Update your bookmarks! Our new website url is http://windows2universe.org!
If you haven't already, please respond to the email about forwarding UCAR subscription information to NESTA (sent from email@example.com and subject: For Windows to the Universe Educators). If you missed this email, it will be sent out again next month. It's easy - only two clicks of the mouse!
August brings many of us the last days of summer vacation, and the need to prepare for the coming school year. Here at Windows to the Universe, we have been very busy all summer getting ready for the coming school year! We have been working very hard on a major redesign of our website, which we will be releasing on September 1. Thanks to everyone that responded to our survey about the design choices we're making - your responses were very helpful and encouraging. In addition, we have been working on content development on our projects, and getting our schedule finalized for our workshops at the NSTA conferences this coming Fall (see below). We look forward to seeing you there, if you can make it!
We will begin offering memberships for all educators by 1 September 2010 which will provide access to new website capabilities and services, as well as an ad-free version of the website. We have set the minimum regular Educator Membership rate at $20/year. However, we now have a special discount for members of the National Earth Science Teachers Association to join as Windows to the Universe Educator Members at a discounted rate of $10 for one year ($18 for two years, or $24 for three years!).
If you're not already a member of NESTA now, but would like to take advantage of this discount, you can join NESTA for only $10 (and gain access to even more benefits of membership from NESTA including receipt of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist), and then join Windows to the Universe as an Educator Member and get access to this special rate.
We will also soon be reopening the Windows to the Universe Online Store, including publications and classroom activity kits, as well as wonderful rock, mineral and fossil specimens. We will continue to add products, so please be sure to check it out!
Listening to science podcasts is a great way to brush up on your own content knowledge! They are easy to "carry with you" on trips and they are free! You'll glean tidbits of information that will make your subject fun and fascinating, plus relevant, for your students.
The Windows to the Universe podcast zone is a great place to find brief podcasts produced by the National Science Foundation. Other favorite podcasts of ours include Lab Out Loud podcasts produced by NSTA and Astronomy behind the Headlines podcasts produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Listen, learn and enjoy!
Knowing what weather is on the way is important to many people. Check out our new pages on weather instruments to learn more about how scientists collect data that help predict the weather. You'll learn about anemometers, barometers, weather balloons, radar, and other instruments. These pages can give your students more information about different instruments and the weather phenomena they measure. You can also use this information to help decide what instruments to include in a weather station at your school!
Have you had a chance to visit our Teacher Resources Section? If not, August may be a great time to do so as you begin planning for a new school year.
In our Teacher Resources section there is a page about various workshops we've presented. So if you are looking for information that was presented during one of those sessions - look here!
But the highlight of our Teacher Resources section is definitely our Activities Page. Here you'll find many K-12 science activities on subjects from space weather to geology to writing in the science classroom. Most are hands-on and use inexpensive materials. You are welcome to make copies of anything on our site (worksheets, example rubrics, etc) for use in your classroom.
We have tried our best to make our activities teacher-friendly. You will see on the top of the activities a brief summary of each activity, the grade level addressed, time the activity takes and the National Standards addressed. See our Magnetometer Activity as an example.
We hope our activities will be a refreshing addition to your classroom. To those of you in the Northern Hemisphere - all the best for a new school year!
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft flew by asteroid Lutetia on July 10, 2010. Lutetia is the largest asteroid visited by a spacecraft to date. Lutetia (the Latin name for Paris) is a mysterious asteroid; data from the flyby may help scientists learn about its composition and history. Rosetta has returned to hibernation mode as it continues towards its rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.
Have you ever noticed that the grass in your yard always gets greener after a thunderstorm? That’s partly because lightning actually helps to feed the plants in the area. The electrical energy in lightning splits Nitrogen molecules in the air, allowing their newly freed atoms to react with oxygen and form nitrates, which then dissolve in rain drops and fall to the ground, where they nourish plants. This process is called nitrogen fixation, because it’s a process in which nitrogen is converted from an inert form to one that is usable by living organisms. Scientists think that roughly 5-8% of the nitrogen fixation on Earth is actually caused by lightning, which means that thunderstorms are actually an important part of the global Nitrogen cycle. You can learn more about lightning and the Nitrogen cycle on the Windows to the Universe website.
NOAA has reported that June 2010 was the warmest June on record worldwide. The combined global land and sea temperatures in June made it surpass June 2005, which previously was the warmest June on record. 2010 also had the warmest average April-June period and January-June period. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center uses records going back to 1880.
