September 2011

Teacher Submissions
Partner Announcements
Windows to the Universe Facebook Group

Now Classrooms, Schools, and Districts can Subscribe to Windows to the Universe
by Roberta

Just in time for the new school year, we're now offering the opportunity for teachers using Windows to the Universe in the classroom to receive the benefits of membership not only for themselves, but for their students as well.  Teachers can now join, and include their classroom students on their subscription.  In addition, subscriptions are now available at the school and district levels.  Benefits of subscription for students include:

  • Individual user-created logins and passwords for each student
  • Access to an advertising-free version of the website with login
  • Access to their own "MyW2U" area, to keep track of website resources most valuable to them and to personalize their website experience with background choices and selection of RSS feeds
  • Access to the Windows to the Universe Journal Tool, which they can use to create their own journals on the site
  • Access to a members-only regularly updated calendar of major Earth and Space Science historical events
  • A 10% discount on all products in the Windows to the Universe online store

Teacher subscribers (whether as Educator Members or through a Classroom, School, or District subscription) experience the above benefits, as well as the following:

  • Access to a members-only regularly updated calendar of Earth and Space Science Education Opportunities and Events
  • Notice of special opportunities available to Educator Members, such as paid professional development or review opportunities

IRIS Earthquake Teachable Moments
by Roberta

Recent earthquake activity in places that don't typically experience earthquakes remind us of the power of these moments to capture the interest of students with the dramatic nature of our planet.  The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) regularly provide "Teachable Moment" educational resources on earthquakes shortly after they occur.  These resources provide overviews of the event, and frequently PowerPoint presentations, animations, and access to relevant data.  Check out the recent Teachable Moment for the August 23rd 5.8 magnitude quake in Mineral, Virginia.

The Spring 2011 issue of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, also focused on state-of-the-art seismology education for the classroom.  Thanks to support from IRIS, the issue is available free for download as a PDF on the NESTA website, or you can purchase a print copy of the issue from NESTA (which includes related posters) from the Windows to the Universe online store.

K-12 Climate Change Education Survey
by Roberta

If you haven't already, please consider completing our survey of K-12 climate change educators.  This anonymous survey is designed to gather information about climate change education underway in the K-12 classroom today, and is designed to be completed by current K-12 classroom teachers. The survey includes up to 61 questions (depending on your responses) about topics including demographics, climate change education at your school, what you teach, your preparation and professional development in this area, the resources you use, and the challenges you face in teaching about climate change. These questions are followed by an additional (optional) 25 questions about your understanding of climate change. The survey is completely anonymous. The length of time required to complete the survey can range from ~10 minutes to an hour, depending on your responses.

We appreciate your effort in completing this rather lengthy survey, which will provide important information for us as we work to understand the needs and concerns of K-12 educators working on climate change education. Thank you very much, in advance, for your time and effort in completing the survey! Once the survey is complete, we will make the results of the survey freely available in a report form on our website.

National Research Council Releases K-12 Science Education Framework
by Roberta

On July 19, the National Academies released their new Framework for K-12 Science Education.  The Framework identifies the key scientific practices, concepts and ideas that all students should learn by the time they complete high school. It is intended as a guide for those who develop science education standards, those who design curricula and assessments, and others who work in K-12 science education.  Earth and space science is identified as one of the four disciplinary core ideas in the framework. The framework is available online at, either for purchase or free PDF download.  Find out more about the Framework, the process used to develop it, and next steps, at

Hurricane Season Continues
by Jennifer

As school begins this fall, Earth Science teachers have a perfect opportunity to make their content real and engaging for students.  Needless to say, it has already been an active hurricane season in both the Atlantic and the Pacific (and the season isn't over until November 30th!).   The Pacific has experienced six hurricanes already and one tropical storm (letters A-G are taken). The Atlantic has used up letters A-J already with nine tropical storms and one hurricane.  Many on the east coast of the U.S. are still struggling with downed trees, flooding, and power outages due to Hurricane Irene.  Luckily, tropical storm Jose dissipated shortly after passing Bermuda and that system is not likely to cause any further problems.

Students are especially interested in hurricanes now and they can follow any storms that may affect the United States by visiting the NOAA/National Weather Service Hurricane Center where current cyclone activity is continually updated and there are numerous links to hurricane history, hurricane awareness, and storm information. An ideal activity is for students to plot this season’s hurricanes on their own Atlantic Hurricane Tracking Chart from the American Red Cross. These charts have latitude and longitude as well as states and countries that border the Atlantic Hurricane Region. For students who may be impacted by Pacific Hurricanes, they may want to access the Eastern Pacific Tracking Chart from NOAA. For a global perspective, Weather Underground has a great tropical ocean image that shows current activity and sea surface temperatures.

