September 2013

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Here We Go!
by Roberta

With the turning of the calendar, it's clear that we are all already engaged with our new students in class, or will be very soon!  This month's newsletter has lots of resources to help you in the classroom - key items include the status of the upcoming Arctic sea ice minimum, the upcoming equinox, and new upcoming events at NSTAs this fall.  We provide a list of our sessions at the fall NSTAs in Portland, Charlotte, and Denver below, and hope to see many of you there.  But also, please note that you will hopefully be seeing us at events locally in your region or state, as we are moving to engage more at the state level since travel funds for teachers are so hard to come by. 

We're excited to offer new membership options for Windows to the Universe educators that include course webpage support, as well as options for homework and online quizzes.  We will continue to offer Basic Educator Membership (which provides advertising-free access to the website plus additional member benefits), but we are expanding now to offer Silver Educator Membership (Basic Educator Membership supplemented by course webpage support and course login for students) or Gold Educator Membership (with course support including online quizzes and homework upload/download and individual student subscriptions).  We also offer support for classrooms, with or without course support.  For more details, see our Educator Membership Benefits and Services page

We are also partnering with PBS NOVA to offer a series of free web seminars on Earth system science.  Our first web seminar will be on September 11 at 6 pm Eastern time.  Register here for the seminar, entitled Clouds, Precipitation, and Our Earth System, to be offered by Dr. Steven Nesbitt of the University of Illinois and the PBS/NESTA/Windows to the Universe team. 

New resources are available in support of climate change education through Windows to the Universe.  Visit our climate education in the classroom page for links to resources you can use in your classroom, including PowerPoints (downloadable for Windows to the Universe Educator Members). 

An Important Month for Arctic Sea Ice Data

You don’t have to live in the Arctic to know that sea ice is very important.  Polar bears roam on top of it.  Arctic marine life lives under it.  And its light color reflects solar energy out to space, helping to keep the Earth’s climate from warming too quickly. 

Scientists studying the poles travel to Greenland, the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic tundra, and Antarctica to conduct fieldwork in some of the harshest conditions on Earth.  They drill ice cores, explore first-hand how climate change is affecting the polar regions, and they collect a lot of data!  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) team at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) helps to manage, archive, and publish all of the data sets collected by the many scientists doing polar research.  

Did you know that September is a very important time of year to pay close attention to Arctic sea ice data?  Each year, Arctic sea ice freezes during the cold winter months and then melts during the warm summer months.  September is the time of year when there is the minimum amount of sea ice in the Arctic.  At the end of September 2013, we will be able to see when the minimum sea ice extent occurred and how it compares to other years (2012 was the lowest summer minimum extent in satellite records!).  One thing is for certain -- perennial ice cover (the ice that survives the melt season) has been decreasing over time.  If you look at the graph highlighted on this page, you will see that sea ice extent does vary from month to month, but that the general trend is decreasing from 1981-present.

As global warming impacts the Arctic region and more ice melts, the albedo of the Arctic is decreased, meaning that less solar energy is reflected and more energy is absorbed by the Earth.  More energy means more warmth in the Arctic that causes more ice to melt.  This compounding process is called ice-albedo feedback.  

View up-to-date Arctic sea ice data (NOAA@ NSIDC), learn more about the cryosphere, see what polar research is being done by scientists, or find out how to tackle the global warming challenge!

Hubble Space Telescope Finds Source of Magellanic Stream

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery regarding the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, are at the head of the gaseous stream.  Since the stream's discovery in the early 1970s, astronomers have wondered whether the gas comes from one or both of the satellite galaxies.  New Hubble observations reveal that most of the gas was stripped from the Small Magellanic Cloud about 2 billion years ago, and a second region of the stream originated more recently from the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Scientists believe that the gravitational pull of the Milky Way and the two Magellanic Clouds combine to create the stream, and that ultimately the gaseous stream may rain down onto the Milky Way's disk, fueling the birth of new stars.

For photo illustrations and more information about the Magellanic Stream, visit: and

Curiosity's First Year on Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover marked its first anniversary on Mars on August 6.  It has already achieved its main science goal revealing that ancient Mars could have supported life.

Curiosity has provided more than 190 gigabits of data; returned more than 36,700 full images and 35,000 thumbnail images; fired more than 75,000 laser shots to investigate the composition of targets; collected and analyzed sample material from two rocks; and driven more than one mile.  The rover is making its way to the base of Mount Sharp, where it will investigate exposed geological layers of a mountain that rises three miles from the floor of a crater.

