Thrill of Discovery — Educator Workshops in Four Locations

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It’s 2011 — NASA’s Year of the Solar System! Join us on a cosmic road trip to explore solar system mysteries and share in the thrill of discovery at an exciting new workshop for educators of all grade levels. 
NASA’s Discovery and New Frontiers missions are traveling vast distances to find answers to age-old questions. These celestial detectives are revealing how our solar system formed and evolved, doing brilliant science with “way cool” technologies! 

   • See sights never before seen on Mercury: MESSENGER! 
   • Get up close to asteroids and comets: Dawn, Stardust-NExT and EPOXI! 
   • Map the moon’s gravity with twin satellites: GRAIL! 
   • Peer through Jupiter’s clouds: Juno! 
   • Cruise to the outer reaches of the solar system: New Horizons! 

Hear from mission scientists and engineers, discover engaging activities for grades K-12 classrooms and out-of-school time programs, and receive a resource book loaded with activities and links. 

When: Saturday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each location listed below.
   • NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
   • NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.        
   • Jackson Middle School Observatory, Champlin, Minn.
   • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
Cost:  $25 (lunch and snacks included).

Special Speakers

  • Six years after launch, MESSENGER will enter orbit around Mercury on March 18. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Sean Solomon, MESSENGER’s Principal Investigator, tell us about the mission’s goals, the science findings so far, and the excitement of reaching the orbiting phase of the mission.
  • The Dawn mission uses ion propulsion to visit the two largest objects in the asteroid belt. Launched in September 2007, Dawn will arrive at asteroid Vesta this July for a year-long orbit. Dawn’s Chief Engineer, Dr. Marc Rayman, will share why this mission is so unique and what scientists hope to learn.
  • Juno’s quest is to aid in the understanding of the formation and evolution of Jupiter, which will help us comprehend the origin of the entire solar system. Juno will launch this August. Dr. Ravit Helled from the gravity team tells us how Juno will reveal “the giant planet story.”
Watch the speakers on the free webinar if you can’t be at one of the sites.
Questions? Send e-mail to Shari Asplund at JPL. 

Twin STEREO Probes Provide View of Entire Sun!

On Feb. 6, NASA’s twin STEREO probes moved into position on opposite sides of the sun, and they now are beaming back uninterrupted images of the entire star — front and back.

”For the first time ever, we can watch solar activity in its full three-dimensional glory,” says Angelos Vourlidas, a member of the STEREO science team at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

”This is a big moment in solar physics,” says Vourlidas. “STEREO has revealed the sun as it really is — a sphere of hot plasma and intricately woven magnetic fields.”

Read more about this story by logging into NEON, join the NASA Explorer Schools group, and find the “GENESIS: What Are We Made of? The Sun, Earth and You” forum. The complete write-up on this exciting new development is available in that forum.

STEREO VideoThis movie shows a spherical map of the Sun, formed from a combination of STEREO Ahead and Behind beacon images, along with an SDO/AIA image in between. The movie starts with the view of the Sun as seen from Earth, with the 0 degree meridian line in the middle. The map then rotates through 360 degrees to show the part of the Sun not visible from Earth. The black wedge shows the part of the Sun not yet visible to the STEREO spacecraft.

For more information about the STEREO spacecraft, visit the mission website.

NASA Explorer Schools Recognition Opportunity

A computer graphic of a certificate with a red ribbonWould you like to receive recognition from NASA for your participation in the NASA Explorer Schools Project?  Would you like to have the unique opportunity to participate in an all-expenses-paid, multi-day research experience at a NASA center?  Are you committed to promoting and inspiring your students’ interest in STEM subjects?  If so, then you should apply for NES recognition!

How do you become eligible to apply for NES recognition?  
You will be invited to apply for NES recognition once you have completed one of each of the core NES activities: use one NES teaching material; participate in one electronic professional development session; and use one NASA Now event with your students.  To receive credit, you must complete the online survey associated with each activity. NES will notify teachers when they are eligible to submit their application.

What is the recognition application? 
The recognition application is 14 items in total – and asks you to document your experiences while participating in the NES project, explain your students’ interaction with NES activities and describe your innovative use of NES materials to promote student engagement in STEM education. The application is available for viewing on the Virtual Campus, however, only eligible teachers will be able to fill out and submit an application.

What opportunities are available for recognized teachers? 
NES offers successful applicants the chance to participate in a multi-day, research experience at a NASA center this summer.  In these unique opportunities, teachers interact with NASA researchers and scientists about NASA’s current missions and research and develop strategies to incorporate this information into classroom learning.  Descriptions of the opportunities can be found on the teacher recognition application. 
What is the NES teacher recognition timeline?
   • Early February: Eligible teachers will be notified. Notification continues through the end of Mar., as teachers become eligible.
   • April 1: Final submission day for teacher applications
   • Early May: Successful applicants are notified

What kind of support is available for applicants throughout this process?
NES staff are available to answer questions and provide support through the help desk e-mail, phone number or live office hours.  You are also encouraged to visit the NES NEON forums and read through the discussions where teachers and NES staff post stories about classroom best practices and innovative use of project materials. This is an excellent opportunity to gain ideas for your own classroom, as well as share your best practices with the NES community (plus, participating in the NEON discussions will earn points on your recognition application). 

