June 2013

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Happy Summer!
by Roberta

Some of you may already be done with the school year, and if not, you are in the home stretch!  Thankfully, summer awaits with opportunities for relaxation, discovery, learning, and a chance for getting reinvigorated!  I hope you all have a great summer, and bring back new energy and new resources to your students in the fall!  This newsletter is PACKED with great resources and opportunities for you - today marks the start of hurricane season, while our friends in the mid-west of the United States are reeling from the damage and loss of life caused by enormous tornadoes. 

If you are an education specialist working with a scientist on resources that apply to the K-12 Earth and space science classroom, please consider applying to present at the American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Information for Teachers Workshop (GIFT) in San Francisco next Fall meeting.  Information on how to apply is available at http://education.agu.org/education-activities-at-agu-meetings/gift/.

Happy Summer!

Moore Oklahoma Tornado

On May 20, a devastating tornado hit the town of Moore, Oklahoma, and several adjoining communities, causing massive damage and loss of life.  At least 12,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm, and nearly 400 people were injured.  Twenty-four people were killed by the tornado, which was over a mile wide and reached winds of more than 200 mph as it traveled over roughly 17 miles of ground before dissipating.  The tornado was classified at the EF5 level, and is the second EF5 tornado to hit the town of Moore since 1999.

The area hit by the tornado has been declared a Federal and State disaster area, and organizations from around the country and even abroad have offered help.  If you would like to help by making a donation to support disaster relief efforts, you can do that through the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or the United Way.  Our heartfelt thoughts go out to those who were affected by this disaster and to those who are helping the area and people of Moore to recover.

Although tornadoes can happen at any time of the year, they are especially common during the spring and early summer.  May and June are the peak months in terms of numbers of tornadoes in the northern hemisphere.

The conditions that lead to the formation of tornadoes are most often met in the central and southern U.S., where warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cool, dry air from the Rockies and Canada.  The area where tornadoes occur most often extends roughly from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, and from Iowa and Nebraska to the Gulf of Mexico.  The center of this area, which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska, is often called tornado alley.  Tornadoes can also occur elsewhere though, including all U.S. states, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about these storms, including how tornadoes form, how meteorologists forecast where and when tornadoes will occur, and how scientists use the Enhanced Fujita Scale to determine the strength of a tornado. 

Moon Meteors!

In recent years, NASA has devoted a lot of effort to scanning nearby space to try to identify any meteors that might pose a danger to Earth.  In doing that, they have also been able to watch meteors strike the Moon, and they have found that meteor impacts on the Moon are surprisingly common.  NASA sees hundreds of impacts per year, and on May 17, they reported that several weeks before they had observed the biggest meteor impact ever recorded on the Moon.

A rock roughly a foot across and weighing about 40 kilograms impacted the Moon’s surface at 56,000 mph, and caused a flash that was visible from Earth without a telescope.  NASA estimated that the impact packed as much energy as 5 tons of TNT, and produced a crater as wide as 20 meters across. 

Scientists say that the Earth was showered with meteors at roughly the same time as the large Moon impact, but the Earth-bound meteors burned up in the atmosphere and none are thought to have impacted the Earth’s surface.  The Moon does not have a protective atmosphere, and the frequency with which space debris impacts its surface is something that concerns NASA as they make long-term plans for astronauts to return to the Moon and remain there for extended periods of time. 

Read more about the meteor strike and NASA’s programs to monitor meteor activity around the Earth and Moon here:  http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/16may_lunarimpact/  

Smartphones in Space!

Three smartphones destined to become low-cost satellites rode into space on April 21 aboard the maiden flight of Orbital Science Corporation's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.  The phones were part of NASA’s PhoneSat program, which is aimed at determining whether a consumer-grade smartphone can be used as the main flight avionics of a capable, yet very inexpensive, satellite.  For these PhoneSats, Google-HTC Nexus One phones were used, and the overall cost for each satellite was less than $7,000.

The three satellites remained in orbit for about a week, and transmissions from all three phones were received at multiple ground stations on Earth, proving that the PhoneSat concept is feasible.  The PhoneSats also took pictures of the Earth while in orbit.  NASA expects to launch the next version of PhoneSats late in 2013, so stay tuned.

