August 2014

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Ready, Set, ... School!
by Roberta

Well, hopefully everyone's had a great summer break, including a chance to get outside and see our beautiful planet!  Once again, though, the new academic year is creeping up on us, and it's time to get ready for students!  This newsletter is full of wonderful resources, opportunities, and information that will get your school year off to a great start. 

Heads up about the final three NESTA/Windows to the Universe web seminars on topics in Astronomy and Space Science education.  They run through the end of September and you can sign up for these at  Another key item below includes the deadline of August 6th to apply to present at the AGU GIFT workshop in San Francisco!  Sign up to present at

The schedule for the fall National Science Teachers Association conferences has been delayed a bit this summer, so we will alert you in August when our schedule of sessions for the three conferences (in Richmond, Orlando, and Long Beach) has been finalized.  Best wishes for your last few weeks of summer, and for a great new academic year!

  Site and Science News

Help Support the Windows to the Universe Earth and Space Science Education Newsletter

If this newsletter is useful to you, please consider a charitable contribution to the Windows to the Universe project at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Producing this free newsletter alone costs about $1500 each month! 

If everyone that subscribes to this newsletter donated just $5, our newsletter production costs would be covered for the entire year!  Better yet, become an Educator Member, and get access to all the resources and services available through Windows to the Universe - without advertising, too! 

NESTA/Windows to the Universe Web Seminars

We are happy to announce a series of free web seminars offered by NESTA and Windows to the Universe on topics in space science, planetary science, and astronomy.  The series will feature Ardis Herrold (NESTA Past-President, 35-year science teacher, planetarium director, and JPL Solar System Ambassador Master Teacher) and Roberta Johnson (PhD, Geophysics and Space Physics; NESTA Executive Director; Clinical Professor, University at Albany; Director, Windows to the Universe).  All seminars will be at 7 pm Eastern and will continue approximately every three weeks through the end of September 2014.  Our next web seminar is on August 27 and will focus on Distances in Space and How We Know Them.  Register and find out more on the Windows to the Universe Web Seminar page.  

Back to School - National Immunization Awareness Month!

It’s almost back-to-school time again, and that’s a big part of why the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have designated August “National Immunization Awareness Month.”  Immunizations (or vaccinations) are a huge part of modern medicine, and in many ways they are the most important means of controlling infectious diseases like measles, polio, and diphtheria.

Vaccinations work by showing your body’s immune system what a potentially harmful virus or bacterium looks like, without actually exposing your body to a real infection.  Once your body learns to recognize the virus or bacterium, it can deal with a real infection much more efficiently.  This means that your immune system can often clear an infecting virus or bacterium without you even knowing you were exposed.

There’s a lot of discussion about vaccines’ safety these days, but it’s important to remember this — the one thing that that’s been proven again and again for more than 200 years is that vaccines save lives.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2014

Possibly the best known meteor shower, the Perseids, will peak around August 10-13 (around midnight until just before dawn).  Unfortunately, the moon will have just passed its Full phase (Waning Gibbous), so light from the Moon will make it harder to see as many meteors. 

Still, the Perseid meteor shower is definitely worth an effort as it usually has many bright meteors (upwards of 60/hour!), with persistent trains.  Try viewing the week before and the week after the peak as well to avoid excessive moonlight.  

Look skyward toward the constellation Perseus and enjoy nature's show!  Need tips for viewing this year's meteor shower?  Check out Sky and Telescope's guide to the year's best meteor displays and the Universe Today for some creative viewing suggestions for this year's Perseids.

Our Teacher Resources Section

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!

We also share other educational links and our E-newsletter summary page.

But the highlight of our Teacher Resources section is definitely our Activities Page.  There 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!

Podcasts and ScienceCasts!

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!

ScienceCasts are NASA videos created by an astrophysicist and a team of agency narrators and videographers.  New videos are posted weekly.  The format is designed to increase understanding of the world of science through simple, clear presentations.  Current episodes include the New Horizons Spacecraft:  One Year to Pluto, a Summer of Super Moons, and Fruit Flies on the International Space Station.

For a complete list of ScienceCast episodes that you and your students can enjoy, visit:

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Fifteen years ago, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.  Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision.