For more background, have your students explore the Windows to the Universe section about hurricanes to foster understanding of how hurricanes form and the damage that they can cause in coastal areas, including damage from storm surge. Peruse the hurricane section of the Windows to the Universe image gallery for pictures of hurricane damage, satellite images of hurricanes, and illustrations to use in your teaching.

Finally, have your students explore the likely connection between hurricane strength and climate change in the activity Hurricanes and Climate. This data-rich activity gets students interpreting graphs and exploring geography as they consider whether hurricanes have become more common or more fierce.

National Hispanic Heritage Month
by Julia

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Talk to your students about prominent Hispanic scientists and astronauts.

Franklin Chang-Diaz was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1950 and became an astronaut in 1980. He was the first Hispanic-American to travel in space. He has spent over 1033 hours in space on five spaceflights. Before he became an astronaut, Chang-Diaz was an engineer and physicist.

Ellen Ochoa was born in Los Angeles in 1958 and became the first Hispanic woman in space in 1991. She has spent over 900 hours in space on two spacecraft. Before she became an astronaut, Ochoa researched optical systems for automated space exploration.

Luis Walter Alvarez was born in San Francisco in 1911. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968. He helped design a ground-controlled radar system for aircraft landings and, with his son Walter, he developed the meteorite theory of dinosaur extinction.

Mario Molina was born in Mexico City in 1943. He received a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1995 for his research with Sherwood Rowland. They studied chlorofluorocarbons and discovered that the release of CFC's destroy the ozone layer in the stratosphere.

Severo Ochoa (1905–1993) was born in Spain and moved to the United States in 1940. He received the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Arthur Kornberg for his work involving DNA biochemistry.

Read about more Hispanic scientists and astronauts on Wikipedia.

Coming Soon - Additional Changing Planet Videos and Classroom Activities with Biology Connections
by Roberta

NESTA and Windows to the Universe are continuing our work with NBC Learn to add additional classroom activities to our existing set with a focus on biology connections for climate change.  As usual, each activity will accompany videos related to our Changing Planet, with support from the National Science Foundation. For each video, we provide an introductory page linking to the video on the Windows to the Universe website, links to related pages on the website and elsewhere, and a link to a classroom activity that teachers can use to explore the related science with their students. Go to the Our Changing Planet section on Windows to the Universe to access all of the existing videos and lesson plans, and keep your eyes posted for new activities starting in late August. We hope to offer a workshop on these materials at the Spring NSTA in Indianapolis next year.

The current topics are as follows:

Get Ready for the Fifth Annual Great World Wide Star Count
by Jennifer

The Great World Wide Star Count encourages everyone to go outside, look skyward after dark, note the stars in certain constellations, and report what they could see online. Star Count is designed to raise awareness about the night sky and encourage learning in astronomy. All the information needed to participate is available on the Star Count Web site. Be sure to download the 2011 Activity Guide (available in 14 languages!) to prepare your class for this project.

Utilizing the international networking capabilities of Windows to the Universe, Star Count has engaged over 35,000 individuals from 92 countries and all 7 continents in its first four years.  Participation involves use of a simple protocol and an easy data entry form. 

At the conclusion of the event, the collected data is made available online in a variety of formats for use by students, teachers and scientists to assess how the quality of the night sky varies around the world. Mark your calendars and plan on joining thousands of other students, families, and citizen scientists counting stars this fall.

The fifth Great World Wide Star Count will be held from October 14 - 28, 2011. For more information visit or email

Hubble Discovers Another Moon around Pluto
by Jennifer

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite, temporarily designated P4, was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

The new moon is located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, moons of Pluto that Hubble discovered in 2005. Charon was discovered in 1978 at the U.S. Naval Observatory and first resolved using Hubble in 1990 as a separate body from Pluto.

The finding is a result of ongoing work to support NASA's New Horizons mission, scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in 2015. The mission is designed to provide new insights about worlds at the edge of our solar system. Hubble's mapping of Pluto's surface and discovery of its satellites have been invaluable to planning for New Horizons' close encounter.

The Scientific Method at Work
by Jennifer

When there are different theories that all try to explain the answer to a scientific question or problem, how do scientists decide which one is right? This is a common problem in science, and we can find big unanswered questions with several different possible answers in every field, from physics to paleontology.