Around the landing site, Curiosity found signs of an ancient stream and evidence that Mars offered favorable conditions for microbial life billions of years ago.  The rover is also monitoring radiation and weather on Mars that will be helpful for designing future human missions to the planet.

For more information about the mission, visit:

Hunting for Asteroids!

A NASA spacecraft that discovered and characterized thousands of asteroids throughout the solar system before being placed in hibernation will return to service for three more years starting in September, assisting the agency in its effort to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as well as asteroids suitable for exploration missions.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) was originally intended to map the entire sky in infrared light.  In its previous mission, which ran from 2009-2011, it also observed more than 150,000 celestial objects, discovering 21 comets, more than 34,000 asteroids, and 135 new near-Earth objects (NEOs).  Once reactivated, WISE will again use its 16-inch telescope and infrared cameras to discover new NEOs and characterize their size, albedo and thermal properties. 

WISE will also identify candidates for NASA’s newest asteroid initiative, in which scientists hope to capture and relocate an asteroid for the first time ever.  That initiative is still being planned, and will take advantage of NASA’s advances in human exploration, space technology, and science programs.  NASA recently released photos and video animations that show conceptual depictions of this mission, which can be viewed at and

Solar Max Sunspots

Did you know that in 2013 we are expected to have an increase in solar activity?  The Sun’s energy output varies slightly over time, following an 11-year cycle, and that cycle is projected to reach its highest point in 2013.  This point in the cycle, called a Solar Maximum, is usually characterized by an increase in sunspots and solar activity (it should be noted that while sunspot numbers are peaking, the relative peak compared to other sunspot cycles is quite small - the smallest in fact since 1906!).  

Sunspots are visual indicators of powerful magnetic disturbances on the Sun.  Solar "storms", such as solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), burst forth from the active regions around sunspots.  Upon arrival at Earth, these storms can bombard astronauts with radiation, disrupt satellite and radio communications, and generate beautiful auroras (Northern and Southern Lights).  Learn more about sunspots from these pages on Windows to the Universe:

Earth's Magnetic Poles

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 "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.

German American Heritage Month 2013

We have over 5,600 teachers that subscribe to this monthly newsletter!  And they represent over 100 countries!  We are proud to continue providing geoscience resources to educators around the globe (this newsletter is +8 years and counting!).

We'd like to celebrate some of our readers' German American heritage (that includes me!) by highlighting a German American scientist.  After all, German American Heritage Month is celebrated September 15 - October 15, 2013.

Max Delbruck was a German American biophysicist.  He grew up in Germany and trained there in theoretical physics, but found that after he completed his PhD, his interests shifted toward biology.  He fled the Nazis in 1937 and moved to Vanderbilt University in the US, where he worked with Salvador Luria of Indiana University to perform one of the most important experiments in modern biology.  Delbruck and Luria showed that living organisms accumulate random mutations in their DNA every time they reproduce, and this finding explains how evolution works on a molecular level.  Because their experiment had an impact on everything from evolutionary theory to modern medicine, Delbruck and Luria were awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

 You can read more about Max Delbruck at the Nobel Prize site:

Autumnal Equinox is September 22

This year, the Autumnal equinox will occur on September 22nd (the beginning of Fall for the N. Hemisphere and the beginning of Spring for the S. Hemisphere).  At the equinox times in the Earth's revolution, the Earth is neither tilted directly towards nor directly away from the Sun.  In other words, both hemispheres receive roughly equal amounts of sunlight.  Equinoxes mark the seasons of autumn and spring and are a transition between the two more extreme seasons, summer and winter.

Contrary to what is commonly believed, day and night are not exactly of equal length at the time of the March and September equinoxes.  On the day of an equinox, the geometric center of the Sun's disk crosses the equator, and this point is above the horizon for 12 hours everywhere on the Earth.  However, the length of the day is defined as the period when some sunlight is visible, and this also happens when the upper edge of the Sun is visible but its center is below the horizon.  The date at which the length of day and night are closest to being equal is called the equilux.  The specific dates of equiluxes are different for different latitudes.

Workshops at the NSTA Regional Conferences this Fall!

Will you be at the NSTA Regional Conferences in Portland, Charlotte or Denver? If so, we invite you to participate in one or more of the sessions listed below.