 To read more about the NASA Small Spacecraft Technology Program and the PhoneSat mission, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/smallsats and http://www.phonesat.org

It's Hurricane Season in the Atlantic!

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 out Windows to the Universe to learn more about how hurricanes form.

Forecasters are predicting a very busy hurricane season.  On the whole, as climate change warms ocean waters long-term, hurricanes will become more frequent.

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 tracking map and plot the paths of the eye of each storm as it travels across the Atlantic this summer.

Herschel Completes Its 'Cool' Journey in Space

The Herschel Observatory, a European space telescope for which NASA helped build instruments and process data, has stopped making observations after running out of liquid coolant as expected.  The European Space Agency (ESA) mission, launched almost four years ago, revealed the universe's "coolest" secrets by observing the frigid side of planet, star and galaxy formation.

Herschel's detectors were designed to pick up the glow from celestial objects with infrared wavelengths as long as 625 micrometers, which is 1,000 times longer than what we can see with our eyes.  Because heat interferes with these devices, they were chilled to temperatures as low as 2 kelvins (minus 271 degrees Celsius) using liquid helium.  The detectors were also kept cold by the spacecraft's orbit, which was around a stable point called the second Lagrange point about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth.  This location gave Herschel a better view of the universe.

A few highlights of the mission include:
-- Discovering long, filamentary structures in space, dotted with dense star-making knots of material.
-- Discovering high-speed outflows around central black holes in active galaxies, which may be clearing out surrounding regions and suppressing future star formation.
-- Examining a comet in our own solar system and finding evidence that comets could have brought a substantial fraction of water to Earth.
-- Together with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, discovering a large asteroid belt around the bright star Vega.

For more information about Herschel, visit
http://www.nasa.gov/herschel and http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Herschel

Cousteau's Anniversary

June 11 is the 103rd anniversary of the birthday of Jacques-Yves Cousteau - a famous French explorer, ecologist, author, filmmaker and researcher.  He studied the sea and marine life and co-invented the aqua lung, an early underwater breathing device.  But his most important legacy is in marine conservation efforts and educating the public about treasures of underwater life and the dangers of pollution.  Cousteau wrote more than 50 books and created several films and TV series about marine life.  He founded the Cousteau Society that continues his exploration and education mission. 

Windows to the Universe has many pages on Earth's oceans and marine life, including the Ocean Literacy Framework and postcards from scientists exploring the deep sea in the Alvin submersible:  Eric Simms (2007) and Tim Killeen (2009).

Women in Space Anniversaries

June marks two anniversaries for women in space.  The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (born in 1937), flew aboard Soviet spaceship Vostok 6 50 years ago on June 16, 1963.  At that time, she was a factory worker without a college degree, and was selected for her skydiving skills.  Later, Tereshkova obtained a graduate degree in engineering and was active in politics.

20 years later, the first American woman in space, Sally Ride (1951-2012), flew aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.  Ride, a physicist by training, remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space.  Later, she founded a company that develops classroom materials for STEM educators.  She also wrote or co-wrote five children's books about science.  On May 20, 2013, President Obama announced that Ride would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be presented to Ride's family later this year.

Solstice is Coming!

The solstice occurs this month on June 21.  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".

The June solstice is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  The situation is, of course, reversed in the Southern Hemisphere - where the June solstice is the winter solstice.  Because our planet's atmosphere and oceans "store" heat, seasonal 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.

Students often mistakenly believe that the seasons are caused by variations in Earth's distance from the Sun.  This misconception doesn't make sense when one remembers that the seasons are opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres - why isn't it cold everywhere on the globe when the Earth is farthest from the Sun?  As Earth travels around the Sun in its elliptical orbit, its closest approach to our celestial furnace is in January, during the depth of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

To learn more about the solstice and seasons, check out these pages on Windows to the Universe:

Sun Safety Tips

Stay safe!  If you're outdoors this summer, protect yourself and your family from sun overexposure.  Use a sunblock of SPF 30 or higher, wear clothes and sunglasses that help shield your body from solar radiation, and use extra caution near water and sand, which can reflect the sun’s rays and increase your exposure.

