Summer's here, and for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we're due a nice long break from our in-school educational responsibilities. I wish you all a wonderful break (hopefully at a place that looks like this!), and I hope your summer is restful, but also gives you the opportunity to learn new things that you can bring back to the classroom in the fall. And when you return, Windows to the Universe - a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) - will be there for you, with resources and services to support you in the classroom.
NESTA is working to not only provide quality resources and programs to teachers, but also to represent our discipline and profession at the highest levels nationally and internationally. NESTA is engaged with numerous professional societies, agencies, and programs, working to promote the importance of quality Earth and space science education. Please join NESTA today if you're not already a member. NESTA offers numerous benefits of membership, including a monthly newsletter and quarterly journal, as well as programs offered across the country. Find out more about NESTA on the NESTA website!
Storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain - it's that time of year again! Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on the first day of June. Check Windows to the Universe to learn more about how hurricanes form.
Check in at the NOAA National Hurricane Center web site for safety and preparedness information, the list of storm names that will be used this year, and hurricane tracking maps. Print out a map and plot the paths of the eye of each storm as it travels across the Atlantic this summer.
Windows to Adventure, a book series devoted to geology, astronomy, the planets, atmospheric science, oceans, and climate, uses fantasy characters, magical realms, and legends from regions around the world, to make science accessible to readers of 3rd or 4th grade. Angie and Rashad find a strange object in the woods that can take them on adventures, and into a magical realm of talking mountains and planets.
“Windows to the Morning Star,” second in the series, will be the first of the twelve science-learning books to be published. The release of “Windows to the Morning Star” will coincide with the June 5, 2012, transit of Venus, a celestial event, akin to a solar eclipse but involving Venus rather than the moon, that will not occur again for one hundred years. Future titles will be released approximately once a quarter through 2014. The books, translated into English, Spanish and French, will be available in e-Book or print-on-demand format via Kindle, Nook, and Kobo books. They can also be ordered through the science-learning website Windows to the Universe at the Science Store. Learn more about this exciting series at http://www.redphoenixbooks.com or follow Red Phoenix Books on Twitter (redphoenixbooks) or Facebook.
Did you know that the air in urban areas can be 2 - 5°C (3.6 - 9°F) warmer than nearby rural areas? This is known as the urban heat island effect. An urban heat island can increase the magnitude and duration of a heat wave. It can also influence the weather, changing wind patterns, clouds, and precipitation.
In the classroom activity, Feeling the Heat, students learn about the urban heat island effect. They investigate how the trees, grass, asphalt, and other materials in their schoolyard affect temperatures. Based on their results, students hypothesize how the temperature of cities might be affected by abundant asphalt and concrete and fewer planted areas. These surfaces have a large impact on temperature.
In the second part of the activity, students explore a case study of the urban heat island in action. They examine data about how the number of heat waves in Los Angeles, CA, has increased as population has grown. This part of the activity makes data analysis a kinesthetic experience as students each represent a decade and order themselves along a rope based on the data from their decade. Like good scientists, students look for patterns in the data and explore the possible reasons for those patterns.
Take a look at the Feeling the Heat Classroom Activity for more information.
The solstice occurs this month on June 20. The solstices (summer and winter) and equinoxes (spring and fall) are astronomical events that mark our seasons. Because of the tilt of Earth's axis, the Sun appears to climb higher (in the summer) and sink lower (in the winter) in the sky as viewed from our planet. A solstice is a time when the Sun momentarily pauses in this apparent migration as it reaches the greatest extremes of its "wanderings" and begins to "move" back in the opposite direction. The word "solstice" comes from two Latin roots: "sol", which means "Sun", and "sistere", which translates as "stand still".
Since our planet's atmosphere and oceans "store" heat, temperature extremes tend to lag behind the dates of minimum (or maximum) heating by the Sun, so the coldest part of winter (or hottest part of summer) happens after the solstice.
