Keynote Address: National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference, March 10-13, 2011, San Francisco

 Posted by DrJeff on February 2nd, 2011

 Copyright 2011  |  About this blog


At a time when it should be the birthright of all students to an education

that allows them to successfully enter the job markets of the 21st century…

At a time when America must inspire its next generation of scientists and

engineers if we as a nation are to compete in the technology markets

of the 21st century…


Are we rising to the challenge?


I have been asked to give the keynote address for the 2011 NSTA National Conference. There is no higher honor for a science educator than to be invited to address one’s peers at NSTA, and share both one’s love of learning and how it can be imparted to the next generation.


I am very aware that I’ve been asked to address possibly 10,000 teachers of science at a sobering time for both U.S. science education and the general education community. There is significant national emphasis being placed on science, and more generally STEM education, due to a recognition that our success is critical to America’s ability to compete in the 21st century marketplace. I agree deeply with this assessment (see , e.g., Troubled About America’s Future). Yet a significant systemic response has been to elevate testing to the point where one has to question whether testing still serves education, or education now serves testing. I am absolutely convinced that denying a joyful classroom to students AND teachers is not the road to success. And at this critical time for American education, there is a perfect storm. Severe budget cuts at the State and local levels have placed great stress on our school systems … and caused deep anxiety for our educators.


I believe the best thing I can do with this keynote, at a conference whose theme is Celebrating the Joy of Science, is to reaffirm that teaching is the noblest profession, that teachers are truly our future, and the joy of learning must always be the wellspring of our childrens’ experiences in our classrooms and our schools. And that the joy of teaching must always be the wellspring for all of our teachers who are so dedicated to passing a piece of themselves to the next generation.


We are a family … a family of educators. And in trying times, families come together so that the moral support of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. An NSTA conference is about family.


Finally, I need to repeat something that I said at the keynote for the NSTA Regional Conference in Kansas City last year. The future of America rests in our ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers, make sure we open high technology job sectors that embrace graduates with good jobs, and work toward a more scientifically literate public so that we the people can make informed decisions. Science education is key, and the National Science Teachers Association provides coherence and common ground for this nation’s teachers of science. When it comes to America’s Future, I look upon NSTA as a national treasure.


Below is the full description of my keynote address for NSTA in San Francisco. And for anyone that would like to read more, I’ve provided numerous links to essays I have written on teaching, human exploration, and the nature of our existence.


I’ve also provided a link to a raft of posts that were designed to be used as lessons by teachers in the classroom. The aim is science education as conceptual understanding at an emotional level (read About this Blog.) And these essays address a range of topics across the Earth and space strand, including: climate change, solar system studies, history of exploration, and studies of the greater universe.


So … I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and read some essays that I hope will provide brave new insights into our world, and how to joyfully bring them into the classroom. I also invite you, if you are so moved, to leave a comment below!


(And if you are going to NSTA in SF, come say hello:)



ps- you might want to follow me on Twitter: @doctorjeff and/or subscribe to this Blog on the Universe.



Keynote Address: Science – It’s Not a Book of Knowledge … It’s a Journey


Dr. Jeff Goldstein

Center Director

National Center for Earth and Space Science Education


Every parent remembers that magical time when our children first began to speak, that moment marking the beginning of an unending flow of questions. In our children we can see our humanity — our innate curiosity — and recognize the obvious … that we are born to explore!

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Dr. Jeff is Doing a Webcast for Challenger Center for Space Science Education – Tune in Thursday April 29 at 1:00 pm EDT

 Posted by DrJeff on April 27th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog



Photo caption: Dr. Jeff after a Family Science Night for 600 kids, parents, and teachers. Pretty cool—kids want an autograph …. from an astrophysicist.


Now this should be a blast! My friend Rita Karl, Director of Education at Challenger Center for Space Science Education invited me to do a live webcast. Thanks Rita! It will give me an opportunity to present directly to classes lots of the stuff I’ve been doing here at the Blog. We really hope students across the U.S. and beyond might be able to tune in and get a deeper sense of their world in a greater space. I’ve also written up ideas for teachers on how to leverage the webcast with activities and lessons in the classroom.


For a description of what I’ll be talking about, information on how to tune in, and how to put this webcast to work in your classroom (or at home if you homeschool) check out the latest NCESSE News at the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education website.


See you Thursday!