Visit the Climate and Global Change section on Windows to the Universe to learn more about what scientists are learning about our changing climate.
Unusually hot summer weather that lasts for several days is called a heat wave. How hot is a heat wave? That all depends on what temperatures are typical in a given location. For example, temperatures during a heat wave in southern California, where summers are usually hot, may climb to 100-130°F (38-54°C), while temperatures during a heat wave in London, England, where summers are usually mild, may be only 90-95°F (32-35°C).
Learn about summer heat on Windows to the Universe with content pages about heat waves and the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon that can intensify heat waves by changing the weather in urban areas. Explore how heat waves are becoming more common because of global warming too.
Many of us have been following the news of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and unfortunately, it's easy to see that this disaster will impact the U.S. and the world in a number of very different ways.
As of mid-July, it was estimated that the spill was leaking between 1.5 million and 2.5 million gallons of oil per day, and that the oil slick covered at least 2,500 square miles of ocean. It is clearly already having a major impact on the Gulf of Mexico environment, and as it gets close to the U.S. coastline, it threatens marine and coastal ecosystems within beaches, barrier islands, marshlands, and other coastal environments.
Apart from its effects on natural ecology, the spill is also having a dramatic impact on a number of industries including fishing, tourism, and shrimping. These industries are likely to suffer billions of dollars in losses, and this will in turn affect jobs and local economies in a major way.
As BP and the other companies involved work hard to stop the leak and contain the spill, why not use this story to show your students how environmental disasters have widespread effects, and explain why environmental stewardship is important for all of us! Visit our page of resources for teaching about oil spills to access web-based content and classroom activities that address the science of oil spills and their effects on ecosystems.
On August 5, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, turns 80. Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio in 1930. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and then worked as a test pilot before joining the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. His first spaceflight was aboard Gemini 8 in 1966 where he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 moon landing mission and became the first person to walk on the lunar surface. Over 2 1/2 hours, he and astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin took color photographs, collected soil and rock samples, and raised the American flag, while walking around on the Moon. Armstrong received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and many other awards for this achievement. Happy birthday!
Another memorable spaceflight date that comes in August is the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Sputnik 5 mission, which lifted off on August 19, 1960, carrying the dogs Belka ("Squirrel" in Russian) and Strelka ("Little arrow"), along with some mice, rats and a number of plants. They became the first living creatures to return from space. (The first dog in space, Laika, died in orbit.) One of Strelka's pups was given to Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, as a present from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
This August, you can go outside late at night and enjoy an incredible show as the Earth passes close to the orbit of comet Swift-Tuttle and we experience the Perseid meteor shower!
Meteor showers occur when a nearby comet sheds debris which passes into our atmosphere. The pieces of debris are usually very small (typically no bigger than sand grains or pebbles), and they burn up in our atmosphere many miles above our heads. They are named for the constellation from which the meteors appear to fall, a spot in the sky that astronomers call the radiant.
Perseid meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus. The constellation rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August, and this year the shower will be at its peak on Saturday, August 12th. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine!
Follow these links to explore more about the various ways the constellation of Perseus and its neighboring stars were viewed by different cultures throughout history:
Ready to plan a Perseid Party? Start by sending special Virtual Post Card Invitations to family and friends inviting them to share the extraordinary experience with you!
Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in Kansas City, MO (October 28-30, 2010), Baltimore, MD (November 11-13, 2010), or Nashville, TN (December 2-4, 2010)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.
Kansas City NSTA Regional Conference
Nashville NSTA Regional Conference
Table of Contents
Lightning - N Cycle
June Broke Records!
MS Photo Contest
NWF - Oil Spill
Online Lunar Game
Mars 3-D Encounter
Online with NOAA
Plant an Orchard
Face in Space!
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
The National Earth Science Teachers Association 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. A particular emphasis for NESTA is the need for a challenging capstone course at the high school level that is accepted for credit as a lab course at the university level. We are working with partners to advance this effort, and will keep you posted on opportunities to get involved. In the meantime, 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!
More than 800 students in grades 5-8 took part in a unique national contest to photograph our changing world. The winning photos capture nature in action across the country, from the rocky California coast, to the vulnerable Louisiana wetlands, to the picturesque north shore of Long Island.
This was the fourth-annual Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest held by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
"We're delighted that so many young students had the chance to discover the value and fun of documenting the nature and science of our changing planet through photography," said IGES President Nancy Colleton. "The quality of the entries was truly remarkable and made it quite challenging to select the winners."
