April 2009

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Come on Spring!

As this newsletter nears completion, our team here in Boulder has been hit by a Spring blizzard, with ~18 inches of snow setting back our plans for garden work over Spring break. We should be glad, though, since the Colorado Front Range is in need of moisture after a very dry winter - way below normal precipitation levels.

Earlier this month, many of us enjoyed wonderful weather in New Orleans, during the National Science Teachers Association National Conference on Science Education. Our sessions went very well, and between the sessions and those that visited us at our both, we are glad to welcome over 1000 new teachers to the Windows to the Universe Educator newsletter! With these new teachers, our newsletter is now reaching over 11,000 teachers in over 153 countries!

If you haven't already, please consider joining the Windows to the Universe Facebook group (see the link, above) - this online community is growing by about 5-10 people a day, with members from all over the world.

This month's newsletter highlights several timely content areas on the website, as well as opportunities for yourself and your students. Be sure to look at the whole newsletter, including the listings provided by our partners, who invite you to take advantage of several exciting opportunities.

Thunderstorms and Tornadoes

This is a good time of year to explore the atmospheric conditions that create persistent squall lines that form over the U.S. central plains where cool, dry Canadian air masses collide with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Near the ocean, the Great Lakes, and mountains, uneven heating of land surfaces can produce spectacular afternoon thunderstorms announced by crackling thunder, life-threatening lightning, hail, tornadoes, and flash flooding. Knowing and sharing information about thunderstorm and tornado safety is very important.

The weather section of Windows to the Universe provides information about these weather conditions, including information about thunderstorms and tornadoes, how tornadoes form, and how meteorologists forecast when and where tornadoes will occur. In addition, our Tornado in a Bottle activity provides a great way to illustrate tornadoes for your students.

April Meteor Showers

I'm not sure what kind of flowers they might bring in May, but April does usher in one of the major meteor showers of the year - the Lyrids. If you manage to spot any meteors around the night of April 22nd, you will be carrying on a long tradition...for Chinese astronomers first observed Lyrid meteors more than 26 centuries ago! A waxing crescent moon around the peak of the shower this year should make for good viewing (little moonlight to interfere with spotting faint meteors). Typically the Lyrids produce a meager 10-20 meteors per hour, though they sporadically generate large outbursts of 100 or more meteors per hour (as happened in 1803, 1922, 1945, and most recently in 1982). Look toward the shower's namesake constellation Lyra on the night of the 22nd to catch a glimpse of a "falling star".

Earth Day

Earth Day 2009, April 22, has the theme of The Green Generation. The day will be celebrated by events around the world which focus on finding renewable energy sources, encouraging an individual's commitment to responsible, sustainable consumption and creating a vibrant economy with plenty of green jobs.

It's not too late to plan an event for your classroom, your school or your community! Or find an existing event in your area. If you can't make it to a specific event, why not use Earth Day as an awesome reason to make a "Green" commitment for the upcoming year. It can be as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room or biking to work every other day. There's so much that could be done to protect our home planet, it will be hard to choose just one thing!

Just before Earth day, National Environmental Education Week will be celebrated (April 12-18, 2009).

Celebrate spring with Project BudBurst!

The 2009 field campaign for Project BudBurst is officially underway. Project BudBurst is a national field campaign for students, families, and other volunteers. Project BudBurst is designed to engage the public in the collection of important climate change data based on the timing of leafing and flowering of trees and flowers. In 2008, thousands of people of all ages participated by taking careful observations of the phenological events such as the first flower, first leaf, and seed or fruit dispersal of a diversity of tree and flower species, including weeds and ornamentals. Your help in making observations and sharing information about Project BudBurst will help us in making this year even more successful. We are excited to announce new features added to the Website that will greatly expand the usability and enhance your experience while participating in Project BudBurst!

  • New guides to phenophases with description and photos
  • Updated plant species Identification Guides
  • Real-time mapping with Google Maps
  • Additional Project BudBurst plants from across the country
  • New resources for the classroom
  • Photo sharing of plant observations
  • ...and more!

For more information, please visit the Project BudBurst Website.

Space Missions in April

April is a good month to talk about space exploration. On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. He orbited the Earth once aboard the Vostok spacecraft. The flight lasted 1 hour and 48 minutes.

Exactly 20 years later, on April 12, 1981, the first space shuttle Columbia was launched, with two crew members aboard - astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen. It orbited the Earth 36 times and returned to Earth on April 14.