Chandra, one of NASA's current "Great Observatories," along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe.

With its superb sensitivity and resolution, Chandra has observed objects ranging from the closest planets and comets to the most distant known quasars.  It has imaged the remains of exploded stars, or supernova remnants, observed the region around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and discovered black holes across the universe.  Chandra also has made a major advance in the study of dark matter by tracing the separation of dark matter from normal matter in collisions between galaxy clusters.  It also is contributing to research on the nature of dark energy.

To celebrate Chandra's 15th anniversary, four new images of supernova remnants – the Crab Nebula, Tycho, G292.0+1.8, and 3C58 – are being released.  These supernova remnants are very hot and energetic and glow brightly in X-ray light, which allows Chandra to capture them in exquisite detail.

"Chandra changed the way we do astronomy.  It showed that precision observation of the X-rays from cosmic sources is critical to understanding what is going on," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director in Washington.  "We're fortunate we've had 15 years – so far – to use Chandra to advance our understanding of stars, galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and the origin of the elements necessary for life."

Wildfires 2014

As I write this piece, there are currently over 20 separate wildfires occurring in the U.S. alone.  Over 1,031,380 acres have burned in this U.S. so far this year!  Although wildfires can be a naturally occurring and even a beneficial environmental event, this summer has been severe for wildfires because they've threatened populated areas and have required evacuations in California, Oregon, Washington State, into Canada.  Many blame drought conditions and high temperatures for such severe happenings.  Our thoughts go out to all evacuees and those fighting the fires.

FEMA can help you prepare for the threat of a wildfire, CDC has good resources on health impacts of wildfires, and of course, Smokey the Bear can help children (and people of all ages) prevent wildfires.

Ocean on Titan Could be as Salty as the Dead Sea

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence that the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea.

The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years.  Using the Cassini data, researchers assembled a model structure for Titan, which suggests that Titan's ocean has a very high density.  This indicates the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium.  The density indicated for this brine would give the ocean a salt content roughly equal to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.

Cassini data also indicate the thickness of Titan's ice crust varies slightly from place to place.  The researchers said this can best be explained if the moon's outer shell is stiff, as would be the case if the ocean were slowly crystalizing, and turning to ice.  Both the icy conditions and the salt content have significant implications for the possibility of Titan's ocean harboring life, and scientists are very interested in studying Titan further.

The U.S. Clean Power Plan Proposal

On June 2nd, at the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.  The Proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment, and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.

By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.  The hope is that the Power Plan will spur innovation and strengthen the economy.

Some things to know about the proposed plan:
1) Fights climate change:  Our climate is changing, and we're feeling the dangerous and costly effects today.
2) Protects public health:  Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.  Although there are limits for other pollutants like arsenic and mercury, there are currently no national limits on carbon.  Americans will see significant public health and climate benefits now and for future generations.  Ex:  Yearly, Plan could help us avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits.
3) Cuts particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit.
4) Shrinks electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.
5) Key is flexibility and putting states in the driver's seat:  With EPA's flexible proposal, states choose the ways we cut carbon pollution, so we can still have affordable, reliable power to grow our economy.

For more information, view the following fact sheets:

Find out more about this proposal, how you can comment, and what you can do at #ActOnClimate.

Heat Waves

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.

Hot Tips for a Cool Summer!

Doing little things can go a long way in staying cool this summer.  EPA has some great tips to help you and your family save energy, reduce pollution, and fight climate change this summer-- all while keeping cool.  Visit

Ultraviolet Index

Summer is here (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least!), and with it comes trips to the beach or pool.  When you go outside this summer, make sure to wear your sunglasses and to slather on sunscreen.  Ultraviolet "light" can cause sunburn or even skin cancer (melanoma can affect even teens and young adults).  UV radiation can also damage your eyes.  Fortunately, our atmosphere's ozone layer absorbs most ultraviolet radiation before it reaches us on the ground.  Thanks to our protective atmosphere, a few simple precautions can help keep us safe from the remainder of this potentially dangerous type of radiation!