For more sun safety tips, see http://www2.epa.gov/sunwise/action-steps-sun-safety.  To access free printable activity books and sun safety fact sheets, see http://www2.epa.gov/sunwise/forms/fact-sheets-and-handouts-about-sun-safety.

A Matter of Scale

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!

Archeoastronomy of Interest?

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 the growth and change of 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!

There's No Place Like Home!

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 - consider just a few of the things that make Earth habitable by living creatures.

The temperature of Earth is just right for flowing water on the surface, and for rock that allows for continental drift.  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 refresh the planet's atmosphere.  A medium-sized atmosphere helps keep temperatures just right through the greenhouse effect.

The atmosphere contains oxygen that is needed by most creatures.  And the atmosphere works to protect life, as the ozone layer filters out the Sun's harmful rays.

The Earth has yet another layer of protection - the magnetosphere (including the radiation belts) which prevents 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, moving is such a pain!

Warming of Large Lakes - Video and Classroom Activity

Many of us will be vacationing during this upcoming summer 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 sound 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.

To learn more, explore our Warming Lakes Classroom Activity or watch a video produced by NBC Learn called Warming Lakes.

Are You Feeling the Heat?

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 weather - wind patterns, clouds, and precipitation.

In the classroom activity, Feeling the Heat, students learn about the urban heat island effect.  They investigate how 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 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 fully prepare 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.

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 http://www.windows2universe.org/teacher_resources/2012_AGU-NESTA_GIFT_Workshop.html.  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!

Table of Contents

OK Tornado
Moon Meteors!
Smartphones in Space
Herschel's Journey
Women in Space
Sun Safety Tips
A Matter of Scale
Large Lakes
Feeling the Heat
Sci Standards Out!
GIFT Resources

Global Change Survey
S&T Natl Quiz
Energypath 2013
June Gardens
Hurricane Prepare
World Oceans Day
SoI Project
Carson Contest
Mosquito Control Wk
Send Name to Mars!
Night Rover
Budburst - Solstice
GreenWorks! Grant
Mapping Our World
Disney's Friends
Si Valley Astronomy
Space Math @ NASA
EarthViewer App
Project Noah
Flying Wild
Geography Resources
Bacteria High Life
U.S. Energy Security














  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 http://www.windows2universe.org/offers.html.

Now Recruiting for the 2013 GEN PDI in Orlando!

The NASA Galileo Educator Network (GEN), a professional development program in Astronomy and Space Science, is accepting applications for a Professional Development Institute (PDI) this fall.

Funded by a grant from NASA, the Galileo Educator Network was developed and is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, in collaboration with its partners the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, and the New Jersey Astronomy Center (NJACE) at Raritan Valley Community College.

The PDI takes place September 28-29, 2013, at the Orlando Science Center in Florida.  This opportunity is FREE for accepted participants.

Designed for teacher leaders, teacher educators, and PD providers, the Galileo Educator Network (GEN) PDI emphasizes the integration of science content, science practices, and the nature of science as outlined in the national Framework for K–12 Science Education.

PDI participants will explore:  

  • Classroom-tested, standards-based, and Galileo-themed astronomy investigations.
  • How students learn science.
  • Astronomy teaching resources, including The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD-ROM.
  • NASA-developed and NASA-supported resources and science content.
  • How to adapt existing astronomy resources and activities to emphasize science practices and to include reflection on the nature of science.

Participants in this GEN PDI will receive:  

  • A $400 stipend, upon delivery of their own GEN professional development program for K-12 teachers in their home region.  GEN PD should cover a minimum of 15 contact hours for in-service and/or pre-service teachers, but can be implemented in different ways, such as:  (a) a 2-day weekend workshop, (b) a few afterschool PD sessions, or (c) a 15-week, 1 hour-per-week course.
  • Reimbursement of travel expenses for the GEN PDI in Orlando.
  • 20 copies of the astronomy teaching resource, The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD, for use with K-12 teachers that PDI participants will subsequently train.
  • NASA educational materials.