Portland NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, October 25

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

NESTA Earth Science Share-a-Thon 2:00-3:00pm

OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

NESTA Rock and Mineral Raffle 3:30-4:30pm

OR Conv Ctr, Oregon Ballroom 203/204

Charlotte NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, November 8

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

NESTA Earth Science Rock Raffle


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


Charlotte Conv Ctr, Ballroom A

Denver NSTA Regional Conference

Date Title Time Location
Friday, December 13

Using Natural Hazards as a Hook in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Approaches for Addressing the Next Generation Science Standards in the Earth and Space Science Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Effective Strategies for Sharing Climate Change Science and Energy Consumption Implications in the Classroom


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

High-Impact Classroom Earth Science in a STEM World


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Share A Thon


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

NESTA Earth Science Rock Raffle


Hyatt Regency Denver, Centennial Ballroom A/B/C

Interactive Version of the Next Generation Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a new set of voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education. 

Achieve has launched an online, interactive version of the NGSS that allows users to search the standards and organize content to meet their needs by simply clicking Within the Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) or Arranged by Topics (then further organize by grade band/level).  The NGSS can also be viewed as the individual performance expectations that make up the standards.  In this arrangement, content can be organized by the three dimensions:  from the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and DCIs.

Humor in the Science Classroom

Do you or another teacher you know use humor in the science classroom to teach concepts?

Little research has been done on the use of humor as an instructional tool.  A graduate student in the school of Education at the University at Albany is studying the way that science teachers use humor in their teaching to positively affect student learning.

forum has been set up for science teachers to comment about their experiences using humor in the classroom or to nominate other teachers who regularly use humor to teach science.  You are encouraged to visit and participate in this forum.

Table of Contents

Arctic Sea Ice
Magellanic Stream
Hunting for Asteroid
Solar Max Sunspots
Magnetic Poles
German American Mon
NSTA Workshops-Fall
Sci Standards Online
Science Humor

UNL Program

Be Ready!
Groundwater Day
Congressional Visit
World Water Chall
Coastal Cleanup!
Estuaries Week 2013
Museum Day
Public Lands Day
GreenWorks! Grant
Green Thumb Chall
K-5 Math/Sci Grants
ES Wk Mapping World
ES Week Contests
Junior Paleo
GreenSchools Webinar
Geologic Map Day
Night Rovers
Next CubeSat Mission
Robot Prize Compete
Digitizing Earth
Science Behind News
Meteorology Glossary
2 Minute Geology













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Master of Applied Science, Specialization in Science for Educators, by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln

The Master of Applied Science is a 36 credit hour, non-thesis graduate degree program.  Eighteen (18) credit hours apply to the Science for Educators specialization.  Courses in this program are offered 100% online, and every course has a uniform approach that shows how, why, and where science fits into the real world and shows applications for curriculum.  Courses integrate science content from previous courses demonstrating how science is connected to everything.  Courses and content are designed around the National Science Education Standards.

This graduate program emphasizes several key areas, including science content inquiry, integration, and application.  Science content inquiry involves acquiring new (or enhanced) science content knowledge and examining science in the context of the world around us.  Science integration involves incorporating science content in an age-appropriate manner and establishing connections between the natural and designed world.  Science application includes linking content to the real world and inspiring students with science in action.

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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

Bring Your Class on a ClimateChangeLIVE Distance Education Adventure!

Bring climate learning to your classrooms through a series of webcasts, webinars, and online climate education resources in the 2013-2014 school year.  This free series will provide educators with climate tools including a large collection of science-based, climate education resources and programs gathered from 17 federal agencies and non-profit organizations.  The kick-off, September 25, from 7-9 pm ET will introduce you to the adventure and to our main event - the interactive electronic webcasts for classes featuring climate experts.  Register for the educator webinar at

ClimateChangeLIVE is brought to you through a collaboration of federal agencies and NGOs, including Prince William Network, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Will Steger Foundation, Smithsonian, National Wildlife Federation, CLEAN: Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, Project BudBurst, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, Project Learning Tree, Alliance for Climate Education, U.S. Ice Drilling Program, Project WET, Green Schools Alliance, Prince William County Public Schools, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, Partners in Resource Education, Virginia Department of Education, and TurffMutt.

National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month - a time to get prepared for emergencies like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes!  On the web site, you will learn how to make a plan, build a disaster readiness kit, get involved in your community and prepare your business.  There's even a section for fun and games for students.  Join the National Preparedness Community by downloading the National Preparedness Month 2013 Toolkit.

Protect Your Groundwater Day - September 10, 2013

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) celebrates its fourth annual Protect Your Groundwater Day on September 10, 2013, 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, 95 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground, according to the NGWA web site.