A good example of this is the question of why the dinosaurs went extinct—there are a lot of different theories that propose possible explanations, ranging from asteroid impacts to changes in mammals’ eating habits.

How do we know which is correct? We have to rely on the scientific method—we put together a hypothesis, we make predictions based on that hypothesis, we test our predictions, and then we adjust (or reject) our hypothesis in light of what we observe. In the example above, scientists have used this method to decide that some potential causes of the dinosaurs’ dying off (e.g., asteroid impacts, or increased volcanic activity) are much more likely than others to have contributed to the massive extinction that occurred at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out our pages about the K-T extinction and scientific method.

NESTA and Windows to the Universe at NSTA Area Conferences
by Jennifer

NESTA is pleased to announce our sessions at the NSTA Area Conference for fall 2011. NESTA will be offering workshops at all three Area Conferences, and we look forward to seeing you there! This year, in addition to our traditional and ever-popular Share-a-Thon and exciting Rock and Mineral Raffle, we will also be offering Windows to the Universe workshops on Earth System science, climate change, and geology.

All of our events will be in the same room, scheduled for Friday at each conference – providing you with a full day of Earth science professional development from the National Earth Science Teachers Association. Our events are free with registration at the NSTA conference.

NESTA sessions in Hartford

All events on Friday, October 28 in the Connecticut Convention Center, Ballroom C

9:30 - 10:30 am - Activities Across the Earth System
11:00 am - noon - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
12:30 - 1:30 pm - Let's Get Well Grounded
2:00 - 3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

NESTA sessions in New Orleans

All events on Friday, November 11 in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, R09

8:00 - 9:00 am - Let's Get Well Grounded
9:30 - 10:30 am - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
11:00 am - noon - Activities Across the Earth System
2:00 -3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

NESTA sessions in Seattle

All events on Friday, December 9 in the Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6E

8:00 - 9:00 am - Let's Get Well Grounded
9:30 - 10:30 am - Climate Change Classroom Toolkit
11:00 am - noon - Activities Across the Earth System
2:00 – 3:00 pm - Share-a-Thon
3:30 - 4:30 pm - Rock and Mineral Raffle

Join NESTA at

Present at a NESTA Share-a-Thon!
by Roberta

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 Area conferences. 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. If you're interested in presenting, please see the complete list of NESTA Share-a-Thon and Rock Raffles at Fall NSTA Area Conferences.

What does being presenter at a NESTA Share-a-Thon entail? (1) Contact NESTA's Share-a-Thon coordinator, Michelle Harris, and let her know that you'd like to present (at (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, meet new colleagues, and visit with 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 is happy to provide letters of recognition to presenters, which you can use toward your professional advancement.

Bacteria Discovery
by Julia

328 years ago, on September 17, 1683, Antony van Leeuwenhoek wrote to the Royal Society about his observations of the plaque between his own teeth and teeth of other people. Looking at it with a microscope of his own design, he reported that he had seen "very little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving". This was the first observation of bacteria.

The name "bacteria" was later introduced in 1838 by German scientist Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg, and is derived from the Greek word meaning "small staff". Later in the 19th century Louis Pasteur and several other doctors and scientists suggested that some diseases may be caused by bacteria.  Robert Koch, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1905, finally proved this theory.

Recent studies have found that bacteria are far more diverse than anyone suspected. They comprise two out of three of the domains of life: Archaea and Eubacteria. The third domain, Eukaryota, contains all other living things, including plants, animals, protists, and fungi. This means we are more closely related to trees or amoebas than some bacteria are to other bacteria!

Arctic Sea Ice Minimum
by Roberta

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 fast.

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 least sea ice in the Arctic. This is known as the Arctic sea ice minimum. In recent years, the minimum amount of ice in the Arctic has grown smaller. After a period of slow melt this year from late July through early August, Arctic ice extent is again declining at a brisk pace, but remains higher than for 2007, the record low year. Data also indicate continued thinning of the ice. With about a month left in the sea ice melt season, the amount of further ice loss will depend mostly on weather patterns.

Because of global warming, the sea ice starts melting a little earlier each spring and starts freezing a little later each autumn. So there is more time during the year when melting occurs. As more ice melts, the albedo of the Arctic is decreased, meaning that less solar energy is reflected and more is absorbed by the Earth. More energy means more warmth in the Arctic which causes more ice to melt. This compounding process is called the ice-albedo feedback. For up-to-date information on the state of Arctic sea ice throughout the year, visit Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis on the web site of the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Take a look at these Windows to the Universe resources for teaching about sea ice:

Autumnal Equinox is September 23rd
by Julia

This year, the Autumnal equinox will occur on September 23rd (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.