More information and a link to the application are at:  http://astrosociety.org/education/k12-educators/galileo-educator-network/

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.

Science and Technology Knowledge Quiz

Pew Research Center in conjunction with Smithsonian Magazine would like you and your students to take their 13-question quiz to test your knowledge of scientific concepts.

As soon as you complete the quiz, you see how you did in comparison with the 1,006 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in this national poll.  The findings from the poll can be found in this full report.  But no peeking!  If you are going to take the quiz, do it first before reading the analysis.

Energypath 2013 Scholarships and Science Fair

The Sustainable Energy Fund is proud to provide full scholarships to students and educators on a first come, first serve basis to attend Energypath 2013 at Villanova University on July 29 to August 2, 2013.  The Sustainable Energy Fund, an organization that assists energy users in overcoming education and financial barriers to a sustainable energy future, provides hundreds of scholarships to professional educators and college students each year to attend the Energypath Conference and a pre-conference Energy Camp.

These scholarships include admission to an energy camp, the conference, exhibits, the science fair, a movie and the keynote dinner.  In addition, those attending an energy camp are provided with on-campus housing and dining (breakfast, lunch and dinner) during their stay.  To register, apply for a scholarship, or learn more about Energypath 2013, please call Elizabeth at 610-264-4440 or email events@thesef.org.

June is a Month to Garden!

June is Perennial Gardening Month.  Celebrate by getting your hands dirty!

Need some help getting started?  KidsGardening.org 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 about gardening by accessing the EE Week Gardens & Schoolyards Planning Toolkit.

National River Cleanup and National River Month

In June 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire, spurring the Clean Water Act and other water pollution control legislation.  Over 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 2012, there were over 400+ cleanup locations, 92,500 volunteers nationwide, and 3.5 million pounds of trash removed from waterways!  (That makes 2012 the most successful year in the history of National River Cleanup!)  Make this June a month in which you and your family make a difference!

Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013

There's only one day left in the official National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2013 (runs through June 1st).  But it's always a good time to be prepared!

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.  Use the Hurricane Preparedness website to learn about hurricane basics, storm surge, winds, flooding, planning and taking action (YouTube announcements and audio messages available).  Are you ready?

UN World Environment Day - Think.Eat.Save

On June 5th, the United Nations will sponsor the 42nd annual World Environment Day.  World Environment Day is a day in which activities around the world are aimed at stimulating awareness of the world we live in and encouraging people to come together and work toward a cleaner environment.

This year’s theme is Think.Eat.Save, focusing on food waste and how we can all reduce our ‘foodprint.’  According to the UN, 1 in 7 people in the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet more than a billion tons of food is wasted every year.  This year’s World Environment Day goal is to get everyone to think about their own food choices and what choices are best for people around the world and for the environment.

Learn more about World Environment Day and this year’s theme at:  UN World Environment Day.

June 8th is World Oceans Day

Join in the celebration of World Oceans Day (June 8), our planet’s biggest celebration of the ocean.  Explore the World Oceans Day web site for ideas, resources, and information about how you can get involved.

Every year, more and more people take action to celebrate and protect our planet’s ocean, which connects us all.  Thanks to people like you, approximately 600 events were held last year to celebrate World Oceans Day!  Let’s make this year even better by holding at least 1,000 great events!  You can help by sharing and spreading the word about this celebration.

2013 Summer of Innovation Project - Exploration Design Challenge and "Mini-Awards"

NASA has unveiled plans for its 2013 Summer of Innovation project, which challenges students across the United States to share in the excitement of scientific discovery and space exploration through unique, NASA-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities.

Summer of Innovation leverages the expertise and reach of NASA's 10 field centers, national academic and industry partners, and smaller, non-traditional collaborators to keep students engaged in STEM activities during the summer school break.  NASA's facilities and partner organizations will host family activity days, opportunities for students to talk with NASA experts, and summer day camps.  Students attending the day camps will design and construct their own rockets, build water filtration systems, learn to become as fit as an astronaut, and participate in NASA hands-on activities.

