Space Weather Education on Windows to the Universe

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Monday, 30 January 2006: 4:45 PM
Space Weather Education on Windows to the Universe
A402 (Georgia World Congress Center)
Randy Russell, UCAR, Boulder, CO; and R. M. Johnson, S. Q. Foster, J. Bergman, E. Gardiner, J. Genyuk, and M. LaGrave

The Education and Outreach Office (EO) at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) has developed, and is continuing to develop, several major resources for education related to space weather and Sun-Earth connection themes. There are three major elements to this effort: a large, new space weather section on the Windows to the Universe web site, a series of activities for high school students developed by teachers in conjunction with UCAR EO staff, and a number of workshops for teachers about magnetism and space weather.

Windows to the Universe (www.windows.ucar.edu) is an extensive (~7,000 pages) web site dedicated to Earth and space science education. The site reaches a large audience; over the course of the twelve-month period ending in June 2005 more than 7.8 million visitors accounted for over 70 million page views during the course of nearly 9 million user sessions. Most of the site has been translated into Spanish, and has thus become a major science education resource for Spanish-speaking and bilingual users, both in the United States and abroad. We are adding a major new section to the Windows to the Universe (W2U) site covering a broad range of space weather and Sun-Earth connection topics. Portions of this new space weather section are currently online and in use; others are being added on a continuing basis. When completed, the new space weather section will include approximately 500 pages of content covering the Sun, space weather, the magnetospheres of Earth and other planets, the solar wind and IMF, the physics of space weather, aeronomy, the aurora, human and societal impacts of space weather, and other related topics. The primary audience of this new section is intended to be early undergraduate college students and advanced high school students. Pages from this new section that cover topics appropriate for less advanced audiences will also be prepared for use by younger K-12 students and their teachers.

Two high school teachers in Colorado have collaborated with scientists from the High Altitude Observatory (HAO) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and with UCAR EO staff to develop a series of activities related to space weather topics. One teacher focused on activities intended to enhance the mathematics skills of graphing and graph reading among early high school students, in the context of atmospheric phenomena related to space weather. The second teacher developed lessons and activities related to the aurora and the physics of particle motion in magnetic fields, intended for use by advanced high school science students. Both sets of activities were classroom-tested in the spring of 2005 and are being disseminated via the Windows to the Universe web site. Both teachers used existing materials from the W2U site as background reading for their lessons, and also adapted materials from the "Physics of the Aurora: Earth Systems" module (developed by the COMET program at UCAR) for use by high school students (the module's original target audience was advanced undergraduate and early graduate students).

Finally, UCAR EO staff have developed and presented a new workshop on magnetism and space weather that helps K-12 teachers learn how to use exciting topics related to space weather (solar activity and "storms", the aurora, astronaut radiation safety, etc.) in conjunction with hands-on activities about magnetism to teach about the basics of magnetism, electricity, Earth systems science, and Sun-Earth connections. EO staff have presented versions of this workshop to teachers on more than ten occasions over the past two years. The primary venues for these presentations have been the National Science Teachers Association's national and regional conferences and as part of larger Earth science and modeling workshops hosted at NCAR in Boulder. These and other activities are also being adapted for inclusion in a unit about the Sun-Earth Connection in the new Teachers' Guide to NCAR's Climate Discovery Exhibit.