Before you go out, be sure to check the UV Index in your area so you know how strong the sun's rays will be.  You can also get the UV Index app for ease of use at

Finally, review (and practice!) the EPA's recommendations for sun safety at  Have a happy and safe summer!

The Grass is Always Greener -- Where The Lightning Strikes!

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.

What's a Haboob?

Haboob.  Really?  Ok, I'm not pulling your leg here.  A haboob is a real thing - an Earth science thing!  A haboob is a strong wind and accompanying sand or duststorm.  In Khartoum, Sudan, they occur on average 24 times a year!  Imagine a wall of sand or dust engulfing everything around you - 24 times each year!

Haboobs can happen in almost any desert region.  In fact, Phoenix experiences on average about 3 haboobs per year during the months of June through September.  The leading edge of the 2011 Phoenix storm was almost 100 miles across and traveled 150 miles.  There is an impressive video shot from a helicopter that shows this powerful storm moving into the Phoenix area.  This was no doubt a bad day to be out for an evening stroll or casual drive, as Accuweather estimated the swell of dust to be over a mile (5,000 feet!) high and said winds reached 70mph!

Haboobs are named for the Arabic word for wind, habb.  Haboob.  Fun word to say, but not a fun thing to experience.  Check out National Weather Service's safety tips for weathering a haboob.

Galileo's Telescope

405 years ago, on August 25, 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers.  The word “telescope” comes from the Greek words tele (far) and skopein (to look or see).

Galileo was not the inventor of the first telescope, but he was the first person to use a telescope to study the sky.  The first known telescope was built by the Dutch lens-maker Hans Lippershey in 1608.  Word of this invention spread quickly.  

Galileo made many important discoveries with his new telescope, including the craters on the surface of the Moon and the four large moons of Jupiter.  He used his telescopes to study sunspots, discovering that the Sun rotates on its axis.  Galileo’s discovery of the phases of Venus was one of the most influential arguments for Copernicus' heliocentric model of the solar system.

For over 400 years, telescopes have helped astronomers see into the depths of outer space.  Today the word telescope can refer to a whole range of instruments operating in most regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.  They have been placed in the middle of deserts, the top of mountains, and in outer space. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, is one of the most important exploration tools of the past decades.

Krakatoa's Most Spectacular Eruption

131 years ago, a perfectly cone-shaped volcano projecting out of the sea between the islands of Java and Sumatra, Indonesia, exploded with activity.  That cone-shaped volcano was Krakatoa. This month marks the anniversary of Krakatoa’s most spectacular eruption in recorded history.

On August 26-27, 1883, after months of earthquakes, venting steam, and small eruptions, the volcano exploded violently, ejecting 25 cubic kilometers of rock and ash.  The eruption was so loud that people as far away as Perth, Australia, heard the racket.  After the eruption was over, the once cone-shaped volcano was reduced to a small island, which eventually subsided into the ocean.

The eruption caused a tsunami with 140-foot waves that resulted in the destruction of many coastal villages.  It also caused a temporary change in global climate by spewing aerosols into the atmosphere.  Aerosols can linger in the stratosphere and spread out around the world, blocking incoming solar radiation, and cooling the climate.

Other volcanic eruptions have caused a temporary cooling of climate.  When Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, so many aerosols made their way into the atmosphere that the following year was terribly chilly and became known as the Year Without a Summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Ernest Rutherford's Birthday

August 30th marks the 143rd birthday of Ernest Rutherford, who is widely regarded as the father of nuclear physics.  Rutherford was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist.  He received a Nobel prize in 1908 for his early work, where he introduced the concept of radioactive half-life, named and identified alpha and beta particles, and showed how an element changes when it experiences radioactive decay.

His most famous work was about the structure of the atom.  In 1911, he formulated Rutherford's model of the atom, in which electrons orbit a very small positively-charged nucleus much like the planets orbit the Sun.  Later he discovered and named the proton, and predicted the existence of the neutron.  Many groundbreaking results were achieved under his leadership in the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge.

After Rutherford's death in 1937, he was buried near Isaac Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey.  The chemical element Rutherfordium is named for him.

