Committed to the advancement, extension, improvement and coordination of Earth Science education across all levels

November 2013 Elementary News and Notes

This month's photo was taken at Pine Creek Gorge, known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania in the Tioga State Forest. You can view this image and past/future images geospatially located on a map at:

WELCOME to the 2nd edition of Elementary News and Notes!

We are thrilled to share with you our next newsletter issue, filled with resources appropriate for elementary grades.  We encourage teachers of all grade levels to scan through this email, as you will find resources that can be expanded to upper grades and announcements of programs available to your entire school.  If you have any announcements or resources you would like to recommend for our next issue, please share them with us on our Contact page.

Fall Colors in Pennsylvania: An Example for Image of the Day

From NASA Earth Observatory: "With temperatures dropping and days growing shorter in the northern hemisphere, fall colors swept across the northeastern United States. Between mid-September and late October, forests in central Pennsylvania evolved from green—with no hint of fall color—to a symphony of reds, yellows, and browns." A NASA satellite captured the transformation in a pair of images from October 21 and September 17. This pair of images can serve as an excellent foundation for an Image of the Day exercise with your students - learn more from the description in the PAESTA Classroom.

Mission: Solar System

In our last issue, we alerted you to the PBS Design Squad and their STEM classroom resources for elementary-aged kids.  Design Squad Nation has teamed up with NASA and just released a new resource called Mission: Solar System. Launch your kids into space exploration with these space-based, hands-on engineering challenges, designed for kids in school and afterschool programs, grades 4 to 8. These challenges will engage kids in engineering and in NASA's exploration of the solar system; give kids fun, relevant ways to apply STEM concepts and skills; let kids think like NASA engineers and apply their creative problem-solving skills; and, spark kids' interest in engineering and space-science careers.

Visit Mission: Solar System at:

Energy Kids

Energy Kids ( is a student-friendly website hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA). The site includes a variety of information and activities about energy organized in several main categories: What is Energy?, Sources of Energy, Using & Saving Energy, History of Energy, Games and Activities, for Teachers, Related Links, Energy Calculators, and a Glossary. A teacher guide provides activities for using Energy Kids as a resource to teach students about energy in a fun and interactive way. Using Energy Kids provides students with the opportunity to learn about energy while improving research and reading skills. The guide provides Language Arts, Math, Performing Arts, Science and Social Studies extension activities by age levels: Primary (P), Elementary (E), Intermediate (I), and Secondary (S). We know you will be pleased with the number of elementary-level resources available at this site!

Air Quality and the School Flag Program

The School Flag Program helps children, parents, school personnel and the community be aware of daily air quality conditions using brightly colored flags. Each day, a flag is raised in front of participating schools that signals the level of air pollution for that day. By comparing the colored flags to the Air Quality Index (AQI), members of the school and the surrounding community can tell what the daily air quality is, and adjust their activities to reduce their exposure to air pollution. Green indicates good air quality, yellow is moderate, orange means unhealthy for sensitive groups (like children and those with asthma), and red signals unhealthy air for everyone. A purple flag means the air quality is very unhealthy and sensitive groups should avoid all outdoor exertion and everyone else should limit outdoor exertion.

Only two schools are registered and participating in Pennsylvania - add your school to the list today! Visit the website for fact sheets and activity sheets for grades K-5. All resources are available at:

USGS Water Cycle for Students

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has just released a new teaching tool to help young students learn about the water cycle.

On this webpage, you can print out paper- and poster-sized images of the water cycle.  In addition, look for the link to the interactive on-line version of the water cycle - with versions for three age levels. You can view their water cycle diagram on the web and hover your mouse over components and see popup information, pictures, and further links.

Exploring the Environment for K-4

The NASA Classroom of the Futureâ„¢ at Wheeling Jesuit University, through a cooperative agreement with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is developing environmental earth science course modules that are accessible over the Internet. The K-4 Earth Science curriculum is divided into four modules based on topic: Biomes; Weather, Seasons, and Climate; Remote Sensing; and Earth System. Each module contains an overview section, online and hands-on activities, and an Earth action story with small problems for students to address. "User Notes," accessible from any module, contain strategies on implementing this curriculum. In addition, the curriculum has a problem-based learning challenge that ties all of the modules together. All four modules can be accessed at:

Is your school a part of Eco-Schools USA?

Eco-Schools is an internationally acclaimed program that provides a framework to help educators integrate sustainable principles throughout their schools and curriculum. The Eco-Schools program, managed by the National Wildlife Federation, strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum and enhance science and academic achievement. Additionally, it works to foster a greater sense of environmental stewardship among youth and is currently being implemented in more than 50 countries around the world.

The Eco-Schools program is designed in a way that:

  • Improves academic performance, especially in science and math
  • Leads to financial savings for schools
  • Decreases the school's carbon footprint through practical solutions that reduce energy and water consumption
  • Reduces school waste and conserves natural resources
  • Encourages student environmental awareness and stewardship
  • Increases parental involvement
  • Helps students and teachers develop stronger relationships with their communities
  • Develops national and international links
Start exploring the Eco-School home page to learn more. There are also activities and information designed for ages 5-10 years, 11-14 years, and 15-18 years.

American's Home Energy Education Challenge

Grades 3-8, Team Registration Ends November 15!
American's Home Energy Education Challenge from the Department of Energy and the National Science Teachers Association is a fun way for students in grades 3-8 to learn about energy conservation. The challenge runs during the 2013-2014 school year but registration closes 15 November 2013. Teams of students will win over $60,000 competing in the Home Energy Challenge and Energy Poster Competition.

Smithsonian Quests - Digital Badging for the Classroom and Beyond

The Smithsonian Quests allow students to earn digital badges that recognize what have been doing to explore, connect and act through Smithsonian resources. Students and teachers can “unlock” a badge by completing a set of accompanying quests that go with it. Some of the available badges include Dirt Detective, Enviro-Scientist, Eco-Journalist, H2O Hero, and TreeHugger.

The primary goal is to inspire youth to explore their own interests through a series of online activities and related incentive badges. Many of these badges are integrated with content from Smithsonian online education conferences, which highlight a variety of different topics. The second goal is to enhance students’ cognitive capabilities by incorporating knowledge and skill-building into the quests. The online conferences and quests are interdisciplinary in nature, offering students the opportunity to choose what they care about most. All quests engage students in exploring a topic of interest either as part of a formal standards-aligned school curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.

When you sign up, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group (K-16) in the Smithsonian Quests Community. Learn more by viewing this YouTube video and by visiting the website:
Copyright © 2013 PAESTA (Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association), All rights reserved.
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