In many cultures, the solstices and equinoxes traditionally determine the midpoint of the seasons, which can be seen in the celebrations called Midsummer and Midwinter. In ancient times in Europe, the celebration of Midsummer's Eve was linked to the summer solstice. People believed that plants picked on this night had miraculous and healing powers. It was also widely believed that evil spirits roamed freely and witches congregated during this time. Megalithic structures like Stonehenge and Newgrange are sometimes aligned towards the setting or rising of the Sun on a solstice. Many cultures including Native American tribes hold sun worships and festivals to mark the solstices.
Many of us will be vacationing during this upcoming break. Lakes are a great place to visit on family vacation. Did you know that scientists have found a global warming trend in large lakes? Now warmer water to swim in might sounds like a good thing, but like other effects of global warming, the warming of large lakes could have undesirable implications. We sure hope you don't find these on your travels, but these effects are something to be aware of for yourself and your students.
Scientists are just starting to study and understand the implications of rising temperatures on lake ecosystems. One area of concern is the fact that rising lake temperatures result in increased algal blooms. Algae are naturally found in lake ecosystems and are in fact the base of the aquatic food web. But when the numbers of algae in a lake rise dramatically, a bloom results. Some algal blooms are harmless to life, but are simply unappealing. Water in that area might look terrible, smell foul or even taste bad (when water is drawn for drinking and purification from that source). Other times, algal blooms can be toxic to fish, other aquatic organisms, wild and domestic animals that use that source of water, and humans. Humans can experience gastroenteritis (if the toxin is ingested), lung irritations (if the toxin becomes aerosolized) or skin irritation (if the algae/toxin is touched for instance while swimming).
Rising lake temperatures have also been shown to favor invasive species found in lakes. In the Great Lakes region, two examples of invasive species under scrutiny are zebra mussels and lampreys. Zebra mussels have been seen to thrive in warmer and warmer waters, which means they can extend their living range to higher and higher latitudes. Lampreys seem to thrive in warmer waters growing bigger and bigger and are staying active for more of the year. Both of these invasive species are extreme pests that are killing off native species, eating the food of native species, or in the case of zebra mussels, causing billions of dollars of damage to structures and aquatic vehicles.
Clearly, more study and attention is due these important limnic ecosystems where so many people live, work, make their homes, and enjoy recreation and relaxation.
Road trips are a part of summer vacation. Wind coming through the open window, new sights to see, snacks that you normally would steer away from, and the anticipation of arriving at a familiar destination - these are all wonderful parts of a summer road trip. Unfortunately, road trips might bring delays due to traffic and construction. Roads do need to be constantly monitored and fixed, but did you know that asphalt lasts a LONG, LONG time? Babylonians used naturally occurring asphalt to strengthen their roads and you can still see patches of that road construction that have lasted until today! (It was installed in 600 B.C.!)
Engineers and scientists are working to make better road materials every day. Even nanomaterials like nanoclays are making a difference! And, of course, road construction laborers are working (often day and night) to make our roads safer. Give them a break, take a deep breath, enjoy the journey and the time you do have with family and friends, and maybe take one of those forced moments of delay to think about the wonderful infrastructure of roads you do enjoy and the materials that go into their making. Safe travels!
Earth Magazine's latest issue discusses how volcanism is often implicated in periods of abrupt cooling. For example, after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, global temperatures dropped by half a degree Celsius due to airborne particulate matter blocking solar radiation. However, these effects don't normally last more than a few years. Yet, a recent study blames volcanism for a 500-year cold period referred to as the Little Ice Age.
Beginning near the end of the Middle Ages and lasting into the early 19th century, unusually cold conditions blanketed much of the Northern Hemisphere. This period is known as the Little Ice Age. When exactly this period began, and how it was sustained for so long, are matters of much debate. The culprit, according to a new study put forth by climate scientist Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado, is volcanism. How can a short-lived event like a volcanic eruption trigger cooling that lasts for centuries? Find out here.