  Partner Announcements

Geobiology Resources from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Earth is a dynamic planet that has guided —and been affected by— the evolution of life.  This collection of classroom resources highlights the deep connections between life and environment.  Choose from short films, supporting classroom lessons, posters, animations, online interactives, apps, and lectures.  Many of our resources are targeted to a high school and undergraduate audience, but can be easily adapted to different levels of instruction.  They can be used in a flipped, blended, or traditional classroom.  Visit us at

DataStreme Atmosphere, Ocean or Earth’s Climate System Courses

Fall and Spring Semesters

The American Meteorological Society’s Education Program offers the DataStreme courses as free professional development for K-12 teachers.  These courses are intended to train educators who will promote the teaching of STEM topics across the K-12 curriculum.  Successful participants will receive three free graduate credits through these semester-long courses in meteorology, oceanography or climate science.  Precollege educators who teach classes with STEM content are encouraged to apply.

For more information, please visit:

Digital Earth Watch and Picture Post Network - Activities and Tools for Observing and Measuring Environmental Change

The land, water, and air around us are changing.  Often, the changes are subtle and we cannot see them without the help of modern technology.

Repeat photographs reveal measurable changes in vegetation including phenology, growth patterns and plant health, snow and water levels, and sky conditions.  A Picture Post is an easy-to-build platform for collecting panoramic photographic data from the same vantage point.  Participants upload their pictures and share findings on the Picture Post website.  As a whole, the Network contributes to national climate change monitoring programs.

Collecting pictures is just the beginning!  Picture Post and Digital Earth Watch (DEW) are online resources for educators, students, communities, and citizens to design and carry out investigations, challenges, and environmental stewardship projects with low-cost, do-it-yourself tools and a free software program, Analyzing Digital Images (ADI), that measures spatial features in a picture and analyzes plant health based on color.

For more information, contact Dr. Annette Schloss, University of New Hampshire, 446 Morse Hall, Durham, NH 03824.  Email:  Phone: (603)862-0348

The Picture Post Network is part of the Digital Earth Watch (DEW) environmental-monitoring program.  Picture Post is based at the University of New Hampshire and was developed with funding from NASA.

The American Geophysical Union

The American Geophysical Union, a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing more than 62,000 members in 142 countries, is dedicated to the furtherance of the Earth and space sciencesand to communicating our science’s ability to benefit humanity.  We achieve these goals through publishing scientific journals and other technical publications, sponsoring scientific meetings, supporting education and outreach programs designed to increase public understanding of and support for our science, and a variety of other activities.

  Calendar of Events

NASA Launches Earth Science Challenges with OpenNEX Cloud Data (August)

NASA is launching two challenges to give the public an opportunity to create innovative ways to use data from the agency’s Earth science satellites.

The challenges will use the Open NASA Earth Exchange.  OpenNEX is a data, supercomputing and knowledge platform where users can share modeling and analysis codes, scientific results, knowledge and expertise to solve big data challenges in the Earth sciences.  A component of the NASA Earth Exchange, OpenNEX provides users a large collection of climate and Earth science satellite data sets, including global land surface images, vegetation conditions, climate observations and climate projections.

“OpenNEX provides the general public with easy access to an integrated Earth science computational and data platform,” said Rama Nemani, principal scientist for the NEX project at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.  “These challenges allow citizen scientists to realize the value of NASA data assets and offers NASA new ideas on how to share and use that data.”

The first "ideation" stage of the challenge closed August 1.  The second "builder" stage begins in August and will offer between $30,000 and $50,000 in awards for the development of an application or algorithm that promotes climate resilience using the OpenNEX data, based on ideas from the first stage of the challenge.  NASA will announce the overall challenge winners in December.

To educate citizen scientists on how the data on OpenNEX can be used, NASA is releasing a series of online video lectures and hands-on lab modules.  To view this material, and for information on registering for the challenges, visit:

AGU-NESTA 2014 Fall Geophysical Information for Teachers Workshop (Deadline to Apply - August 6)

You are encouraged to apply to present at the Geophysical Information For Teachers (GIFT) workshop!  The American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) are currently seeking scientist/education and outreach professional teams to present at the GIFT workshop, during AGU’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, December 15-19, 2014.