Hero Engineers and Scientists Preparing for MESSENGER Spacecraft Orbit of Mercury

 Posted by DrJeff on April 22nd, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog


Mercury Northern Limb 3rd Flyby, September 2009


















Photo Caption: Stop what you are doing for a moment, just imagine the stark contrast between the surface of this world and the vacuum of space, and click on this photo for a Zoom. Be thankful on this 40th Earth Day for the veil of atmosphere above you, slender as it may be. NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft took this image of Mercury’s northern horizon on September 29, 2009, during its third and final flyby of Mercury, as we were covering the event live via Twitter from Mission Control in Columbia, Maryland. This image captures portions of Mercury we had never before seen—it represents history in the making. I invite you to read more about this image at the MESSENGER mission gallery.


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


This is crossposted at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.


FLASH: We interrupt the rhythm of your daily lives to bring you news from beyond Earth, from a tiny robot determined to take the human race to an alien world. Many of you tuned in September 2009 when Blog on the Universe provided live coverage of the MESSENGER spacecraft’s flyby of Mercury, the last gravity assist needed to get the spacecraft on course for Mercury orbital insertion in March 2011. We are now less than 11 months from that historic first—a spacecraft in orbit around the mysterious inner-most planet of our Solar System. You might want to bookmark the countdown clock.


Since last September 29, 7 months of our lives have been filled with a new school year, passage of seasons, and the ebb and flow of over 200 days. Meanwhile, dutifully navigating through the harsh environment of space, our little spacecraft has been steadily gaining on its rendezvous with destiny on March 18, 2011, under the watchful eyes of its extended family back on Earth—the MESSENGER Team. For this team, those 200+ days were filled with assessing data already broadcast to Earth from MESSENGER’s 3 prior flybys of the planet, and preparing for orbital insertion and on-orbit operations.


These engineers and scientists are the current generation of explorers on the frontiers of human exploration, and ought to be held up to our children as heroes and role models in the age of high technology—and at a time when America needs to step to the plate in science and technology education if we are to compete in the 21st century (you might want to read my related essay at Huffington Post.) So meet these heroes and role models—the Core Team, the Science Team, the Instrument Team, the Engineering Team, and the Mission Operations Team. Have a conversation with your kids, or if you are a teacher, have a conversation with your class about this remarkable group of folks. And to really get up close and personal, read how cool operations engineer Ray Espiritu got from his dream in middle school to being part of the MESSENGER mission. Read highlights on the lives of other MESSENGER Team members using the button at the bottom of the Highlights Page.


So now for some really exciting news sent to the entire MESSENGER Team via email on April 18, 2010, by Eric J. Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer. I have provided the text of Eric’s email without modification to give you a sense of the behind-the-scenes communication and spirit of teamwork that a group of folks like you and me is undertaking on behalf of humanity. We are now fully engaged in preparations for an encounter with another world—


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Happy New Year and Some Fun Facts

 Posted by DrJeff on January 1st, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


It’s been a wonderful year for me here at Blog on the Universe. We launched in May 2009, not knowing if the concept would catch on. It did, and in just 7 months I’ve had the good fortune of reaching and conversing with tens of thousands of educators, science and space enthusiasts, science writers, environmentalists, homeschool moms and dads, ed techs, and scifi fans. The Blog now has a pretty eclectic following … which is very cool.


To all of you that follow the ol’ blog, may you and your families have a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2010! And my advice is live in the moment.


Now for something completely different (Monty Python?) While I was tweeting to my PLN earlier today I came up with some New Years fun facts and Jeffisms of sorts. Thought I’d collect them all and share them here with you. Teachers and parents, you might want to discuss these with your kids!


Ponder this: From the moment the New Year began to the end of the first day in 2010, YOU on Earth have traveled a whopping 1.6 MILLION miles (2.6 MILLION km) along Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

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MESSENGER Spacecraft Named by Time Magazine as One of 2009’s 50 Best Inventions, and Other Cool Mission Highlights & Updates

 Posted by DrJeff on December 10th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



Photo Caption: Image taken September 29, 2009 by MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). The distance across the bottom of the image is 250 miles (410 km), which means the crater at lower left is about 80 miles (130 km) across! The crater’s appearance points to Mercury’s volcanic past—to a time when the crater was filled with lava and now only portions of the crater’s circular rim are visible. (Click on image for zoom.)


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

Remember the MESSENGER spacecraft we were all following back in September as it flew by Mercury? The little spacecraft that gave us all a scare during the September 29 flyby (hey little fella, don’t do that again) is day-by-day getting closer to orbital insertion on March 18, 2011. We’re now just 15 months away!


I promised to keep you all posted with new mission updates. My last was October 17, and there have been a bunch of things piling up to report. I could have just quietly inserted the new updates on the MESSENGER Mission Updates page here at the Blog, and snuck in a date change in the Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Box in the upper right corner above (your cue to look in upper right corner). But hey! When Time Magazine names a family member as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 (and by the way, we were number 11) YOU’VE JUST GOT TO CELEBRATE WITH AN OFFICIAL POST!