Be sure to check out the other fascinating stories in the May issue of EARTH available online now.
Global seismic hazard maps exist to help societies and decision-makers anticipate and prepare for earthquakes. These maps are supposed to depict the maximum level of ground shaking likely to be produced by an earthquake in a given area. In the past decade, however, ground motions and death tolls in areas struck by earthquakes have far exceeded these maps’ projections. Thus, scientists are calling into question the standard methods used to estimate seismic risk, and accepted assumptions and calculations have come under fire.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light coming from a "super-Earth" planet beyond our solar system for the first time. This is a big step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.
The planet, called 55 Cancri e, falls into a class of planets termed "super Earths", which are more massive than our home world but lighter than giant planets like Neptune. One of the planet's sides always faces its star. In this new study, Spitzer measured how much infrared light comes from the planet. The results reveal the planet is likely dark and its star-facing side is very hot, meaning the planet probably does not have a substantial atmosphere to carry the star's heat to the unlit side. Scientists think that 55 Cancri e is a water world: a rocky core surrounded by a layer of water and steam.
Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 and has enhanced capabilities to see exoplanets. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, will be able to use a similar infrared method as Spitzer to search other potentially habitable planets for signs of life-building molecules.
The National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) has recently released a new statement in support of high school level Earth Science instruction. It addresses such issues as the vital nature of the geosciences in areas such as climate, energy and natural hazards, the fact that job growth in the geosciences outpaces supply, and the need for an educated society to understand and communicate fundamental concepts and make informed and responsible decisions.
To that end, the NAGT identifies six action points in the areas of instruction, advanced placement, state departments of education and college recognition of high school Earth Science as a lab course, teacher certification and high school guidance counseling. To read the statement in its entirety, go to http://www.nagt.org/nagt/policy/high-school.html
From the sub-atomic realm of String Theory to the vast expanses of galactic clusters, "A Matter of Scale" illustrates the incredible range of sizes of objects and phenomena in our amazing Universe. This interactive from the NSF describes and illustrates with stunning images the tremendous range of size scales in the natural world. Check it out by clicking here!
Did you know that the Windows to the Universe site has an Archeoastronomy section?
The new field of archeoastronomy started in the 1960s with discoveries at Stonehenge, the world's most famous megalithic structure. Archeoastronomy has been called the 'anthropology of astronomy' to distinguish it from the history of astronomy. This means that archeoastronomy pays attention to the astronomical practices, mythologies, and religions of ancient cultures. It aims to discovery astronomy's role in ancient cultures.
Use this section as inspirational reading to jumpstart a love of astronomy for your students or to get inspired for some stargazing yourself. Enjoy!
In the familiar children's story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks found a porridge that was just right. There is a Goldilocks idea in science that says that the Earth is just right for living creatures.
There are so many factors that make our home planet just right - far too many to discuss in detail in such a short article. Do consider just a few of the things that make Earth habitable by all living creatures.
The temperature of Earth is just right for flowing water on the surface, and the Earth's temperature allows for rock that can shift. With continental drift, particles of the atmosphere, which become trapped within the ground, are brought back to the atmosphere through eruptions of volcanoes. These conditions cause refreshment of the planet's atmosphere. A medium-sized atmosphere helps keep temperatures just right through the greenhouse effect.
The Earth has yet another layer of protection - the magnetosphere including the radiation belts prevent most of the particles from the Sun, carried in solar wind, from hitting the Earth. Some particles from the solar wind enter the magnetosphere, creating the harmless auroral oval light shows. Other particles become trapped in the radiation belts, making the belts an extremely dangerous place for humans or animals to stay in without protection. But, most of us remain safe here on Earth, which is just right.
It's worth thinking about how wonderful and unique this home of ours is and it's worth taking care of this planet of ours! After all, buyer's market or not, moving is such a pain!