This successful annual event allows K-12 science educators to hear about the latest geoscience research from the scientists making the discoveries, explore new classroom resources for students, and visit exhibits and technical sessions of the AGU meeting for free.  Learn more at and apply at  The deadline to apply is August 6, 2014.

Shark Week! Night After Night, Bite After Bite (Starting August 10)

How are you celebrating Shark Week this year?  Join Discovery Channel for a "Happy Shark Week" starting Sunday, August 10.

Find out about Mega Sharks, Zombie Sharks, Alien Sharks and Monster Hammerheads.  Learn how sharks hunt and if certain sharks might "go rogue" like in the hit movie Jaws.  Get your shark fix with the many available TV shows, online videos, games, photos, news and even shark apps!  

With shark populations on the decline, find out the top ten shark conservation projects and read about ways that sharks do help people!

Protect Your Groundwater Day - September 9, 2014

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) celebrates Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 9, 2014, promoting water conservation and contamination prevention as ways to protect groundwater resources.

“Every person can do something to protect local groundwater, from not polluting it to using water wisely,” says NGWA Public Awareness Director Cliff Treyens.  “The good news is that for most people all it takes is a small adjustment in their daily habits.”

Why bother?  For starters, 99% of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground, according to NGWA.  By focusing on actionable steps that every person can take, Protect Your Groundwater Day can spur people to protect this resource.  For educational information and resources, click here.

Green Thumb Challenge Grant (Deadline - September 30, 2014)

The Green Education Foundation (GEF) and Gardener’s Supply Company have teamed up on a funding opportunity for established youth garden projects nationwide.  The organizations are calling on schools and youth groups to submit chronicles of their garden projects in a race to win a $500 prize.  The award is designed to support the continued sustainability of an exceptional youth garden program that has demonstrated success, and has impacted the lives of kids and their community.  

Click here to learn more about the grant or application process.  The deadline for applying is September 30th.

Apply for a PLT GreenWorks! Grant (Deadline - September 30, 2014)

Project Learning Tree has GreenWorks! grants of up to $2,000 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, 2014.

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 to download an application and apply today.

NASA Invites Public to Send Names to Asteroid Bennu (Deadline - September 30)

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip that will be on a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.

The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.  The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid.  The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule.

"We're thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission from the University of Arizona in Tucson.  "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch."

Those wishing to participate in "Messages to Bennu!" should submit their name online no later than Sept. 30 at:

After a person submits their name, they will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission.  "You'll be part of humankind's exploration of the solar system - How cool is that?" said Bill Nye, chief executive officer of The Planetary Society, the organization collecting and processing the entries.

Toshiba America Foundation Grants for Grades K-5 (Deadline - October 1, 2014)

Toshiba America Foundation offers grants of up to $1,000 to support innovative projects designed by elementary (K-5) teachers to make their classrooms more exciting for students.  Proposed projects must advance the teacher's science and math teaching units.  The deadline for submission is October 1, 2014.

Earth Science Week 2014: ‘Earth’s Connected Systems’ (October 12-18)

AGI is pleased to announce that the theme of Earth Science Week 2014 (October 12-18) will be “Earth’s Connected Systems.”  This year’s event will promote awareness of the dynamic interactions of the planet’s natural systems.

Earth Science Week 2014 learning resources and activities will engage young people and others in exploring the ways that geoscience illuminates natural change processes.  By deepening our understanding of interactions of Earth systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - Earth science helps us manage our greatest challenges and make the most of vital opportunities.

“With this theme, Earth Science Week cuts to the core of Earth science and what it means to society,” says Geoff Camphire, AGI’s Manager of Outreach.  “The interactions of Earth systems are at the heart of our most critical issues, from energy and the environment to climate change and emerging economic realities.  No matter where we come from or where we’re going, we all need to understand Earth’s connected systems.”

