Sun-Earth Day is March 20

Sun-Earth Day, sponsored annually by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), focuses on one celestial event. The theme for this year’s Sun-Earth Day, March 20, is magnetic storms, the most violent explosions in the solar system.

On its web site (http://sunearthday.gsfc.nasa.gov/2010/about/index.php), the Sun-Earth Day team offers web casts, multimedia products, and print resources for K-12 school and informal educators. Included are downloadable bookmarks, flyers, a fact sheet on magnetism, audio and video podcasts, and real-time images of the sun. Also on the site are online children’s books about the sun.

Lesson plans for 6-8 classrooms introduce auroras, magnetism, space math, and features of the sun. Web sites of past themes – space weather, solar eclipses, the sun’s atmosphere, and more – can be accessed from the current Sun-Earth Day home page.

On March 20, the NASA team will broadcast a webcast from the exhibit floor of the National Science Teachers Association conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Scientists, teachers and students will demonstrate the power of magnetism.

Learn more about Sun-Earth Day resources by registering to receive updates.

Free Professional Development Webinars

We’ve got four free professional development webinars coming up in the month of April. The first two are specifically for middle school math and science teachers. The second two are for elementary teachers but plenty of the content would be appropriate for older students. Librarians and media specialists, science specialists, informal educators, and others will find them useful as well. Please join us for one or all!

Getting to the Good Stuff: Online Resources for Middle School Math and Science
April 7, 2009, 3:30-4:30pm EST
Presenters: Robert Payo, National Science Digital Library and Kim Lightle, Middle School Portal 2

With huge volumes of materials on the Internet, how can teachers find the good stuff? We’ll explore how the National Science Digital Library and the Middle School Portal 2: Math & Science Pathways project addresses this question. We’ll show you how to find quality materials through organized collections, bundled resources that build teacher content knowledge, and online tools that facilitate better alignment of resources to teaching and promote broader community discussion through social networking.
Registration information: http://nmsa.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Webinars/tabid/1011/Default.aspx?PageContentID=303

Global Warming and the Polar Regions
April 28, 2009, 3:30-4:30pm EST
Presenters: Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears and Kim Lightle, Middle School Portal 2

How is climate change shifting earth’s energy balance? In this seminar, we’ll provide content knowledge as well as resources for the middle school science classroom.
Registration information: http://nmsa.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Webinars/tabid/1011/Default.aspx?PageContentID=303

Ecosystems: Life in the Polar Extremes
Tuesday, April 7, 2009, 6:30-7:45 pm EST
Presenter: Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears

At first glance, the polar regions may seem barren and lifeless. Yet there are surprisingly rich terrestrial and marine food webs that can be used to illustrate ecological concepts, relationships, and changes. In this web seminar, we’ll discuss the Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems and their response to climate change. Through examples of resources, lessons, activities, books, and teaching strategies, we’ll explore common ecological misconceptions and exemplary science and literacy instructional resources from the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears cyberzine.
Registration information: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/ae7yw1mqzvzb

Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Arctic and Antarctic Birds
April 21, 2009, 6:30pm-8:00pm EST
Presenter: Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears

Did you know that of the 17 penguin species, only a few live or nest in Antarctica? Or that many of our familiar bird species from the mid-latitudes migrate to breed in polar regions? While we’re all familiar with Emperor penguins, there are many other fascinating birds that call the polar regions home at least part of the year. In this session, develop your own content knowledge and learn how to use birds to promote inquiry, teach physical science concepts, and integrate hands-on science instruction with reading strategies and other literacy skills.

Registration information: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/products/symposia_seminars/NSDL3/Webseminar7.aspx

Sunshine, Rainbows and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Summer brings us many pleasures: a long break from school, vacations, lots of sunshine, and the occasional rainbow, all against a background of electromagnetic radiation! Despite the negative connotation “radiation” sometimes carries, it’s often more useful to us than harmful. Here are a few resources to enlighten you and your students.