Water is always on the move, and summer can be a great time to learn more about the water cycle. While you're on vacation, notice what is happening with water all around you. It can be in the atmosphere, in the form of water droplets in clouds or in the form of precipitation falling as rain or hail. Water collects in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and can be found in plants on the land. It also falls as snow and ice and is stored in glaciers and other types of ice.
Water moves through the water cycle through various processes, including precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, and condensation. During the water cycle, water changes state between liquid, solid (ice), and gas (water vapor). It is recycled over and over through the cycle, and stays in some places longer than others. For example, a water drop usually spends a lot longer in the ocean than it does in the atmosphere.
Encourage your students to notice water in its many forms this summer!
The Space Weather Media Viewer is an application designed by Elaine Lewis and Troy Cline that supports education and public outreach activities of NASA. Many of the images that appear in this viewer are "near-real time" and come from a variety of NASA Missions.
This application is perfect to use when discussing space weather and the effects of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on the Earth and would complement the information available from The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) (which is part of the National Weather Service and the nation's official source of space weather alerts, watches and warnings). SWPC provides real-time monitoring and forecasting of solar and geophysical events that impact power grids, communications, navigation, and many other technological systems.
Many of you may have noticed a recent resurgence of news about solar flares in the media, with many fascinating photographs and videos taken by solar spacecraft equipped with incredible imaging capabilities of dramatic solar phenomena. These images provide wonderful real-world displays of aspects of fundamental physics and evidence of Sun-Earth coupling at the large scale – many of which are visible (thanks to these images and video) on televisions and computers in our classrooms, homes and offices! Check out NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory website for a wonderful collection of images and videos.
Is this evidence of some ancient Mayan prophecy set for 2012? Is the world going to end?
No. It’s not the end of the world – we’re just moving into the phase of the solar cycle when we can expect to see dramatic phenomena on the Sun impacting life here on Earth. The summer issue of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, will include a paper on Space Weather and Magnetism, highlighting topics which regularly generate interest in the classroom including solar activity and magnetic field reversals, as well as classroom activities and resources available on Windows to the Universe. If you're not a member of NESTA already, join today, so you will be sure to get a copy of this issue!
Table of Contents
Windows to Adventure
Feeling the Heat
Volcanoes - Ice Age
A Matter of Scale
The Water Cycle
Space Weather Views
Rocks and Fossils
GeoWord of the Day
Transit of Venus
World Environ Day
World Oceans Day
Summer of Innovation
App for That!
Comet Quest App
12 different rocks and minerals in a cardboard box - only $5 per box
A sample rock box includes: geode; dolomite; gypsum; volcanic ash; rose quartz; conglomerate; crinoidal limestone; clayball concretion; cone on cone calcite; selenite; quartzite; coal; and chert.
A sample fossil collection includes: fossil wood; bryozoans; pelecypod; scaphopod; gastropod; shark tooth; trace fossil; seed fern; nautiloid; brachiopods; coral; plant fossil; graptolite; and fish scale.
Shipping charges are $2.50 per box for two or more boxes, $4 for an individual box. Iowa residents add 7% sales tax.
Announcements from Partners
Information about Opportunities with Stipends, Honorariums, or Awards for Teachers/students
The GeoWord of the Day is a fun and convenient way to learn a new geoscience term every day. Each morning (US ET) the service will highlight a new word or term featured in the Glossary of Geology, ensuring daily authoritative terms and definitions for years to come. Users may choose to receive the GeoWord of Day directly through email by subscribing online.
In June 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire, spurring the Clean Water Act and other water pollution control legislation. Forty years later and the Cuyahoga is doing much better!
Why not make a difference during National Rivers Month (every June) to help clean up a river near your home? The National River Cleanup is celebrating 20+ years of making a difference. In 2011, there were over 370 cleanup locations, 85,000 volunteers nationwide, and 3 million pounds of trash removed from waterways! Make this June a month in which you and your family make a difference.