On April 24, 1990, space shuttle Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit. Since its launch, it has been responsible for many ground breaking astronomical observations and has transmitted awesome images of the solar system, distant stars, and galaxies.

Check out more manned and unmanned space missions on Windows to the Universe.

Earth as a System

Each part of our planet has its own collection of materials and processes that make Earth an everchanging place. The atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere each have distinct characteristics. Yet, these "spheres" do not operate on their own. They interact with other parts of the planet in dynamic ways. Understanding how different parts of our planet are interconnected is the challenge of Earth system science. And overall, as climate continues to warm, the Earth system is changing.

The format of the Internet, and Windows to the Universe specifically, provides natural interconnections between topics. Links between web pages about the parts of the Earth system help facilitate student understanding of Earth as an interconnected system. So learners can surf through the Earth system online!

Future Scientists in the Making!

The computer has become an essential tool in learning many school subjects, particularly mathematics and science. Windows to the Universe is a one-of-a-kind website. Each section contains pages written at three reading levels in both English and Spanish.

The Windows to the Universe team makes learning science a fun experience! By complementing all our science content with fun games like jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles, hands-on science activities and worldwide citizen science projects, our audience is always engaged in exciting activities that encourage everyone to explore first hand the many wonders of our vast world. Windows to the Universe users can also follow real scientists by reading their postcards from the field!

What families do is most important to a student's success in science and school in general. Windows to the Universe provides parents, grandparents, and teachers a tool to find out about the Earth and space sciences, to connect with scientists, and to encourage their students to become future scientists!

All donations to Windows to the Universe will support our continuing efforts to develop and maintain this website and our professional development activities for teachers! Because UCAR is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, your donations may be tax deductible.

Table of Contents

Severe Weather
April Meteor Showers
Earth Day
Project BudBurst
Space Missions
Earth System
Science is FUN!


Frozen Earth Movie
Summer PD Courses
Smithsonian Academy
Computing Matters
Photo Contest - 5-8
Top Stars: Hubble


Teacher Submissions

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Announcements from Partners

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NASA's Frozen Earth Movie

NASA has created a unique "spherical" movie about Earth's changing ice and snow cover as captured by NASA spacecraft. "Frozen", a 12-minute narrated film, premieres at science centers and museums March 27.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., produced the film for the "Science on a Sphere" projection system, a fully spherical video technology developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The six-foot spheres are installed in more than 30 locations around the world.

Ice covers about 20 percent of the Earth's surface and plays a major role in the world's climate. "Frozen" probes all parts of Earth where water exists in solid form as snow or ice, known as the cryosphere. The movie takes viewers from the everyday experience of sensing heat and cold to a discussion of how satellites "see" heat and cold with advanced sensors. It then projects dramatic displays of satellite data of Earth, including changing Arctic sea ice and global snow cover, onto the sphere. Images generated by NASA's Aqua satellite and the Landsat series are featured in "Frozen."

Registration Now Open for Climate Discovery's Summer Term!

Are you seeking a K-12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom? This summer, NCAR offers a series of seven-week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently June 19 through August 9.

  • CD 501 Introduction to Earth's Climate is designed to guide participants through the basics of climate science, integrating content, classroom activities, and community-building discussions to help middle and high school educators understand the answers to common questions about climate.
  • CD 502 Earth System Science: A Climate Change Perspective explores Earth as a system from the perspective of climate and global change, describing the interactions between the various parts of the Earth system, including human activities, and how they all affect our climate.
  • CD 503 Understanding Climate Change Today presents some of the current and predicted impacts of global warming on our planet and human societies. This course explores how climate models are developed and used to understand likely scenarios of future climate and how current scientific research is improving the quality of climate predictions.

There is a $225 fee per course, but you will save $25 if you register before June 1st! For complete course schedule and registration information, visit ecourses.ncar.ucar.edu

Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers: Earth's History & Global Change

National Science Resources Center/Smithsonian Institution July 26-31, 2009, Washington, D.C

As part of its annual program of teacher events, the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) is conducting a week-long academy for teachers (of grades 6-12) on Earth's History and Global Change. The academy utilizes the unique resources of the Smithsonian Institution's museums, as well as scientists from organizations, and laboratories around Washington DC to explore concepts and content relating to the formation of our planet, and the evidence for planetary change through natural processes and human intervention. Sessions will include behind-the-scenes access to museum collections, special museum floor visits, interactions with scientists in research laboratories, hands-on inquiry-based sessions, and more. Topics investigated include planet formation, volcanism and plate tectonics, geological evidence for different paleoenvironments and recent changes in our oceans and atmosphere.