A Perfect Time to Join NESTA!
by Jennifer

Are you headed back to school soon? What a perfect time to join the National Earth Science Teachers Association! Membership benefits are many and include receiving The Earth Scientist (a quarterly journal), full voting privileges, access to members-only areas of the NESTA web site, a discount on Windows to the Universe Educator Membership, and the monthly e-mail newsletter, NESTA ENews, that shares new resources, opportunities, alerts, and upcoming events. There are also many special NESTA events at professional meetings. Plug into this supportive network. Cost is low! Join today!

Table of Contents

Hispanic Scientists
Changing Planet Bio
Star Count 2011
Pluto Has 4 Moons
Scientific Method
Bacteria Discovery
Arctic Sea Ice
Equinox 23rd

Geoscience Program
Geoscience Work
EarthCache Day!
ES Week Contests
2011 Zero Robotics
Lexus Eco Challenge
Groundwater Day
Coastal Cleanup
Public Lands Day
Free Museum Day
Green Schools Grant
Game Day Challenge
K-5 Math/Sci Grants
Cubesat Missions
Home Energy Chall
PEYA 2011
The Eco Student
Apps Environment















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Teachers in Geosciences Program from Mississippi State University

You can earn your Master of Science degree via distance learning through the Teachers in Geosciences program from Mississippi State University. All of the core Earth science courses are taught online, and the curriculum is designed around the Earth science content that is most relevant to K–12 educators. The program concludes with an 8- to 10-day capstone field course that is taught during the summer at a variety of locations including Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, Western Washington State, the Sierra, Central Arizona, Upstate NY, Lake Superior, the Bahamas, and the Great Plains Storm Chase.

This 12-course, 36-credit-hour graduate program is designed to take as little as two years to complete and includes courses in meteorology, geology, planetary science, oceanography, hydrology, and environmental geoscience. The program has alumni in all 50 states, and all students qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Please visit our website at or contact Joy Bailey,, for additional information.

Geosciences 2011 - Congressional Visits Day is on September 20-21

AGI has released its report on the "Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2011." The 2011 report has been updated and substantially expanded from the 2009 edition, and integrates all available data sources, including original data collected by AGI, as well as data from federal, community, and industry sources.

The report covers trends in K-12 education, community college programs, four-year institutions, employment sectors, and economic metrics of the geosciences. To download a free PDF of the 2011 Report Overviews and Samples, go to

Remember, the annual Geosciences Congressional Visits Day is on September 20-21, 2011.  Decision makers need to hear from geoscientists. Become a citizen geoscientist and join your colleagues for this two-day event uniting geoscience researchers, professionals, students, educators, engineers, and executives to raise visibility and support for the geosciences.

A constructive visit from citizen geoscientists about the importance and value of Earth science research and education is the most effective way to inform and impact federal science policy. Visit to learn more.

Earth Science Week Kicks Off with International EarthCache Day

Earth Science Week 2011 will kick-off with the fifth annual International EarthCache Day on Sunday, October 9th. The public is invited to join the Geological Society of America (GSA), organizer of the global EarthCache program, and the American Geological Institute (AGI), Earth Science Week coordinators, in exploring this exciting and educational earth science experience.

International EarthCache Day is a time when EarthCachers around the globe organize small gatherings where people can learn something about the Earth. An EarthCache is a place that people locate with a GPS device while participating in a "treasure hunt" called geocaching.

"The treasure you find at an EarthCache is a lesson about the Earth itself," says EarthCaching Program Director Gary Lewis of GSA, a longtime Earth Science Week partner. "Each EarthCache site will teach you something about the science of our dynamic planet - you actually have to do a task to prove that you have been observing and learning from your EarthCache visit."

More than 11,200 EarthCaches have been established by geocachers around the globe, and some 1,250,000 people have visited the sites. More EarthCaches are added daily.  To view EarthCaching events and sites, go to

Earth Science Week Contests

AGI is sponsoring three national contests for Earth Science Week 2011. The photography, visual arts, and essay contests - all focused on the event theme of “Our Ever-Changing Earth” - 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 “A World of Change in My Community.” The visual arts contest, titled “Picturing Our Ever-Changing Earth,” is open to students in grades K-5. Finally, students in grades 6-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest, “How Change Shapes Our Planet.” Essays of up to 300 words should describe how interactions among Earth systems - geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere - change our planet over time.