Reaching over 50 million people a year, Earth Science Week offers opportunities to discover the Earth sciences and engage in responsible stewardship of the Earth.  The program is supported by the U.S. Geological Survey; the AAPG Foundation; the National Park Service; NASA; Esri; National Geographic; the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the Geological Society of America; and the American Geophysical Union.  To learn more, go to

Webcast on Earth Science Contests Now Available (Deadlines - October 17, 2014)

Go online today to view a new webcast detailing three new contests that are being conducted as part of Earth Science Week, the annual worldwide celebration of the geosciences!  This free webcast provides an overview of guidelines for photography, visual arts, and essay contests.  The tutorial includes online links, which viewers can click during the presentation to review detailed guidelines.

Each year, many science teachers encourage students to participate in the visual arts contest, open to students in grades K-5, or the essay contest, which is open to those in grades 6-9.  The photography contest is open to all ages.  The roughly four-minute tutorial includes information on prizes and recognition.

To view this webcast, please visit:  Earth Science Week Webcasts.

Geologic Map Day - Celebrate on October 17!

On Friday, October 17, 2014, you are invited to join in the celebration of the third annual Geologic Map Day!  The final major event for the school week of Earth Science Week 2014 (October 12-18), Geologic Map Day will promote awareness of the study, uses, and importance of geologic mapping for education, science, business, and a variety of public policy concerns.

The event will enable students, teachers, and the wider public to tap into educational activities, print materials, online resources, and other opportunities for participation.  Check out the Geologic Map Day poster included in the Earth Science Week 2014 Toolkit.  The poster provides a geologic map, plus step-by-step instructions for a related classroom activity, encouraging students to explore what geologic maps can tell them about natural resources, such as the availability of drinkable water in a given area.

  Other Announcements

AGI Report Details Status of Geoscience Workforce

AGI, the American Geosciences Institute, recently released its latest “Status of the Geoscience Workforce Report,” showing that jobs requiring training in the geosciences continue to be lucrative and in-demand.  Despite increased enrollment and graduation from geoscience programs, data project a shortage of around 135,000 geoscientists by the end of the decade. 

The 2014 report covers the state of the geoscience workforce and education in K-12 schools, universities, and two-year colleges.  The number of graduating geoscience majors who started their degrees at a two-year college has increased, according to report author Carolyn Wilson.

“There is incredible potential for institutions to recruit from the diverse talent pools arising at two-year institutions, and many career opportunities available to students enrolled in geoscience programs, and early-career geoscientists entering the workforce,” Wilson said.  Click here for more information on the report.

Science Behind the News Video Series

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, have developed Science Behind the News, a fast-paced video series exploring the STEM content of current events.  Each video runs between 4 and 10 minutes and features at least one interview with an NSF-funded scientist or researcher.  Science titles include Quantum Computing, Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Extrasolar Planets, Predictive Policing, and Crowdsourcing.

NBC Learn also has other free educational resources available through their portal including Sustainability: WaterChanging Planet, and many more that students, teachers, and parents will find useful and interesting.

Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures

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 are also available for direct download and you may listen to them as mp3 files.  Recent topics include:

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.

Earth Gauge Online Weather and Environment Courses

Earth Gauge provides a series of free, online courses and training materials that address the connections between weather and environment.  Appropriate for adult learners, the courses cover topics including Climate Change, Weather and Health, Weather and the Built Environment, and Watersheds.  

IDVSolutions Photostream

Need a little inspiration for the upcoming school year?  Look no further!  IDVSolution's Photostream on flickr has remarkable images that will get you (and your students) inspired!  Use them as visual teaching aids, for classroom discussion or have your students examine them in small groups.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here are some stunning examples:

Tornado Travel - Historic tornado travel direction in the U.S.

Hurricanes Since 1851 - An updated version of the historical hurricanes swirl map.

Global Bathymetry - A desktop image. Offers News and Info on Earth Science provides a variety of geoscience materials including Earth science news, maps, an online dictionary of Earth science terms, and information on geoscience careers.

Also on are resources for teachers, including links to lesson plans from major Earth science organizations such as the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geological Society of America, and NASA.  To view the teacher page, visit

Visit EPA's Blogs

Join the conversation(s)!  EPA's blogs are organized under the "Greenversations" group to make it easier to find topics you're interested in.  Here's a sneak peek:

Conversando Acerca de Nuestro Medio Ambiente:

Environmental Justice in Action:

EPA Connect (Leadership Blog):

It All Starts With Science:

It's Our Environment:

Other blogs are location-specific and cover New York City, the Mid-Atlantic or the Midwest regions of the U.S.

