30 Lectures by Distinguished Astronomers

Thirty non-technical talks on the latest ideas and discoveries in astronomy are now available as audio and video podcasts free of charge through the web and ITunes – http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/.

Speakers include:
* Frank Drake, who began the experimental search for intelligent life among the stars,
* Mike Brown, who discovered most of the dwarf planets beyond Pluto (and whose humorous talk is entitled “How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming”),
* Natalie Batalha, project scientists on the Kepler Mission to find Earths around other stars, and
* Alex Filippenko (national professor of the year) on finding black holes.

Recent topics added to the offerings include: multiple universes, Saturn’s moon Titan (with an atmosphere, rivers, and lakes), our explosive Sun, and whether we should expect doomsday in 2012.

The talks are part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures, jointly sponsored by NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the SETI Institute, and Foothill College. The four organizations have offered six free public lectures per year for the last 12 years, with the audience ranging from 400 to 900 people. Recent talks have been recorded and made available free of charge as a public service thanks to an anonymous donor.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with STEM Stories

The STEM Stories website features a growing collection of digital resources that highlight the lives and work of individuals involved in STEM fields (mainly women). It combines compelling personal stories and multimedia to interest intermediate and middle school students in STEM subjects and careers.

From the In the Spotlight menu, you’ll meet 10 present-day women who are featured in depth, with interviews, photo albums and more.  They include dolphin communication researcher Diana Reiss, atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon, biologist and astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, and robotics engineer Heather Knight. (Heather helped work on the Rube Goldberg machine sequence for the OK-Go music video This Too Shall Pass).  On the Clips tab, the database includes short videos that introduce individuals working in varied STEM careers.  The Profiles tab lets you search biographies about women working in STEM fields throughout history.  Some include photo albums, such as Mary Pennington, Rachel Carson, and Virginia Apgar. (Tip:  double-click on images to see a larger view).

The project team, headed by Lois McLean and Rick Tessman (McLean Media) created STEM Stories with girls in mind, drawing on design ideas from an after-school club for at-risk middle and high school girls. In a 2010 pilot, more than 200 students (Grades 4–7) in Nevada County, California, used the site in classroom activities. In one school, fourth- and seventh-grade students worked in pairs to create pop-up books based on featured individuals. Survey results found no major differences between the responses of boys and girls. In fact, teachers reported that students did not even comment on or question the site’s emphasis on women. And, although the website focuses on personal stories, most students also reported learning something new about science and engineering.

STEM Stories was funded through a grant from the NSF’s Research on Gender in Science in Engineering Program (#HRD-0734004). New content is being added every month, including more current and historical photos, profiles, videos, and interactives.

To introduce your students to the STEM Stories site, try these activities:

STEM Stories Treasure Hunt

STEM Stories Crossword Puzzle

STEM Stories Lesson Ideas


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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 4/19/2012.

Solstice Lunar Eclipse – December 20 or 21 (depending on where you live)

Experience a lunar eclipse on Dec. 21st, the first day of northern winter, when the full Moon passes almost dead-center through Earth’s shadow. For 72 minutes of eerie totality, an amber light will play across the snows of North America, throwing landscapes into an unusual state of ruddy shadow.

The eclipse begins on Tuesday morning, Dec. 21st, at 1:33 am EST (Monday, Dec. 20th, at 10:33 pm PST). At that time, Earth’s shadow will appear as a dark-red bite at the edge of the lunar disk. It takes about an hour for the “bite” to expand and swallow the entire Moon. Totality commences at 02:41 am EST (11:41 pm PST) and lasts for 72 minutes.

If you’re planning to dash out for only one quick look -­ it is December, after all -­ choose this moment: 03:17 am EST (17 minutes past midnight PST). That’s when the Moon will be in deepest shadow, displaying the most fantastic shades of coppery red.

Read more of this blog post at NASA Science News.

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.