For more information regarding the NES recognition opportunities and to see a planning version of the application, visit the Recognition Opportunities section on the NES Virtual Campus.

Family Night: Involve Parents in Student Projects

NASA Explorer Schools educator Colleen Orman from Norfolk Public Schools has some ideas for ways to kick off science fair projects by incorporating the investigation process during the school’s family nights sessions.

Parents and students were guided through the complete experimental design process in a hands-on manner. Students created a straw hoop plane and tested to see if the placement of the hoops affected the distance the plane would fly. Besides having a great deal of fun, both parents and students learned about the steps to create a successful science fair investigation.

The activity was an investigational process, which reinforces NES materials. She has used various flight-related investigations to support previous family night events. 

Orman continues to focus on flight activities to enhance her program’s NASA connection. She says, “Our parents appreciate learning about investigations so they can help their children.”

What a great way to involve parents in their student’s learning! Colleen has logged this entry in the Virtual Campus and is now one step closer to participating in the NES Recognition Program!

Video Webchat With Astronaut Ron Garan on Feb. 8

Astronaut Ron GaranOn Feb. 8, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST, a special Digital Learning Network event with astronaut Ron Garan will be held. Garan is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in March of this year. During the special webcast event, Garan will discuss his upcoming mission and answer questions from students. Students across the country will be able to watch the DLiNfo Channel’s webcast, and they will be able to e-mail their questions for Garan to answer during the program.

Join the webcast by following the link in the DLiNfo Channel Webcasts portion of the page at the DLN website.

Remember to Complete On-line Surveys

Have you filled out the online surveys for all of the NASA Explorer Schools activities you have completed? It is important to fill out the surveys for each one, as filling out the surveys is the only way to receive credit for that activity. The surveys ask no more than ten questions and should take less than five minutes to complete.

Completing the surveys counts towards your eligibility for the NES Recognition Program. To become eligible to apply for NES Recognition and have the opportunity to participate in a unique NASA event, you must complete one of each of the core NES activities:

  Use of Teaching Materials.
  Participate in Electronic Professional Development (Live or On-Demand).
  View a NASA Now Event.

If you fill out the surveys, we will know that you have used the NES Resources and you become eligible for NASA recognition.

Additionally, the surveys offer you the opportunity to give us feedback on NES resources. We place great value on the comments we receive from teachers and will use this information to make improvements to the NES selection of resources. 
Are you unsure of where to find the surveys? Each Virtual Campus page for the Teaching Materials, Electronic Professional Development videos, and NASA Now events has a unique survey button located on the bottom right-hand of the page, indicated by an easy-to-spot yellow clipboard symbol.

Log onto the NES Virtual Campus today and fill out surveys for any activities you already have completed. Also remember to do so for all activities now and in the future. We are looking forward to receiving your feedback!

Add a Mathematics Component to On Target

Cover: On the Moon educator guideOne of the challenges in education is to modify an activity to address objectives in multiple subject areas, challenging students to use skills from different subject areas to solve a problem. NASA Explorer Schools educator Chris Deleon at Hudson Middle School added a twist to the On Target content module that reached beyond the fundamental standards the activity covers.

Read how Chris incorporated a mathematics component into the NES module On Target to give his students a better sense of what it would be like to work for NASA and solve a very complicated problem. 

Chris’ modification is documented in the On the Moon Educator Guide: On Target forum in NEON.

NASA Offers Space Shuttle Tiles to Schools

Photo of a Space Shuttle Tile and ruler, for scale.As the Space Shuttle Program nears retirement, NASA is looking for ways to preserve the program’s history and inspire the next generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers.  NASA is offering 7,000 shuttle heat shield tiles to schools and universities that want to share technology and a piece of space history with their students.

The lightweight tiles protect the shuttles from extreme temperatures when the orbiters re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Schools can request a tile at

Click on the tile icon to log on to the request page. A login ID and password may be obtained by registering on the link provided. A Department of Education statistics tracking number (NCES for schools or IPEDS for universities) is needed to register. Hyperlinks are available to these sites to find a specific institution’s tracking number. The requests will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Only one tile will be given per institution.

Because the tiles are government property, a transfer protocol is observed. Recipients will be responsible for a shipping and handling fee of $23.40, which is payable to the shipping company through a secure website. For more information about artifacts also available to museums and libraries, visit

For information about the space shuttle, visit

NASA STEM Educators Workshop, March 1-3

Educators are invited to register for 2-3 days of free workshop training and earn 12 to 18 hours toward continuing education units.

The Embrace the Challenge to Innovate workshop explores engineering design challenges, problem-based learning activities, distance-learning modules, inquiry-based lessons and hands-on projects.

The workshop takes place from March 1-3, 2011, at Whitewater Middle School in Charlotte, N.C.

Click here for additional details and registration information.

NES Chat With NASA Scientist Dr. Joel S. Levine

NASA Explorer Schools invites K-12 students to join a live chat on Jan. 21 from 2 – 3 p.m. EST with Dr. Joel S. Levine. Dr. Levine is the Chief Scientist of the ARES Mars Airplane Mission, and will answer questions about the the development of a robotic, rocket-powered airplane that will fly through the atmosphere of Mars to search for evidence of life by looking for trace gases of biogenic origin. 

Join the chat at

An archive of the chat will be posted shortly after the chat ends.