Welcome back to school! For most of the ~8000 subscribers to this newsletter in 141 countries around the world, school is just starting up or is in full swing. Over the summer, we've been working at Windows to the Universe to continue to develop new resources for you, with the hope they will help you in the classroom.
In this month's newsletter, we highlight our workshops and presentations at the fall National Science Teachers Associations regional conferences in Detroit and Denver. We hope to see you there! Also, we have new Postcards from the Field from a storm-chasing scientist in Europe, new content available on atmospheric pressure and the Earth's magnetic poles, a highlight on hurricane season, a link to content on Antarctic explorers, and a reminder about Hispanic Heritage month and Measure Your World.
We also provide information about activities and opportunities of partner organizations, including the National Earth Science Teachers Association, QuestBridge, events highlighting the International Polar Year through Polar Palooza, and the Global People Speak Debates. Be sure to see what they have to offer. We hope you all get off to a great start in the new school year, and hope to see you at one of our events in coming months, or to hear from you through our comments interface. We always love to hear from our users - particularly our Teacher Newsletter subscribers - and to learn about how you are using our web site and materials in the classroom. Suggestions are also always welcome!
This summer (from June to August) a team of researchers set out to study how storms form in areas of Germany and France in a research project called the Convective and Orographically-induced Precipitation Study (or COPS for short). By making detailed observations of the way air moves in the atmosphere, how clouds form, and precipitation, they hope to help improve weather forecasts for the region. Janine Goldstein, from the Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, US, sent reports in to Windows to the Universe for a new section of Postcards from the Field about the team's search for, and study of storms. Visit Postcards from the Field: COPS and read stories about Janine's research experiences.
Pressure is an idea scientists use to describe how gases and liquids "push" on things. The atmosphere has pressure. If you imagine a column of air that is 1 inch square and goes from the Earth's surface all the way up through the atmosphere, the pressure of the air in that column is 29.92 inches of mercury.
Air pressure also changes as you experience changes in elevation! The air pressure in Earth's atmosphere is pretty strong when you are near sea level. When you go higher up, in an airplane or to the top of a mountain, there is less pressure.
Temperature also affects atmospheric pressure. Warmer temperatures will make atmospheric pressure go up.
Of course, your students may ask you, "why does all of this matter?" Some generalizations about pressure systems can be made that are handy in everyday weather prediction. If a student sees a red L on a weather map, that represents a low pressure system. In general, a low pressure system will bring clouds and possibly precipitation. If a student sees a blue H on a weather map, that represents a high pressure system. This High will bring with it good weather, i.e., clear skies.
As with all weather phenomena, there are extremes in atmospheric pressure. The highest recorded atmospheric pressure, 32.06 inches of mercury, happened in Mongolia, December 19, 2001. The lowest pressure (outside of those measured in tornadoes) was 25.69 inches of mercury in the Western Pacific during Typhoon Tip on October 12, 1979.
Another great reason why it pays to know about atmospheric pressure is that hurricanes and typhoons start as low pressure zones. You can see in this picture of formation that the hurricane looks strikingly like an area of low pressure. That's because it is! In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, August and September are the peak hurricane months. As an example, at noon EDT on August 20, 2007, hurricane Dean had an minimum pressure of 27.32 inches mercury. Compare that to the current atmospheric pressure of Atlanta, GA, where I am writing from: 30.17 inches mercury at the hour of noon EDT.
We are in the middle of hurricane season! The season runs from June 1 to November 30 and peaks from August to October. During this time, there is a good chance these powerful and violent storms will form over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes can cause a lot of damage from high winds, heavy rain, and storm surge.
Hurricane Dean made landfall in Mexico this August as a powerful Category 5 storm. Scientists continue to predict an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year. On average, currently two times more Atlantic hurricanes form each year than a century ago. Scientists think this is due in part to warmer sea surface temperatures and altered wind patterns associated with global climate change. Check out Windows to the Universe to find out more about the frequency of hurricanes.
Also, visit Hurricane Strike! to learn a lot more about hurricanes, hurricane safety, and to view some cool animations!