Entries may be submitted any time up to the Friday of Earth Science Week, Oct. 14, 2011. 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

2011 Zero Robotics Challenge

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are offering high school students the opportunity to design experiments that will be tested in space.

The 2011 Zero Robotics Challenge utilizes bowling ball-sized spherical satellites aboard the International Space Station.  The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, are used inside the station to test maneuvers for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking. The three satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the station's cabin. Each is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. Test results support satellite servicing, vehicle assembly and spacecraft that fly in formation.

The challenge requires high school student teams to write their own algorithm to fly the satellites in the station. Teams must register before Sept. 5 at:

Entries will be evaluated using simulations. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., will host a final ground testing competition in October. The top 27 teams will have their code sent to the station, where an astronaut will program the SPHERES satellites to run their tests.

Lexus Eco Challenge

The Lexus Eco Challenge offers an opportunity for students in grades 6-12 to address environmental issues in three challenges: Land/Water, Air/Climate, and a Final Challenge. Teams have the opportunity to win $10,000 in each of the first two challenges and up to $30,000 in the Final Challenge. For each challenge, teams must choose a topic and use PowerPoint to illustrate an action plan.  Official rules outline details for judging.  Deadlines range from September 2011-February 2012.

Protect Your Groundwater Day is September 13, 2011

You can observe Protect Your Groundwater Day by practicing the two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:

  • Keeping groundwater safe from contamination
  • Using it wisely by not wasting it.

Everyone can and should do something to protect groundwater. Why? We all have a stake in maintaining its quality and quantity.

  • For starters, 95 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground. Being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense.
  • Not only that, most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater so how you impact groundwater matters.
  • Furthermore, many public water systems draw all or part of their supply from groundwater, so protecting the resource protects the public water supply and impacts treatment costs.
  • If you own a well to provide water for your family, farm, or business, groundwater protection is doubly important. As a well owner, you are the manager of your own water system. Protecting groundwater will help reduce risks to your water supply.

Calculate your household water use here. Depending on where in the country you live, outdoor water use can vary widely. If you want to get an ever better idea how much water you use, find out your “water footprint” by calculating the amount of water it takes to produce some of the food you consume.

To discuss groundwater protection and other groundwater-related issues, follow NGWA’s Facebook page and post your comments or questions on the discussion board.

26th Annual International Coastal Cleanup is September 17

Over the past 25 years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day of the year.  This year's Cleanup will occur on September 17.

During the amazing signature event each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from countries all over the world spend a day picking up everything from cigarette butts and food wrappers to lost fishing nets and major appliances.  In 2009, 60 percent of the debris collected and cataloged consisted of single-use, disposable items. Volunteers picked up 1.1 million plastic bags. And they picked up enough cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons for a picnic for 100,000 people!

Volunteers have recorded every item found, giving us a clear picture of the manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies. As our 2011 report demonstrates, the body of data from the International Coastal Cleanup has inspired action to rid the ocean of harmful trash. Read the full report (PDF).

Why Cleanup?  Every year, countless marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and other animals are sickened, injured, or killed because of dangerous items we allow into the sea. They are poisoned, choked, or entangled in the trash we leave behind, from leaky paint cans to empty yogurt cups to cast-off fishing line. Trash also poses health threats to humans, contaminates marine environments, and clogs boat propellers.

Trash doesn’t fall from the sky; it falls from human hands. And human hands have the power to stop it. You and your friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues can truly make a difference through this remarkable experience of international camaraderie on behalf of the ocean.

National Public Lands Day is September 24

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States. In 2011, NPLD will be held on September 24, 2011. Register a site for NPLD or volunteer.

Last year, 170,000 volunteers worked at over 2,080 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and in many U.S. territories. NPLD volunteers:

  • Removed an estimated 450 tons of trash
  • Collected an estimated 20,000 pounds of invasive plants
  • Built and maintained an estimated 1,320 miles of trails
  • Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
  • Contributed an estimated $15 million to improve public lands across the country

NPLD educates Americans about critical environmental and natural resource issues and the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands.  NPLD also builds partnerships between the public sector and the local community based upon mutual interests in the enhancement and restoration of America's public lands.  Join this worthy effort to make a difference!

Smithsonian Museum Day is September 24

In the spirit of Smithsonian Museums, who offer free admission everyday, Museum Day 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!

Find a venue near you!