Electromagnetic Spectrum
Students will enjoy the colorful illustrations accompanying the text, which vertically follow the spectrum from radio to gamma rays. Teachers will appreciate the link to related lesson plans that will reinforce the learning.

Electromagnetic Spectrum: Waves of Energy
In this lesson, students will (1) understand that the sun energy is transferred to Earth by electromagnetic waves, which are transverse waves, (2) understand that there are eight main types of electromagnetic waves, classified on the electromagnetic spectrum according to their wavelengths, and (3) understand how each of the types of electromagnetic radiation is used or found in our everyday lives. This would be a suitable activity for small groups.

Sources of Radiation
This interactive activity from the NOVA web site explores sources of radiation, both harmful and beneficial, natural and man-made.

Everyday Radiation
This video clip explains natural sources of radiation, including rocks and food.

Special Frisbees Detect Ultraviolet Light
This experiment helps students understand that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is present in natural outdoor light and that the intensity of the light varies with season and time of day. After completing this activity, students will be able to demonstrate that UV radiation can be blocked or filtered by various substances.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/03/2012.

The Power of Electricity

Even though your students use electricity every day and would not want to be without it for a single day, they probably haven’t yet given much thought to its importance as an energy source. According to the National Standards for Science Education, middle schoolers should be building on their K-4 experiences with electricity and becoming familiar with the idea that most change involves energy transfer. The following resources will answer such questions as what is electricity, where does it come from, and how is it distributed?

Electricity
This reading, part of a series about the future of energy, introduces students to the need for and uses of electricity. Here students find information on the generation of electrical power and the infrastructure needed to transmit and distribute it. Thought-provoking questions afford students chances to reflect on what they’ve read. Web links to energy-related articles from PBS NewsHour Online are provided, along with a link to information on the benefits of small-scale wind projects.

Electrical Generation
This reading, another part of a series about the future of energy, introduces students to the production of electricity using a generator. Students read about the movement of electrons called current electricity. Static electricity is also discussed. Students follow as the generation of electric current is described using magnets in a generator.

How Do You Get Electricity From a Cow?
Students are given a clue before they select their answer to this riddle. In the text and video clip for the clue, two children tell about their unsuccessful attempt to use a pet cow to spin the metal coil in a generator. Students are given three answer choices. Brief feedback is given for the incorrect choices. When students select the correct answer, they can watch a short video clip of a farmer explaining how his farm generates more power than it needs by making use of the methane gas released from decomposing manure.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Waves

The National Science Education Standards (NSES) tell us that students in grades 5-8 should “begin to see the connections among . . . [energy forms] and to become familiar with the idea that energy is an important property of substances and that most change involves energy transfer.” Yet there is no explicit direction to introduce students to waves in the context of energy. But what better way to help students connect the mechanical energy of visible ocean waves to the “work” they can do in moving objects all the while transferring energy from kinetic to potential and back? Resources provided here will help you help your students begin to conceptualize waves and their relationship to energy.

Waves and Wave Motion: Describing Waves
This module introduces the history of wave theories, basic descriptions of waves and wave motion, and the concepts of wave speed and frequency.

Seismic Waves
How can P and S waves predict the inner structure of the Earth? Students activate four seismographs that send out P and S waves and watch as the waves are reflected and refracted while moving through the Earth and are asked a series of questions about the waves and interior of the Earth. From the results and provided information, students see how the movement of P and S waves predicts structure within the Earth.

Sound
This site, created by and for 5th grade science students and educators, explores, illustrates, and explains the science of sound and music, including compression waves.

Waves, Sound and Light
These online applets or “gizmos” cover prisms, refraction, and ray tracings with lenses and mirrors. Each gizmo allows users to manipulate variables such as wave length or angle of reflection and each is accompanied by an illustrated, printable guide. The Explore Learning site requires a subscription but does offer a 30-day free trial and five minutes of free access each month for each of the applets.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/16/2011.