to government.  Responses that report “no impact” are important and stories detailing any impacts are welcome.

Responses will provide AGI with valuable insights and real-life reports about how the sequester is, or, alternatively, is not affecting geoscientists’ ability to address our nation’s critical needs.  To participate in the survey please click here.

Understanding Global Change Educator Survey

In response to the need for a better informed and more scientifically literate populace, the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are developing a web-based resource for science education that will provide rigorously-vetted, non-partisan, scientific information on global change (defined broadly to include the varied ways the Earth’s natural systems change over time). 

To inform that process of developing this web-based resource, they need help from the science teaching community!  The following anonymous survey should take less than 15 minutes to complete, but will help hundreds of thousands of educators and students for years to come! 

To participate in the survey, follow this link:  UNDERSTANDING GLOBAL CHANGE SURVEY.  If you have any questions about the survey, please email BSCS.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and time.  All responses will be thoughtfully reviewed and the information collected will be used to develop the best web-based resource on global change issues possible.

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