Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium

Expanding Frontiers Winter 1999

Expanding Frontiers is a publication of Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. To join our mailing list, please send us an e-mail with your request.

Table of Contents:

Don't miss these...

Rocks and Stars, Geophysics 425, returns spring quarter. Classes are 2:30-3:30 p.m., Thursdays, on the UW main campus.

Washington Space Grant summer undergraduate research program application deadline is April 15.

NASA's Mars Millennium Project lets classes link arts and sciences to design a home for 100 transplanted earthlings on Mars. For more information, see Blueprint for Tomorrow at http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/OEP/MMP/about.html

NASA's Spacelink site provides teachers with a variety of aeronautics and space resources at http://spacelink.nasa.gov/.index.html

Geology for teachers

It's the shake, rattle and learn season July 6-21 with the popular Quakes class taught by Professor Michael Brown.

Designed for middle school and intermediate-level elementary teachers, the course covers the history of earthquakes in our region and the possible tremors we may face in the future.

Students will explore diverse observations that suggest high magnitude earthquakes repeatedly rocked Washington state, said Brown, chairman of the University of Washington's Geophysics Program. Activites include setting up a school-based seismographic station and a two-day field trip.

Brown helped develop the science curriculum for the Shoreline School District and specializes in experimental and theoretical studies of the earth's interior.

This class is sponsored by the Geophysics Program and WaSGC. For registration and scholarship information, call (206) 543-1943.

Hands-on ideas for Astronomy classes

A trio of astronomy workshops are planned for teachers in the North Central Educational Service District. The hands-on sessions provide teachers with ideas for directly involving students in astronomy.

The two elementary school workshops will take place April 16-17 and April 30-May 1 at Campbell's Resort on Lake Chelan. A workshop for middle school teachers is set for April 27-28 in Wenatchee. Substitute teachers will be provided for all participants.

Teachers in ESD 171 who would like further information should contact Jack Horne, science specialist for the North Central Educational Service District, at (509) 663-874.

Mini-grants provide knowledge through experience

Where in the world is Lyle, Washington?

Lyle High School science teacher Jerry Mohar's classes not only plan to find out, they plan to leave a detailed record so future students will be able to plot the ways their Columbia Gorge ecosystem has changed.

The project is one of more than 50 innovative teaching ideas receiving mini-grants from the Washington Space Grant Consortium (WaSGC) last month. The small school, 80 miles east of Vancouver, is using its grant to buy four GPS units, as well as the computer software needed to calculate latitude, longitude and elevation.

"What I was trying to do was expose my students to a technology that has an application in their lives," Mohar said. "Because we are in a rural area, the kids don't get a sense of how large things are and where we are in relation to them."

The lesson also gives the students practical know-ledge they can apply to other areas of their lives such as boating, hiking and hunting, he said. When the high school students are not using the equipment, it will be available to teachers in the elementary and middle schools, which share the rural campus.

WaSGC grants of up to $250 were awarded to K-12 teachers around the state to support innovative science and math projects. The money must be matched by non-federal funds.

"I am very impressed with the number of projects that integrate curriculum areas such as science and writing," said Space Grant Director Dr. Janice DeCosmo. "There are also several schoolwide efforts such as the weather station at the Thurston County Off Campus School."

Students at the Off Campus School, an independent nonprofit high school in Olympia that works with at-risk teens, voted to tackle the weather project from the ground up. The students will build their own monitoring equipment and research the meteorological phenomena they observe through books, videos and Internet research, as well as visits by guest speakers.

The grant projects help students achieve the learning goals set out in the state's Essential Academic Learning Requirements, DeCosmo said. Proposals ran the gamut from the purchase of telescope kits and solar motion models for a junior high to the addition of native plants to encourage wildlife in an elementary school's environmental study area.

Jill Stewart, a fifth grade teacher at Kenmore Elementary, plans to integrate the Museum of Flight's Star Lab into a hands-on opportunity to explore concepts from Native American sky myths to modern space science.

As part of the class, her students will also build and use their own telescopes.

"They love building something rather than just listening to someone talk," Stewart said.

In her grant application, Heatherwood Middle School teacher Diane Westfahl said that one of the hardest parts of teaching astronomy is helping students visualize the things they are trying to learn.

"Distances and sizes are so vast and so far beyond our daily experience as to be unimaginable," she wrote. "Anything that helps students create a reasonably accurate visual image in their minds is a valuable teaching tool."

For more information or to add your name to the mailing list for the 1999-2000 WaSGC mini-grant program, send an e-mail to nasa@u.washington.edu or visit the WaSGC Web site.

Space Grant projects around the state

NW meteorites land at Burke

Organizers are expecting to display all five of the meteorites discovered in Washington as part of a special event at the Burke Museum next month.

The family event kicks off with a lecture by UW Professor Tony Irving from 6:30-8 p.m. March 25. Participants will examine the Northwest meteorites, along with samples from Mars and our moon, at an afternoon workshop March 27. The group will use thin slices of space specimens to get down to the microscopic level March 28.

The Northwest meteorites are on loan from museums and private collections. Meteorites are rare finds in Washington. Most meteorites recovered in the United States were found in southwest deserts and prairie states, said Irving, the host of the event. Many are found during plowing or grain harvest. The one found on a farm near Tacoma holds the distinction of being the smallest ever recovered. Four of the Washington specimens are iron meteorites.

Only one of the Washington meteorites was actually seen plummeting to earth. On July 2, 1939, observers watched a meteorite blaze across the sky over Portland. The remains were found the following day north of the Columbia River near Washougal. The stone, about the size of a tennis ball, is a piece of Asteroid 4 Vesta.

There are plans this spring to organize volunteers to hunt for more meteorites near the sites of earlier finds in Eastern Washington. The most promising search area lies along the terminal moraine that marks the southern limit of the glacial ice.

Seating for the March 25 lecture is limited. Advanced registration is recommended. The $15 admission includes the evening lecture and both viewing sessions at the Burke. For more information, call (206) 543-1943. The registration forms can be printed from the Washington Space Grant Web site.