Martin S., a sixth-grader from Rye Brook, N.Y., earned first place with his photograph of a yellow jacket building a nest. "Our environment is constantly changing in beautiful ways. What we see in my photograph is a queen yellow jacket building a nest after having mated with one or several male wasps," reads an excerpt from Martin's essay. "This yellow jacket will soon lay eggs and store them separately in the small cavities of the sack also shown in the photograph. This way every egg will have its own cell."
Jessica S., a seventh-grader from Scarborough, Maine, won second place with her picture of a road flooded out by a torrent of water. And third place went to Andrew B., an eighth-grader from East Norwich, N.Y., whose colorful snapshot captured flowering tree branches framing a blue sky with clouds and birds.
To view the winning photos from this year and previous years, please visit: www.strategies.org/EarthDayPhoto
NASA is challenging college students to design concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The winning concepts may be applied to the exploration habitats of the future. The X-Hab Academic Innovation Competition is a university-level challenge designed to encourage further studies in spaceflight-related engineering and architecture disciplines. This design competition requires undergraduate students to explore NASA's work to develop space habitats, while also helping the agency gather new and innovative ideas to complement its current research and development. The competition winner will participate in a demonstration of the submitted design during the 2011 Desert Research and Technology Studies, or a similar field test next summer.
NASA has selected the winners in the 2010 Life and Work on the Moon Art and Design Contest from more than 200 international student entries. Participants envisioned an imaginative lunar lifestyle through various artistic media. Entries were accepted in many categories, including music, video, two-dimensional, three-dimensional and digital art. For the first time, poetry and short stories were accepted in a literature category. The contest was sponsored by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and was managed by Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Va. Details about a new contest will be announced in September.
Finally, a rotorcraft that resembles a catamaran has taken the top prize in a NASA aeronautics competition for college students to develop a multi-purpose aircraft. The entry by ten students at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., met the competition's challenge to design a civilian aircraft that could rescue up to 50 survivors in the event of a natural disaster, hover to help rescue missions, land on ground or water, travel 920 miles and cruise at speeds up to 345 miles an hour. The amphibious tilt-rotor vehicle also had to be able to fight fires using water from an internal tank. NASA's Aeronautics Mission Directorate in Washington sponsored the competition through the Subsonic Rotary Wing Project in its Fundamental Aeronautics Program. The next student aeronautics competition will focus on green aviation.
Various prizes were awarded for these competitions! Certainly all participants had fun and learned so much during these competitions.
The National Wildlife Federation has compiled a number of resources pertaining to the BP Oil Spill. There is some really good information about the spill, about wetland ecosystems and FAQ's geared toward children.
Try this link to gain an amazing perspective on the size of the spill - by looking at it as if it were in your own hometown (just enter your zip code).
NASA has given gamers a taste of lunar adventure with release of Moonbase Alpha, an exciting new, free online video game.
The game has single and multiplayer options that allow participants to step into the role of an exploration team member in a futuristic 3-D lunar settlement. Players must work to restore critical systems and oxygen flow after a meteor strike cripples a solar array and life support equipment. Available resources include an interactive command center, lunar rover, mobile robotic repair units and a fully-stocked equipment shed.
The game is a proof of concept to show how NASA content can be combined with a cutting-edge game engine to inspire, engage and educate students about agency technologies, job opportunities and the future of space exploration. Moonbase Alpha is rated "E" for everyone.
PS. We won't tell anyone if you join your class of students in the fun!
The PEYA program promotes
awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive
community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States
has joined with the EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. who are
protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the
most important ways the EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to
environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s
young people. One outstanding project from each region is selected for
national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals,
school classes (K-12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote
environmental stewardship. Thousands of young people from all 50 states
and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to the EPA for
consideration. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of
subject areas, including:
Evaluation results consistently demonstrate that the experience is a life-changing event for many of the young people and sponsors who participate.
NASA has selected nine experiments, designed by students at seven schools, for astronauts to perform on the International Space Station this summer. NASA selected the proposals from among 132 received for the new Kids in Micro-g! Program. The winners were chosen by a team of representatives from NASA's 10 field centers.
This is the pilot year for the program, which is a student experiment design challenge geared toward grades five through eight. Its purpose is to give students a hands-on opportunity to design experiments or simple demonstrations that will be tested both in the classroom and in the station's microgravity environment.
"What a wonderful experience for these kids to have their experiments carried out in space and by astronauts," said Mark Severance, ISS National Laboratory Education projects manager.