The course is residential. Course fees include hotel accommodation near the National Mall, some meals, and transport to session venues. 3 graduate credits, (for an additional fee of $300) are available from the Virginia Commonwealth University.

For additional information on the course fees, registering online, the nature of this course, and others like it, visit http://www.nsrconline.org/professional_development/SSEAT_overview.html or contact Juliet Crowell at the NSRC by email at crowellj@si.edu or phone at 202-633-2968.

Computing Matters

Simply put, computing matters in the study of the sciences. Computing and modeling provides engaging mediums for your students to explore a vast array of concepts in the sciences making science both "hands on" and "minds on". There are many such tools freely or inexpensively available.

Shodor, a non-profit company in Durham, NC, is dedicated to helping math and science educators through the creation of computing resources as well as identification of others' resources. We also offer professional development services working with teachers to effectively integrate these modeling and simulation technologies, "computational science," in their classrooms. To this end, I'd like to share some of our resources with you.

Shodor's Interactivate: http://www.shodor.org/interactivate is free and contains many interactive explorations. A series of three of these explorations allow students to explore and investigate cause and effect relationships by modeling a fire spread through a grove of trees. Parameters range from probability of burn, to wind direction, to density of forest and wind strength.

Fire!!: http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/activities/fire/
Directable Fire!!: http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/activities/DirectableFire/
A Better Fire!!: http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/activities/ABetterFire/

Have fun exploring. For more information about Shodor or any of our programs please contact me, Bethany Hudnutt via email (bhudnutt@shodor.org).

2009 IGES Earth Day Photo Contest for Grades 5-8: Capture Your Changing World

During the week of Earth Day (April 22), U.S. students in grades 5-8 can be part of a unique national effort to capture our changing world.

Anytime from Wednesday April 22 through Wednesday April 29, take a photograph of something that is changing in your local environment. It could be a change occurring in your backyard, outside your school, in a local park, or off in the distance toward the horizon.

Then, research and write an explanation of the photograph (400 words or less). Entries will be judged by Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) staff based on relevance to topic (depiction of change in the environment), uniqueness and overall appearance of the photo, and thoroughness of the written explanation.

The top three winners will receive a digital camera, digital photo frame and digital photo keychain, respectively. The top 10 winners will receive their photograph in a special frame commemorating Earth Day 2009, and their photographs and accompanying descriptions will be featured along with selected honorable mentions on the IGES Web site, www.strategies.org.

Entries must be received by email or postmarked by May 9, 2009. Winners will be announced on the IGES Web site around June 2, 2009. For submission instructions, entry form, and suggestions for using this activity in the classroom, please visit: http://www.strategies.org/EarthDayPhoto

Top Stars: Educators Invited to Submit Examples of Inspiring Uses of Hubble in Education

For almost 20 years, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has inspired and engaged educators and students of all ages. U.S. formal (K-12, college) and informal educators -- both individuals and teams of up to four members -- are invited to submit their best examples of using Hubble in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education.

Entries will be accepted from May 2009 to January 2010, and may include any combination of text, graphics, video and photos. Selected entries will be recognized as "Top Stars."

Educators selected as Top Stars will have their entry featured on the Top Stars Web site and will receive the following recognition and awards:
-A high-quality photo print (48" x 24") of a Hubble image;
-Invitation to attend via teleconference a special briefing by a Hubble scientist or engineer; and
-Recognition as Top Stars on NASA Web sites.

The Top Stars Web site will begin accepting entries April 30, 2009. For more information, please visit: http://topstars.strategies.org

National Earth Science Teachers Association

If you aren't a member of the National Earth Science Teachers Assocation already, you should really consider joining! NESTA provides many services for K-12 teachers of Earth and space science, including publications, events, opportunities, and representation of the Earth and space sciences at the national level through other organizations and professional societies. It only costs $20/year to join for a full membership with four printed copies of our quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, mailed to you. NESTA has recently announced the availability of a new e-membership option for $10/year, which provides all the benefits of membership except you will not receive a print copy of the quarterly journal - instead, you read/print in from the new NESTA website. Sign up today!

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