Grant for Green Schools Project

Dream in Green is partnering with Global Green USA to promote their contest, sponsored by Pureology, awarding $65K cash to a U.S. school for a green schools project.  In addition to $65K to implement the actual project, the school will get another $65K in tech support to film the project. Go to for more information.  The deadline for submission is September 30, 2011.

College Football Game Day Challenge 2011

The Game Day Challenge is a friendly competition for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction at their football games. This Challenge is an initiative of EPA’s WasteWise program.

During the challenge, colleges and universities implement waste reduction programs during home football games. Schools track and report waste reductions and disposal data are used to rank the schools.

EPA will present awards in five categories:

  1. Waste Generation: The school with the lowest per capita waste generation wins.
  2. Diversion Rate: The school with the largest overall (combines trash, recycling, and composting data) recycling rate wins.
  3. Greenhouse Gas Reduction: The school with the largest greenhouse gas reduction wins.
  4. Recycling: The school with the largest recycling rate wins.
  5. Organics Reduction: The school with the largest organic reduction rate wins.

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 teachers to make their classrooms more exciting for students. Any K-5 teacher in a public or private school is eligible. Proposed projects must advance the teacher's science and math teaching units.  Deadline for submission is October 1, 2011.

NASA Announces Next Opportunity For Cubesat Space Missions

NASA is seeking proposals for small satellite payloads to fly on rockets planned to launch between 2012 and 2014. These miniature spacecraft, known as CubeSats, could be auxiliary payload on previously planned missions.

CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than three pounds.

Applicants must submit proposals electronically by Nov. 14. NASA will select the payloads by Jan. 30, 2012.  For additional information about NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative program, visit:

America's Home Energy Challenge

America's Home Energy Challenge is designed to teach students in grades 3-8 about energy, its use and the link between saving money and energy. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by the National Science Teachers Association, the two parts of the Challenge aim to have students gain knowledge of energy and awareness of energy use and then learn about energy saving methods.  Participating schools compete for more than $200,000 in prizes that will be distributed at regional and national levels.  The submission period is between December 1-31, 2011.

2011 President's Environmental Youth Awards

The PEYA program promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Since 1971, the President of the United States has joined with the EPA to recognize young people across the U.S. who are protecting our nation’s air, water, land, and ecology. It is one of the most important ways the EPA and the Administration demonstrate commitment to environmental stewardship efforts created and conducted by our nation’s young people. One outstanding project from each region is selected for national recognition. Projects are developed by young individuals, school classes (K-12), summer camps, and youth organizations to promote environmental stewardship. Thousands of young people from all 50 states and the U.S. territories have submitted projects to the EPA for consideration. Winning projects in the past have covered a wide range of subject areas, including:
-environmental science projects
-recycling programs in schools and communities
-construction of nature preserves
-major tree planting programs
-videos, skits, and newsletters that focus on environmental issues

Evaluation results consistently demonstrate that the experience is a life-changing event for many of the young people and sponsors who participate.

Find out how to apply. The annual deadline for the regional award program is December 31.

EPA Region 8 Student Blog: The Eco Student

EPA Region 8 has created a blog intended for students middle school age and higher.  The Eco Student is an environmental blog for students in the Rocky Mountains and Plains where the EPA will be posting as frequently as they have news, events, and happenings. Their expectation is for there to be a new post every other day. That is where teachers come in! Please spread the word to your teaching peers and your students about this new resource.

Wendy Dew, EPA Region 8 (CO, ND, SD, MT, UT, WY) Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator, has the goal of using this blog to feature all the great work you and your students are doing. Please send her a quick email at about local events, students, contests, etc., and she can create a blog post about your news.

Apps for the Environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing its “Apps for the Environment” challenge to encourage the development of innovative environmental applications for people and communities. The challenge invites the information technology community to create applications that help people make informed decisions about environmental issues that can affect their health. EPA is engaging students, colleges and universities, and developers across the U.S. to develop and submit an app.

The challenge is a step towards a longer-term objective of engaging developers and raising awareness about the availability and usefulness of EPA’s data. Applications for the challenge must use EPA’s data and be accessible via the web or a mobile device. Submissions are due by September 16, 2011. EPA experts will select finalists and winning submissions based their usefulness, innovation, and ability to address one or more of EPA's seven priorities for the future. In addition, the public will be able to vote for a “People’s Choice” winner. Winners will receive recognition from EPA on the agency’s website and at an event in Washington, D.C., in the fall, where they’ll be able to present their apps to senior EPA officials and other interested parties.

For more information on the challenge, visit

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