One main focus of the Summer of Innovation that all students from kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in is the Exploration Design Challenge which gives students 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.  To learn more about the Exploration Design Challenge and to sign up to become a virtual crew member, visit:  http://www.nasa.gov/education/edc

Finally, NASA will offer "mini-awards" for as much as $2,500 each to encourage a wide variety of educational partners, such as museums, schools or school districts, and youth organizations, to infuse existing summer and after-school student programs with STEM content.  NASA's Summer of Innovation project is accepting proposals for these "mini-awards" through Monday, June 10.

Information about NASA opportunities during the 2013 Summer of Innovation is available at:

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.

National Mosquito Control Awareness Week 2013

The week of June 23 – June 29, 2013, has been declared the seventeenth annual “National Mosquito Control Awareness Week” by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA).  Many scientists argue that the mosquito is the most dangerous animal on Earth because of its ability to carry a wide range of human diseases like malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and others.  With this in mind, the AMCA, an international organization of nearly 2,000 public health professionals, has been dedicated to preserving the public’s health and well-being through safe, environmentally sound mosquito control programs since 1935.  During “Mosquito Week”, the AMCA’s goal is to educate the general public about the significance of mosquitoes in their daily lives and the important service provided by mosquito control workers throughout the United States and worldwide.

Events during this week will include displays, lectures, demonstrations and educational programs, all of which will focus on mosquitoes as disease carriers and pests.  Activities will also provide information about the mosquito life cycle and tips on how to eliminate mosquito egg-laying sites around homes, to try to help citizens reduce the numbers of mosquitoes in their own neighborhoods.

Read more about “Mosquito Week”, and help the AMCA get the word out.  You can also read more about mosquito control on the Environmental Protection Agency website.

Send Your Name and a Haiku to Mars!

NASA is inviting members of the public to submit their names and a personal message online for a DVD to be carried aboard a spacecraft that will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

Scheduled for launch in November, the DVD will be in NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft.

The DVD will carry every name submitted.  The public also is encouraged to submit a message in the form of a three-line poem, or haiku.  However, only three haikus will be selected.  The deadline for all submissions is July 1.  An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.  The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface.

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 or to register a team, visit:  http://www.nightrover.org.  Early registration closes on July 26, 2013, and regular registration closes October 25, 2013.  Trials will begin in January 2014.

Project BudBurst - Summer Solstice Snapshot Event

Summer is a great time of year!  Summer brings with it sunshine, vacations, and beautiful plants that are flowering and fruiting.  June 21st is the summer solstice, the day of the year with the most hours of sun for the Northern Hemisphere.

Join Project Budburst in making observations of a plant near you (while at home or on vacation!), during the Summer Solstice Snapshot event between June and July.

Why is the Summer Solstice Snapshot event important to science?  One of the most frequent requests Project Budburst gets from scientists is for enhanced geographic coverage of ecological observations.  The more citizen scientists participating across the country, the better the geographic coverage and the more useful the data is to professional scientists.  Scientists are using Project Budburst data to look for general environmental trends, and to provide ground-truthing to better understand remotely sensed data such as that taken by satellites.

Join this growing community this summer, or any time year round!

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.  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 www.greenworks.org 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.

Disney's Friends for a Change - Project Green

If you're looking for a way as a parent or as a teacher to get your teens and tweens involved in a fun, safe environmental movement, you should take a look at Disney's Friends for a Change - Project Green.  It encourages kids to get involved to help the planet in a variety of ways.  And as you can imagine coming from Disney - they make things just plain fun!

They also offer grants to help kids achieve their goals with local environmental projects.  Take a look!

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 and current lectures are being recorded so that people around the world can "tune in" and learn more.

Space Math @ NASA

Are you looking for a way to bring math into your geoscience curriculum?  Check out the Space Math @ NASA site 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!

EarthViewer App

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) offers the free EarthViewer App for iPads which allows users to explore the science of the Earth's history.

This new interactive tool is designed for exploring the science of Earth's deep history.  From molten mass to snowball earth, EarthViewer lets you see continents grow and shift as you scroll through billions of years.  Additional layers let you and your students explore changes in atmospheric composition, temperature, biodiversity, day length, and solar luminosity over deep time.

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!

