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UCAR News Release

2001-8 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9, 2001

Teacher-Built Resource Takes Science and Math Discovery from the Web into the Classroom

Contact:
David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
Fax: (303) 497-8610
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

BOULDER -- Classroom activities designed by teachers, for teachers, to enhance middle schoolers' skills in science and math are now available on the Web. Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere, launched today, builds the excitement of scientific discovery into the curriculum, along with the basic concepts middle school students are expected to master.

The Web site (http://www.ucar.edu/learn) was created at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in collaboration with teachers participating in LEARN (Laboratory Experience in Atmospheric Research at NCAR), a project funded by the National Science Foundation to improve science education.

The cycles theme is used to introduce the atmosphere as a whole, climate, the greenhouse effect, global climate change, and ozone: both the "good" ozone in the stratospheric ozone shield and the "bad" ozone that pollutes our cities. Each section offers background materials and several classroom activities that let students become hands-on participants in the scientific discovery process.

The site's content grew out of a series of summer workshops in which 40 teachers worked with over 60 scientists from NCAR and its parent organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), to create classroom-tested, hands-on activities. UCAR's Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) designed and illustrated the site.

"The site is designed to be a workhorse for teachers," says project director Sandra Henderson. Science teacher Peggy Bland agrees: "The LEARN materials are straightforward, easy to follow, and very helpful in the classroom." Bland, who encountered the materials when she participated in LEARN, teaches science at Parkview Elementary School in Lamar, Colorado.

According to Henderson, everything on the site is aligned with the national standards for science and math education, which form the framework on which most state and district standards are being built. "The focus on cycles in the climate provides a good framework for teaching basic concepts in science and mathematics," she says. Language skills are also developed as students read and write about their experiments.

LEARN's Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere uses the Web's visualization powers to explain complex processes, such as chemical interactions in the atmosphere. One animation demonstrates how manufactured chemical compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroy the earth's protective ozone shield: CFC molecules rise into the stratosphere, where ultraviolet radiation breaks them apart, releasing chlorine, which then attacks and destroys an ozone molecule by knocking off one of its oxygen atoms. Illustrations also guide teachers in making experimental equipment from simple materials. One animation shows how an activity will look in the classroom as students play the roles of atoms and molecules engaged in a chemical reaction.

"What's striking to me is the quality of the site," says Dave Reddish. "It's very usable for teachers." A LEARN participant, Reddish teaches science at Columbine Middle School in Montrose, Colorado. For a unit on weather and climate, he adds, "I can get most of everything I would need from the Web site."

NCAR, whose primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation, is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, a consortium of more than 65 universities offering Ph.D.s in atmospheric and related sciences.

filename: fastcirc.jpg

Huge up-and-down motions in the atmosphere, called convection currents, are responsible for the redistribution of heat from the warm equatorial regions to higher latitudes and from the surface upward.

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Temperatures would fall far below zero each night if not for the earth's atmosphere, whose naturally-occurring gases hold in heat from the sun in what is called the greenhouse effect.

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Practically all of the energy that reaches the earth comes from the sun. Intercepted first by the atmosphere, a small part is directly absorbed, particularly by certain gases such as ozone and water vapor. Some energy is also reflected back to space by clouds and the earth's surface.

-The End-

See also:
LEARN's Cycles of the Earth and Atmosphere
Ozone-destruction animation (scroll down)

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UCAR news in brief

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) is a not-for-profit university membership consortium which carries out programs to benefit the atmospheric, oceanic, and related sciences. Among other activites, UCAR operates the National Center for Atmospheric Research with National Science Foundation sponsorship.

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Last revised: Mon Apr 9 14:08:08 MDT 2001