The experiments will study the effect of weightlessness on various subjects such as humans and liquids and other materials, as well as what the environment reveals about the laws of physics. The experiments are expected to have observably different results in microgravity than when performed in the classroom.
This Fall, the program will ask for proposals for 2011. View a list of this year's selected Kids in Micro-g! experiments.
Select teachers spent part of July learning about virtual technology in an effort to get their students excited about science, technology, engineering and math. A pilot summer internship program, called Simulation-Based Aerospace Engineering Teacher Professional Development, gave 16 U.S. middle and high school teachers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience with NASA's latest aerospace engineering technologies while working closely with agency technical mentors.
Simulation-based aerospace engineering relies on computer models and simulations of aerospace structures, materials, atmospheric flight conditions and system operations. The goal is to design improvements for the next generation of flight vehicles and systems, such as the air transportation system.
Half of the teachers interned at NASA's Langley Research Center, the other half at NASA's Ames Research Center. Teachers also toured the NASA facilities, participated in NASA's Digital Learning Network, attended speaking engagements, developed lesson plans and shadowed mentors. NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate sponsored the program. For more information about the agency's aeronautics research, visit: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov
NASA and Microsoft Research are bringing Mars to life with new features in the WorldWide Telescope software that provide viewers with a high resolution 3-D map of the Red Planet.
Microsoft's online virtual telescope explores the universe using images NASA spacecraft return from other worlds. "By providing the Mars dataset to the public on the WorldWide Telescope platform, we are enabling a whole new audience to experience the thrill of space," said Chris C. Kemp, chief technology officer for information technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The fully interactive images and new NASA data will allow viewers to virtually explore Mars and make their own scientific discoveries. New features include the highest resolution map of Mars ever created, realistic 3-D renderings of the surface of the planet and video tours with two NASA scientists.
In fact, the maps contain 74,000 images from Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera and more than 13,000 high-resolution images of Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. How could you and your students not be inspired by that!
To learn more, and to download the WorldWide Telescope, visit: http://www.worldwidetelescope.org
“How Do We Explore?” - Okeanos Explorer Online Teacher Professional Development Series Date: October 11 - 29, 2010
This three-week online professional development offering will introduce participants to the new Education Materials Collection for the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. Entitled “How Do We Explore?,” this course has been designed to include instruction on topics including searching for anomalies, selecting sites for exploration, communication tools including telepresence technology, mapping techniques, water column study and operating remotely operated vehicles. It will include inquiry-based lessons for all grade-levels, and facilitated online reflective conversations about how we approach the study of our largely unexplored ocean.
The workshop is free for all participants and will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Educators will have the option to receive one graduate credit ($90) or obtain a certificate of completion. To register, please visit http://coexploration.org/oe/
The final voyage of space shuttle Atlantis, which occurred on May 14, has prompted NASA to offer the ABC's of 3,2,1 Liftoff to students and educators throughout the nation.
This new computer simulation program will allow them to take on the roles of NASA engineers and launch the shuttle from their own classrooms. The program is based on software used for training at the shuttle Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Kennedy Launch Academy Simulation System, or KLASS, gives students the chance to monitor important shuttle systems during a launch countdown and decide whether they are "go" for liftoff. They will work together as a team and learn about the different activities that take place behind the scenes of a shuttle launch.
KLASS was designed for sixth through 10th grade students to develop their science, technology, engineering and math skills. In addition to the launch simulation software, KLASS is offering 40 hours of lesson plans and interactive resources for teachers. These materials can be used for one-day lessons or one-year curriculums.
Visit the KLASS website to learn more, and to download educational materials.
Voting is currently taking place for the Communities Take Root Program. Communities from around the U.S. have applied to win an orchard that will be planted to benefit their community -- courtesy of Edy's Fruit Bars. Cast your vote and make a difference! Five winners are chosen the first of each month - now through September. You can check out the leading communities at any time. Your vote could make a difference and show a corporation that you care about trees, communities and benefiting the environment!
NASA is inviting members of the public to send electronic images of their faces into orbit aboard one of the final remaining space shuttle missions.
Visitors to the "Face in Space" website can upload their portrait to fly with the astronauts aboard shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission and/or shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission. Participants will receive special certificates from the Internet site once the missions are completed.
To submit your image, visit: http://faceinspace.nasa.gov. Those without a picture can skip the image upload section, and NASA will fly their name.
Discovery and Endeavour's missions are the final two flights remaining until the retirement of the space shuttle fleet. They are targeted to launch in September and November, respectively. For more information about the STS-133 and STS-134 missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle
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.