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.

Geography Resources

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) offers an array of web resources for K-12 and college-level Earth science education:  

* The Geographic Advantage (http://geographicadvantage.aag.org/), an educational companion for the National Research Council’s “Understanding the Changing Planet,” outlines teaching strategies and geographic investigations that show students how geographers explore environmental change and sustainability.

* AAG’s Center for Global Geography Education (http://www.aag.org/cgge) offers online modules for undergraduate courses in geography and related social and environmental sciences.  All modules feature a conceptual framework, regional case studies, and collaborative projects.

* GeoSTART materials will help middle/high school students learn state-of-the-art approaches to geography, earth science, and spatial thinking skills using NASA Earth Observing Missions remote sensing imagery and related data.  Go online (http://www.aag.org/cs/education/k12_and_teacher_education/geostart_teaching_earth_science) for free activities and materials.

N.E.O.N.: Studying Critical Ecological Issues on a Continental Scale

Before the last embers of Colorado's High Park Fire had been extinguished last year, scientists from Colorado State University had begun planning a large-scale study to assess the blaze's impacts and characterize the state of the landscape after the fire.  In a first-of-its-kind partnership, the research team paired traditional fieldwork with 3-D imagery of unprecedented detail gathered by a Twin Otter aircraft carrying a trio of sensitive instruments.

The unique study was made possible by one of the U.S.'s newest research programs, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).  Still under construction, NEON will be one of the most extensive ecology projects ever undertaken, a platform for examining critical ecological issues — from the effects of climate change and invasive species to those of droughts, fires and floods — across the entire North American continent.

In June, EARTH magazine explores this new program, looking at how research at 60 sites in 20 different ecoclimatic domains over the next several decades will help a virtual network of researchers, decision-makers and citizens study ecological changes at the continental scale and provide a platform from which to forecast environmental change.  Learn more about this program and how you can get involved by reading the story at http://bit.ly/10S6eQw.

Lofted by Hurricanes, Bacteria Live the High Life

With cold temperatures, low humidity and high levels of ultraviolet radiation, conditions 10 kilometers above Earth's surface may seem inhospitable.  But, next time you're flying consider this:  the air outside your airplane window may be filled with microscopic life that affects everything from weather and climate to the distribution of pathogens around the planet.

While studying hurricanes during NASA-sponsored research flights, scientists stumbled upon populations of airborne bacteria.  Microscopic analyses revealed that each cubic meter of air collected contained an average of about 150,000 cells – mostly bacteria with a few fungal cells mixed in.  The team found that the bacterial assemblage in each sample tended to reflect the recent history of the air mass from which it was collected.  For instance, if the hurricane was predominantly over the ocean, then the sample contained mostly oceanic bacteria.  However, the exact mechanics of how the bacteria are transported to the upper atmosphere remain unclear.

Read the full article online at http://bit.ly/12byNK7.

Why U.S. Energy Security is Increasing

To what extent is the United States energy independent?  In recent years, Americans have heard a lot about the need to be unconstrained from foreign energy sources, but what do the numbers really tell us about our current state of independence?

Historically, the United States has relied on a diverse energy mix.  From our founding through the final years of World War II, the country was nearly 100 percent energy independent:  relying on coal- and oil-fired power plants, as well as a series of massive hydroelectric dams.  By the second half of the 20th century, our growing demand for electricity resulted in a nationwide electric grid fed not only by domestic coal and hydropower, but also by nuclear energy and natural gas.  By then, we were also importing petroleum to fuel our burgeoning transportation system.  In 2005, 31 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S. was from imports.  However, due to recent advances in natural gas drilling and recovery technology, in 2011 U.S. dependence on imports for total energy consumption had decreased to 19 percent.

Is the United States poised to regain energy independence?  What would the implications be for national security and international relations going forward?  Read the full article online in EARTH Magazine!

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The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://windows2universe.org/ from the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA). The Website was developed in part with the support of UCAR and NCAR, where it resided from 2000 - 2010. © 2010 National Earth Science Teachers Association. Windows to the Universe® is a registered trademark of NESTA. All Rights Reserved. Site policies and disclaimer.