There are still 2 more days of Hurricane Preparedness Week 2012 (which runs through June 2nd).
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?
This year's grand Sun-Earth Day celebration is on June 5, 2012, and will focus on the Transit of Venus! The Transit of Venus is among the most rare astronomical phenomena and won't happen again until the year 2117. So prepare now, and don't miss out on this extremely special event! How can you celebrate? (Please visit specific web sites to see the timing of these live events).
A free, live webcast from Bareket Observatory in Israel will feature the Venus Transit on June 6, 2012. For more information, visit the Live Venus Transit page. Then conduct your own science experiments using the live transit feed! Bareket Observatory invites you to discover the Sun and Venus during the transit using hands-on Venus Transit activities.
World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment Day activities take place all year round but climax on June 5 every year, involving everyone from everywhere.
World Environment Day celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. World Environment Day is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.
Everyone counts in this initiative and World Environment Day relies on you to make this happen! We call for action – organize a neighborhood clean-up, stop using single-use plastic bags and get your community to do the same, plant a tree or better yet organize a collective tree planting effort, walk to work, start a recycling drive . . . the possibilities are endless.
June 8th of every year marks the official, United Nations-recognized celebration of World Oceans Day, and hundreds of aquariums, zoos, museums, conservation organizations and thousands of individuals around the world will participate in educational events. This year, celebrations will draw attention to the importance of getting young people inspired to protect the ocean as part of the 2012 theme: Youth - the Next Wave for Change.
NASA's third annual Summer of Innovation (SOI) project is underway. The project is providing hands-on learning opportunities for middle school students and educators through NASA-unique science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educational activities during the summer school break. SOI is a key component of the agency's broader education program to increase student interest in STEM courses, particularly among those in underserved sectors of the academic community. This year, a major portion of the SOI content focus will be on Curiosity, a NASA flagship science mission currently en route to Mars and scheduled to land August 6th.
A new NASA outreach project will enlist the help of amateur astronomers to discover near-Earth objects (NEOs) and study their characteristics. NEOs are asteroids with orbits that occasionally bring them close to the Earth.
OSIRIS-Rex will map this asteroid's global properties, measure non-gravitational forces and provide observations that can be compared with data obtained by telescope observations from Earth. In 2023, OSIRIS-REx will bring back to Earth at least 2.11 ounces (60 grams) of surface material from the asteroid. This sample will help us investigate planet formation and the origin of life, and the data collected at the asteroid will also aid our understanding of asteroids that can impact Earth.
Get Comet Quest, a new action game developed by JPL about Rosetta, the ESA space mission that will orbit a comet, drop a lander onto the comet surface, and observe 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it approaches the sun during perihelion.
Here's a synopsis to whet your app-etite!
The Rosetta spacecraft approaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Using its thrusters, Rosetta goes into orbit around the comet nucleus. Now you, the player, get to take over the spacecraft in its mission to learn about the mysterious comet. First, you must drop a lander on the nucleus. To land it in an optimum location, your timing must be excellent!
You use thousands of words daily. But can you use only six? Write a six-word micro essay about the environment. Be funny or poetic or serious. All submissions will be posted on SMITH magazine.net and some will be posted on EPA.gov. Submit yours now through June 30. It's the only Earth we have!
Need some inspiration?
Sweetest tweets still come from birds.
Many nations. One planet. Our home.
It was never ours to destroy.
Endangered species have no exit strategy.
Fill your home with curly lightbulbs.
Visit http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2012/04/02/sixwords/ to find out more!
Join the conversation(s)! EPA's blogs have been reorganized under the "Greenversations" group to make it easier to find topics you're interested in. EPA recently launched four new blogs and one new discussion forum:
The Eco Student: http://blog.epa.gov/students
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 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!
KidsGardening.org provides lessons, activities, handouts and articles from 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 Environmental Education Week Gardens & Schoolyards Planning Toolkit.
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.
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.