NGWA hopes that by focusing on actionable steps that every person can take, Protect Your Groundwater Day can encourage people to protect this resource.  For educational information and resources, see

The 6th Annual Geosciences Congressional Visits Day

The American Geosciences Institute (AGI), in collaboration with many other geoscience societies, invites geoscientists to come to Washington DC for the annual Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD) on September 17-18, 2013.  Decision makers need to hear from you.  Become a citizen geoscientist and join many of your colleagues for this two-day event uniting geoscience researchers, professionals, students, educators, engineers, and executives in Washington DC to raise visibility and support for the geosciences.

A constructive visit from citizen geoscientists about the importance and value of geoscience (and geoscience-related engineering) research and education is the most effective way to inform and impact federal science policy.  Find out more information and sign up for this important event at

World Water Monitoring Challenge: Test. Share. Protect.

World Water Monitoring Challenge is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.  In 2012, approximately 250,000 visits were made by participants to monitoring sites in 66 countries.

We challenge you to test the quality of your waterways (official World Water Monitoring Day is on September 18, but you can monitor your site any time through December 31), share your findings (results may be entered anytime prior to December 31 for inclusion in that year's annual World Water Monitoring Challenge Year in Review report), and protect our most precious resource!

International Coastal Cleanup Day is September 21

Ocean trash is a serious pollution problem that affects the health of people, wildlife, and local economies.  Join the world’s largest volunteer effort for our ocean and waterways by participating in the International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 21.  Find a Cleanup location near you!

In 2012, over 500,000 Cleanup volunteers covered a distance of nearly 18,000 miles and collected over 10 million pounds of trash!  Their most common finds included cigarettes, food wrappers, beverage bottles, and plastic bags.  They also collected weird finds ranging from lottery tickets to toothbrushes, candles to mattresses.

If you can't participate on September 21, here are 10 things you can do to protect our seas and coastal areas.

National Estuaries Week is September 23-29

In 2013, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of National Estuaries Day and announcing National Estuaries Week, September 23-29!  National Estuaries Week is a terrific opportunity to learn more about estuaries and the perfect excuse to spend time on your local bay.  You can take advantage of volunteer opportunities and hands-on restoration in your nearby bay or estuary, participate in a guided walk or boat tour, or simply explore your estuary with family and friends.  Every year, Restore America's Estuaries member organizations, NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System and EPA’s National Estuary Program, organize special events like beach cleanups, hikes, canoe and kayak trips, cruises, workshops, and more – all across the country!  

This year, our events (check out Events map on main page) and communications will aim to increase national awareness of estuaries and how estuary conservation efforts support our quality of life and economic well being.  A quarter century after the first National Estuaries Day in 1988, we understand that estuarine ecosystems serve as natural barriers to buffer against storms and floods, absorb and store carbon, and provide critical habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries.  The need to protect and restore these critical places has never been more pressing.

Smithsonian Museum Day (It's Free!)

In the spirit of the Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day Live! is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket...for free!  View the list of 2013 participating museums!  Tickets are good for Saturday, September 28, 2013, and a ticket is good for the ticket holder and a guest.

National Public Lands Day is September 28

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States.  In 2013, NPLD will be held on September 28 and will celebrate the theme "Helping Hands for America's Lands".  During this yearly event, Americans work together to restore and connect with public lands through service projects and outdoor recreation.  The efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers result in meaningful, positive impacts on communities around the nation.  Register a site for NPLD or volunteer and make a difference!

NPLD educates Americans about critical environmental and natural resource issues including the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands.  As a supporter of the Let's Move Outside and America's Great Outdoors initiatives, NPLD is especially dedicated to engaging young people to be active and conserve America's treasured places.

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 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.

Green Thumb Challenge Grant

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 $1,000 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.

Toshiba America Foundation Grants for Grades K-5

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, 2013.

Earth Science Week 2013 - 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.  To order Earth Science Week Toolkits, please visit  You may also call AGI Publications to place your order for toolkits at 703-379-2480.

Contests Add Fun, Learning To Earth Science Week 2013

AGI is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2013.  The photography, visual arts, and essay contests - all focused on the event theme of “Mapping Our World” - allow both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about Earth science, and compete for prizes.

The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on “Mapping My Community.”  Open to students in grades K-5, the visual arts contest is titled “Making Maps Through the Ages.”  Finally, students in grades 6-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest:  “How Geoscientists Use Maps.”  Essays of up to 300 words should describe how geoscientists use maps to monitor interactions of Earth systems.

