A thunderstorm is a disturbance in the atmosphere that is characterized by lightning and thunder. Lightning is an electrical discharge in the air generated by charged particles in moving air masses. Because lightning is a phenomenon of moving, charged particles, not rain, we see lightning in violent forest fires and volcanoes as well as thunderstorms. Thunder is the sound produced by the shock wave lightning generates. The air immediately around lightning is suddenly heated to high temperatures—up to 30,000°C (54,000°F)—and subjected to high pressure; it expands rapidly.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Clouds are just water vapor”? Next time, you’ll be able to correct them.
While it’s true that clouds contain water, they actually aren’t made of water vapor. If they were, you wouldn’t be able to see them. The water that makes up clouds is in liquid or ice form. The air around us is partially made up of invisible water vapor. It’s only when that water vapor cools and condenses into liquid water droplets or solid ice crystals that visible clouds form.
There’s nothing lovelier than the first snowfall of winter. Fluffy white flakes slowly drift down to cover your hair and clothes in their crystalline patterns. Just like all of nature’s most beautiful things, we can describe the beauty of snow with science! With the help of a turn of the century scientist and knowledge of crystal formation, we can crack of the code on these snow crystals. Including the big questions: Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike?
In the winter, when the days get shorter and the weather gets increasingly colder, it can seem like the Sun has forsaken us. I mean, after all, that’s when we are farthest from it—both physically and emotionally—right? Well, not exactly. While it might make sense to think that colder days equals farther distance from the Sun, it’s really not quite so simple.
More than 300 educators from across Central New York converged on Nov. 8 for a "Lesson Study Elementary Science Conference"--perhaps the first of its kind in the US--that offered four “live” research lessons based on SSEC units in which students and teachers engaged in practices aligned with New York's State new science standards while participants observed and took notes.
The Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Dr. Carol O’Donnell, and the Director of Professional Services, Amy D'Amico, PhD held a seminar in Mexico City November 16 and 17, 2016. This seminar, hosted by INNOVEC, was a transcendent event in many ways.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center is excited to host guest bloggers Sharon Dotger, Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University, and Jessica Whisher-Hehl, Science Coordinator for OCM BOCES’ Center for Innovative Science Education!
Editor's Note: This post was written for Computer Science Education Week. Learn more about Computer Science Education Week and how you can get involved here.
Video games provide exciting and entertaining experiences for millions of people around the world. The production of video games is now bigger than those of film and music—and growing each year. If you’re interested in designing and developing your own games, there’s never been a better time to start learning! There are now many learning opportunities available for students and teachers online.
The video game development process begins with programming.
If you live in a rural area, or near a park, you’ve probably observed this unique squirrel behavior. When the weather catches a chill, these bushy-tailed creatures begin what looks like preparation for a wide-scale scavenger hunt. In great numbers, these squirrels begin to bury nuts! Squirrels hide nuts this way as preparation for cold weather when otherwise food will be scarce. This kind of proactive stashing raises a lot of questions for squirrel enthusiasts—the most pressing being how do the squirrels find their nuts again?
It’s been just over 110 years since Einstein published his groundbreaking papers in 1905 that revolutionized physics as we know it and ushered in the quantum age. Among these papers were his theories on special relativity (not to be confused with general relativity, which he published 10 years later in 1915). His theories on special relativity discussed such strange things as length contraction and time dilation when an observer moved at speeds approaching the speed of light (3 x 108 meters per second, or c).
Fall 2016 National Advisoary Board Meeting
The Smithsonian Science Education Center held its fall national advisory board events which included a materials center tour, board dinner and board meeting in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, one of the states where SSEC tested the efficacy of its Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model. The tour was held on Monday, October 17th at the Johnston county industries materials center (JCI) in Selma, NC.
When it comes to pushing the boundaries of science, you need to look no further than the European Organization for Nuclear Research (or CERN). Based in Geneva, Switzerland, CERN is a complex of particle accelerators and detectors—the most well-known being their Large Hadron Collider (or LHC), which is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Now, you might reasonably ask, “Why are we accelerating particles?” At the core of these experiments is one true objective: to find out what the Universe is made of.
The Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Educators Awards allow mid-career educators to be in residence and utilize the Smithsonian Libraries distinctive collections, focusing on science, history, culture and arts. The awards are open to middle & high school teachers, college teachers, and museum educators working on curriculum development or publications in print or electronic form. The Library offers excellent resources for developing curricula relating to Common Core, Core Arts Standards, and Advanced Placement curricula.
The Smithsonian Libraries is pleased to offer a call for applicants for the 2017 Neville-Pribram Mid-Career Educators Award. The National Museum of Natural History Library is the host library for the selected 2017 Educator. The National Museum of Natural History Libraries consists of the main location (on the 1st floor and basement of the NMNH's East Court) and 11 specialized collections throughout the NMNH building totaling more than 500,000 volumes. These collections are located within the NMNH Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, Botany, Vertebrate Zoology, Mineral Sciences and Paleobiology departments.
The Smithsonian Science Education Center teamed up with the South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics and Science and the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance to host the 2016 Next Steps Institute in Charleston, SC on September 26-28th. Close to 300 individuals and teams from across the country came together to gain advanced leadership training in one of seven different Pathway topics. Dr.
We’re sure that you’ve played (and can’t stop playing) our physical science game BumperDucks. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist: in BumperDucks your job is to help a wayward band of ducks reach their final destinations – tasty treats! With the help of collisions and rebounding you can slingshot these ducks to victory. BumperDucks is all about the laws of motion and how we can utilize their effects once we figure out how they work!
What has six legs, a body like an armored tank, and spent all summer in the Curriculum Development offices at the Smithsonian Science Education Center? If you answered roly polys, you would be correct! However, the roly polys weren’t the only new addition to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) this summer. I also spent my summer as an intern at the SSEC, and it isn’t one I’m going to forget. My experience at the SSEC was unique. I learned a lot and spent time doing new things.
Summer's over, but birds are still chirping, and the Sun is still shining! Well… sometimes at least. It was a rainy summer here in Washington, DC, but with rain comes prime conditions for one of nature’s greatest shows: rainbows! The majestic, multicolored bows of light that lead to pots of gold and appear after rainstorms as if by magic—except it’s not magic, it’s physics! It might seem intimidating to unravel the secret of rainbows, but it’s actually really simple and so rewarding!
Creative inspiration can be found anywhere—especially in science! Science is an amazing way to spark inspiration and curiosity and this poem by Gavin does just that. Our poet hails from the Greater Chicago Area and, at the age of only 11, has written a beautiful poem inspired by his awe of bioluminescence in nature. We loved Gavin’s poem so much that we wanted to ask him a little more about his process.
At the end of May, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were able to install a new module to the station—by just inflating it! This new addition, known as the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) is the first of its kind when it comes to inflatable habitat technology. Delivered to the station at the beginning of April the BEAM has deflated dimensions of 2.16 meters (7.09 feet) in length and 2.36 meters (7.75 feet) in diameter but has now grown to a whopping 4.15 meters (13.16 feet) in length and 3.2 meters (10.5 feet ) in diameter.
Earlier this summer, 21 teachers from across the country came together in Washington, DC, for this year’s Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers (SSEAT) on Earth’s History and Global Change. The participants spent time behind the scenes at the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, the Carnegie Institute of Washington, and NOAA Headquarters. Throughout the week, they learned about the origins of the solar system, about our footprint on Earth, and about the Smithsonian.
Editor's Note: This post was written with the assistance of Patti Marohn.
Dr. Carol O’Donnell welcoming NC educators to the Smithsonian Image: Sarah Wells/Smithsonian Science Education Center
Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of an interview conducted with Kim Van Eaton. Some answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
Here at the Smithsonian Science Education Center, we’re passionate about science communication and creating an infectious love of science. As part of this mission, our director, Dr. Carol O’Donnell, met with science teachers in Washington State this June to talk about the importance of science education. While there she meet 6th grade teacher Kim Van Eaton from Marie Curie STEM Elementary School. Kim had nothing but kind words to say about STCTM and how the kit had changed her teaching of science! It’s always heartwarming to hear that your work has impacted someone’s life in a positive way. We wanted to know a little more about how Kim has been affected by STC and SSEC, so we got in touch to hear more of her thoughts.
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