Did you know that Earth's North Magnetic Pole is actually the south pole of our planet's magnetic field? Did you know that the North Magnetic Pole is located in the Arctic Ocean north of Canada, about 810 km (503 miles) from the Geographic North Pole? Or that the South Magnetic Pole is just off the coast of Antarctica, in the direction of Australia, about 2,826 km (1,756 miles) from the Geographic South Pole? Did you know that the position of the North Magnetic Pole is shifting at a rate of about 41 km (25 miles) per year? Or that the influence of the Sun's fluctuating magnetic field can cause Earth's magnetic poles to migrate by 80 km (50 miles) or more each day? Find out more in our new "Earth's Magnetic Poles" page! For all the details, check out the Advanced level version of the page by clicking on the blue tab along the top of the page.
These stories of discovery, heroism, tragedy and survival awed and inspired millions of kids around the world. For the International Polar Year we created several pages about famous explorers of the Antarctica:
Here at Windows to the Universe we are proud to celebrate all Hispanics during Hispanic Heritage Month, and we take this opportunity to congratulate and embrace this important audience of ours!
In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, which at the time was observed during the week including Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. The observance was expanded in 1988 to a month long celebration (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15). America celebrates the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. According to the U.S. Census, by the year 2050 Hispanics will become the largest minority in the U.S. at 24%, surpassing 15% for African-Americans.
UCAR/NCAR , the Education and Outreach Program and Windows to the Universe are committed to bringing science resources to our Hispanic-American population as well as to all Spanish-speaking audiences around the world. We also encourage teachers and students to understand the important role of science in modern life and the impact they could make on the world by choosing a scientific career.
This month we are happy to highlight some scientists and teachers who have made a global and solid contribution to science.
In 1968, Luis Alvarez won the Nobel Prize for his work with subatomic particles. As a teacher and researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, he helped develop microwave beacons, a ground-controlled landing approach for aircraft, and a new theory for why the dinosaurs became extinct. In 1995, Mario Molina, native of Mexico and member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with two other scientists, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for research that helped the world confront the threat that chlorofluorocarbons pose to the earth's protective ozone layer. In space exploration, there have been ten Hispanic astronauts, including Franklin Chang-Díaz and Ellen Ochoa among many others. Check out this NASA site to learn more about Hispanic Astronauts. In education, Jaime Escalante, from Bolivia, may be the nation's most notable math teacher. He transformed Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, California, from a school whose students' math test scores were always in the lowest percentile in the country into a national symbol of academic achievement. His dedication and classroom triumphs, which continue to inspire students and teachers nationwide, were portrayed in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver". The movie was directed by Ramón Menéndez and featured Edward James Olmos.
Planet quote: There are no boundaries in the real Planet Earth. Rivers flow unimpeded across the swaths of continents. The persistent tides the pulse of the sea do not discriminate; they push against all the varied shores on Earth. - Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Participate in a new student-centered project where teams from the United States, Chile, and Mexico partner to replicate the technique introduced by Eratosthenes to determine the circumference of the Earth. Around 240 BC, Eratosthenes used trigonometry and knowledge of the angle of elevation of the Sun at noon in Alexandria and in Syene to calculate the size of the Earth. Windows to the Universe, Educared, and CREA are working together to offer school children in the U.S., Chile, and Mexico the opportunity to form partnerships, take local measurements, and collaborate using the Eratosthenes method to Measure Your World.
All of the information necessary to participate in this pilot student project can be found on the Measure Your World Web sites (www.measureyourworld.org and www.midetumundo.org). Student teams must have a parent or adult sponsor to participate. At least one of the team members or adult sponsors must be fluent in both English and Spanish. This event is open to all students in the three participating countries and does not have to be affiliated with a formal K-12 school. Home-schooled children and children participating in after-school programs (e.g. the Scouts, 4-H, etc.) are welcome to participate.
In addition to taking the measurements and calculating the circumference of the Earth, student teams will be encouraged to learn more about their partners in the other participating countries. Suggested activities to promote cultural exchange can be found on the Web site.
Registration for the Measure Your World event will be open from August 13 – September 14, 2007. Student teams will be notified of their partners by September 21, 2007. The time period for taking the measurements will be September 29 – October 7, 2007. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us in October for the first Windows After Dark citizen science campaign – the Great World Wide Star Count. This international event encourages everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report what they see online. This inaugural Windows After Dark event is designed to raise awareness about the night sky and encourage learning of astronomy. All the information needed to participate will be available on the Star Count Web site. The Star Count uses a simple protocol and an easy data entry form. At the conclusion of the event, the submitted data will be analyzed and a map will be generated highlighting the results of this exciting citizen science campaign. Mark your calendars and plan on joining thousands of other students, families, and citizen scientists counting stars this fall. The Great World Wide Star Count will be held from October 1st through October 15, 2007. For more information visit www.starcount.org or email email@example.com.
Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in either Detroit (18-20 October) or Denver (8-10 November)? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the Windows to the Universe sessions listed below.
Detroit NSTA Regional Conference
Denver NSTA Regional Conference
Table of Contents
Measure Your World!
Teacher SubmissionsClick here to submit your ideas to the newsletter
Announcements from PartnersClick here to submit information about your program to the newsletter
Are you planning on attending one of the NSTA regional conventions this fall? If so, please consider sharing your favorite, tested classroom activity with your colleagues at the National Earth Science Teachers Association Share-a-Thons at the fall regionals (see the list of Share-a-Thons below). This is a great opportunity to help your colleagues, and also be listed in the official program as a presenter (if you let us know far enough in advance), which may help you get support from your school administrators for attending the meeting.
What does being presenter at a NESTA Share-a-Thon entail? (1) Let me know that you'd like to present (at firstname.lastname@example.org. (2) Select your favorite activity, make about 100 copies to distribute to your colleagues. (3) If appropriate - bring along a demo or samples to illustrate the activity. (4) Appear 30 min before the Share-a-Thon is scheduled to start and select a table to sit at. Set out your materials and then get ready! The fun is about to start! (5) When the Share-a-Thon starts, teachers stream in and browse for resources they think might be useful to them. This is your chance to share and also meet new colleagues as well as old friends! (6) When the Share-a-Thon is over, pack up your materials and you're all done! Be sure to take along the set of copies that NESTA provides to presenters of all the other activities that have been shared at the Share-a-Thon (it will be delivered to you during the session).NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock Raffles at Fall NSTA Regional Conferences
Want to join in a truly global debate? This fall and spring, tens of thousands of high schools will all be debating two of the most pressing global issues facing our world today as part of The People Speak Global Debates. October’s topic is on lowering carbon emissions and March’s will be on water rights.
The Global Debates are a chance for you and teammates to develop your research, public speaking and leadership skills. You could qualify to win a trip to the United Nations Foundation Global Student Leadership Summit in New York City in July 2008! Register your school today: www.thepeoplespeak.org.
The QuestBridge National College Match helps high-achieving high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships to some of the nation's most selective colleges. If you are the teacher of a promising student who has excelled academically while facing economic challenges, we encourage you to apply.
The QuestBridge National College Match application provides students with a single, free application to our partner colleges. It is designed to offer high-achieving students the opportunity to highlight their strengths and the obstacles they have overcome. The application is available on the QuestBridge web site (www.questbridge.org) starting August 15 and is due September 30th, 2007.
QuestBridge is a venture of the Quest Scholars Program, a nationally focused non-profit organization that has worked since 1994 to connect outstanding students with college admissions, scholarships, and other educational opportunities.
Polar Palooza is a public outreach project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA to bring the poles to you through a national science center and museum tour, vodcasts, and more. Events are scheduled across the country this fall. Check out the list of events and locations to find out about opportunities to attend for yourself, your family, and your students!
The American Geological Institute (AGI) is sponsoring three national contests in conjunction with Earth Science Week 2007, October 14-20 - "The Pulse of Earth Science."
All U.S. residents are encouraged to enter "People Discovering Earth’s Treasures" – this year's Earth Science Week photography contest. Submissions should depict an aspect of earth science as it appears in your community. Learn to look at your surroundings through a geoscientist’s eyes and photograph what you discover.
Students in grades K – 5 are eligible to enter the visual arts contest, "Changing Earth." Submissions should illustrate how geologic processes are constantly changing Earth's landscape. Draw a picture, make a collage, or create another piece of two-dimensional artwork that highlights the continuous change on our planet.
The essay contest "Earth Science in My Community" is open to students in grades 6-9. Entries should be short essays of no more than 300 words explaining a unique geologic aspect of their community, discuss current earth science research in their geographic area, or indicate why it is important to study the geology of your town.
Earth Science week is organized annually by AGI with support from a number of other geosciences organizations, including the U.S. Geological Survey and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation. To learn more about how to celebrate our understanding of the planet and for more information on these contests including information on how to enter, please go to www.earthsciweek.org.
The source of this material is Windows to the Universe, at http://www.windows.ucar.edu/ at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). © 1995-1999, 2000 The Regents of the University of Michigan; © 2000-07 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. All Rights Reserved.