The deadline for entries is October 18, 2013.  The first-place prize for each contest is $300 and a copy of AGI’s “Faces of Earth” 2-DVD package.  To learn more about these contests, including how to enter, visit

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 16, during Earth Science Week 2013 (October 13-19).
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 at

GreenSchools! Webinar on October 16

Project Learning Tree is proud to be a part of the U.S. Department of Education 2013 Green Strides Webinar Series in conjunction with national partner, the U.S. Forest Service.  The Green Strides Webinar Series provides school communities the tools to reduce their schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental education.  There is one remaining Webinar left this semester - Schoolyard Trees on October 16 from 4-5pm EDT.

Students and/or teachers can register now to ensure space in this informative and inspirational GreenSchools! professional development session.

Geologic Map Day: Celebrate on October 18

On Friday, October 18, 2013, you are invited to join in the celebration of the second annual Geologic Map Day!  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, access online resources, and explore other opportunities for participation.  Check out the Geologic Map Day poster included in the Earth Science Week 2013 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 hazards.  Additional resources for learning about geologic maps can be found on the new Geologic Map Day web page (

Finally, don't forget that university-level students can enter the 2013 Best Student Geologic Map Competition.  To be considered, students should contact the official U.S. Geological Survey representative by September 6.  To learn more, visit

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:  Registration closes October 25, 2013.  Trials will begin in January 2014.

NASA Announces Next Opportunity for CubeSat Space Missions

NASA is now accepting proposals for the CubeSat Launch Initiative.  Proposals must be submitted electronically by November 26.  From the submissions, NASA will select the best proposals by February 7.  Developers whose proposals are selected may have the opportunity to see their creations launched as an auxiliary payload on a mission between 2014 and 2017.  NASA will not provide funding for the development of the small satellites and selection does not guarantee a launch opportunity.

CubeSats are a class of cube-shaped research spacecraft called nanosatellites.  They are approximately 4 inches long, have a volume of about 1 quart and weigh less than 3 pounds.

From the first four rounds of the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, 89 payloads from 25 U.S. states made the short list for launch opportunities in 2011 through 2016.  Of the selected CubeSats, 12 satellites have already launched.  Twenty-one Cubesats are scheduled for launch later this year.

The Challenge is On: NASA-WPI 2014 Robot Prize Competition

In pursuit of new technological solutions for America's space program and our nation's future, NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have opened registration for the $1.5 million 2014 Sample Return Robot prize competition.

Planned for June 2014 at WPI, industry and academic teams from across the nation will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from wide and varied terrains without human controls.  Teams that meet all competition requirements will be eligible to compete for the NASA-funded $1.5 million prize.

"The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies that NASA could incorporate into future missions," said Michael Gazarik, NASA's associate administrator for space technology in Washington.  "Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore an asteroid or Mars, and advance robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth."

Register a team for the 2014 Sample Return Robot Challenge.

Digitizing Earth: Developing a Cyberinfrastructure for the Geosciences

The world is buzzing with the hum of servers containing terabytes of the world's collective datasets.  And the geosciences are no different. Geoscientists are awash in data like never before.  The challenge now for the geoscience community is how to best integrate disparate datasets for communal use and establish uniform standards for data entry.  Communities of computer scientists and geoscientists are now coming together to tackle the challenge of how to best integrate the wealth of data describing the earth system and to encourage geoscientists to dust off their personal collections for integration into the cumulative data cloud.

EARTH explores the future of geoinformatics and examines how collaborations, such as EarthCube, are starting to advance the conversation.  It's an exciting time to be researching and building the cyber underpinnings of the digitized earth.

Read the complete article on Big Data in the geosciences in the September issue of EARTH Magazine, available online at:

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.  Earth Science titles include Impacts on Jupiter, Extrasolar Planets, Predictive Policing, and Tornadoes.

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. 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 their teacher page, visit

IDVSolutions Photostream

Need a little inspiration for the school year?  Look no further!  IDVSolution's photo stream 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.

AMS Glossary of Meteorology Available Online

The AMS Glossary of Meteorology, an authoritative source for definitions of meteorological terms, is now fully electronic and freely available for anyone to use online.

The AMS first published the Glossary over 40 years ago.  Containing 7,900 terms, more than 10,000 copies were sold in print.  The new electronic version of the Glossary contains more than 12,000 terms and will be an excellent resource for many years to come!

2 Minute Geology

A new series of short geology videos from scenic Washington is now available online!  "2 Minute Geology" is hosted by Central Washington University's geology professor Nick Zentner and created by Tom Foster for  12 episodes so far...with many more coming!

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