GeoWord of the Day From the AGI

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has a free GeoWord of the Day service.  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.

The Undergraduate Student Instrument Program (USIP) Takes Flight

College and university students from across the country are taking science to greater heights thanks to a new NASA program.

The Undergraduate Student Instrument Program (USIP) is an educational flight opportunity sponsored by NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by providing a hands-on Earth or space science flight project experience.  The program is developing tomorrow's STEM workforce by sponsoring undergraduate-led, multi-disciplinary university teams to conduct, develop and fly a science payload on NASA suborbital platforms.

Ten U.S. college and university team proposals were selected for USIP's initial year.  NASA provided suborbital-class platforms, including sounding rockets, balloons, aircraft, zero-g aircraft and suborbital reusable launch vehicles at no cost to the teams.

SEED Program and Web Site

SEED (Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development) is a volunteer-based, nonprofit education program that empowers Schlumberger employee volunteers and educators to share their passion for learning and science with students aged 10 to 18.  The SEED “learning while doing” methodology draws on the technology and science expertise of volunteers to engage students in global issues such as water, energy, and climate change.

SEED’s School Network Program invites qualified underserved schools to apply for grants that provide various resources, typically including funding for computer hardware and software, and Internet connectivity.  Educational programs offer students and educators in SEED network schools hands-on workshops and online activities using a project-based approach.

The Online Science Center provides educational resources and opportunities to learners and educators in seven languages:  Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  Learning materials include ready-to-go SEED experiments, activities, and articles from the Online Science Center.  Find out more at

Encourage Your Students To Be Junior Paleontologists

The National Park Service’s Junior Paleontologist program seeks to engage young people in activities that allow them to discover the significance of fossils and the science of paleontology, and introduces them to the national park system and to the mission of the National Park Service.

Besides learning about Earth’s history, ancient life, and past changes to climate and environments, Junior Paleontologists explore the ways paleontologists work to protect fossils found in more than 230 national park areas that preserve these scientific resources.  This is a great way to prepare for the third annual National Fossil Day, taking place on Wednesday, October 15, during Earth Science Week 2014 (October 12-18). 

The Junior Paleontologist Program is a part of the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program, which aims to connect young people to their national parks.  Download the Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet for children ages 5 to 12 here.

Unlocking the Cascadia Subduction Zone's Secrets: Peering into Recent Research and Findings

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 1,000-kilometer-long subduction zone stretching from Mendocino, CA, to north of Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.  Those living along this stretch are occasionally treated to some shaky moments caused by the subduction of the Juan de Fuca Plate moving beneath the massive North American Plate.  But the real threat is a potentially devastating magnitude 9+ earthquake and the tsunami that might subsequently occur.  It has happened before.  When will it happen again?  And what will happen when this massive fault does start shaking?

Scientists have been working diligently over the last couple of decades to answer those questions.  A series of recent oceanic research cruises and datasets has steadily advanced our understanding of Cascadia, but there is still much to learn.  Read more about the latest research findings in the August issue of EARTH Magazine.

Creationism Comes to the County Fair

County fairs are opportunities to bring in those handsome Holsteins competing for Best Bessie, to sample foods that don't normally belong on sticks and definitely shouldn't be deep-fried, and to enjoy carnival rides and games with unfavorable odds.  They're also opportunities to get the attention of a lot of people.  Just ask the exhibitors who rent space to hawk their wares —
everything from kitchen knives to leaf-free gutters.  And in some locations, those exhibitors include creationists asking, "Why do thousands of scientists believe Darwin was wrong?"

County fairs have proved good places for creationists to reach captive audiences.  How can scientists counter this county fair push with messages of their own?  Read about one science supporter’s attempt to offer a more scientific alternative in the July issue of EARTH Magazine.

Table of Contents


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Geoscience Workforce
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Si Valley Astronomy
Earth Gauge Courses
IDV Photostream
EPA Blogs
GeoWord of the Day
USIP - Ed Flight Opp
SEED Program
Junior Paleo
Cascadia Subduction
Creationism at Fair














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