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Me, the Pilgrims, and My Sister – Happy Thanksgiving 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on November 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope
















Photo Caption: The Pleiades as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


So here I am in NY, visiting my mom and my sister’s family. We’re sitting on the couch and my sister comes up with this bizarre Thanksgiving challenge. “Hey Jeffrey! (my family calls me Jeffrey … yuck), why don’t you come up with a personal Thanksgiving story involving the pilgrims. Sort of a 3 degrees of separation thing.” Ok, fine. Here goes—


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Oh No! NASA’s LCROSS Is Going to Hit the Moon! Run!

 Posted by DrJeff on October 8th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This is a supplement to my earlier post NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon October 9, 2009.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.



We’re slamming this thing into the Moon?! Hasn’t anybody thought this through?! The Moon’s going to be forced from its orbit! Giant tides will wash around the Earth! Buildings will topple! The Man in the Moon will be mad at us! Do we really need another catastrophe?!

An hour after I put up my NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon post to help teachers make this a Teachable Moment on the Moon in classrooms, my good Twitter friend Heather Good at tells me there are actually folks out there thinking about impending doom (check out the comments at this recent HuffPost article.) She asked me to come up with something that can put everyone’s mind at ease. There was tension, anxiety, scared people … shades of Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast that had folks running from their homes. Cool (not the running thing. The “can you come up with something to calm folks” thing.)




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TMN QuickLinks: NASA LCROSS to Slam into Moon October 9, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on October 7th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.



226580main_2007-08-02 On Way In

There’s an exciting event scheduled on the Moon, and you’re invited. The NASA LCROSS spacecraft and it’s Atlas V Centaur upper stage rocket will slam into the lunar South Pole on October 9 at 4:30 am PDT. It is going to be a BIG news story AND IT SHOULD BE VISIBLE TO YOU if you’re west of the Mississippi (in the U.S.) AND you can hook up with an amateur astronomer with a good-sized (recommended 10-12-inch aperture) telescope. Sounds like a good motivation for an impact party to me.


There is a Blog on the Universe Post—If I Could Gift Wrap the Moon—that is perfect for a thought-provoking, conceptually hard-hitting classroom discussion about the size of the Moon and its relationship to Earth in advance of (even after) the LCROSS impact. It includes simple and quite elegant hands-on activities.


Here are the links:

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I Don’t Have My Camera Handy, but Say “Cheese” Anyway! “Photography” in the Digital Age

 Posted by DrJeff on October 6th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



Photo caption: Part of Mercury’s never before seen surface, from MESSENGER spacecraft data obtained during the first flyby on January 14, 2008. 

You want to see spectacular? Click on the photo.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Arizona State University, 2008.


This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

The picture above was the central image for my recent Special Post on the MESSENGER spacecraft’s September 29, 2009 flyby of Mercury. It is an incredibly compelling image, and there is a great back-story for how it was produced. In the image caption at the Special Post I had invited you to read the story, but I suspect many missed the link. So I decided it was worthy of its own post!


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Regular Updates: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury through Orbital Insertion, March 18, 2011

 Posted by DrJeff on October 4th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Click Here to Skip the Overview of this Updates Page and Jump Directly to Updates Archive Below



Flyby 3 may be over, but MESSENGER’s mission continues. Bookmark this page for MESSENGER updates. Also note you can always access this page from the Teachable Moments in the News Quick Links box in the upper right column of this Blog, which includes the date of the latest update.

Teachers—place the mission in the greater context of human exploration, and exploration of the Solar System, using this Blog’s MESSENGER Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources page.



This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


Photo Caption (click on image for zoom): Image taken September 29, 2009, by the MESSENGER spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera,15,400 km (9,600 miles) above the planet’s surface. The double-ring impact basin is approximately 100 miles (160 km) in diameter, with another large impact crater on its south-southwestern side. The image and caption was prepared by MESSENGER Educator Fellows Christina Dorr (Hilliard City School District, Hilliard, OH) and Julie Taylor (Adelanto School District, Adelanto, CA), at the MESSENGER Science Operations Center.



The September 2009 MESSENGER Special Post at Blog on the Universe, with live Web 2.0 coverage of the spacecraft’s third flyby of Mercury on September 29, generated significant interest in the NASA MESSENGER mission. Teachers and their classes were following along and posing questions to the six Voices of Mission Control via Twitter and email. I’ve created this page to provide ongoing MESSENGER mission updates through the date of orbital insertion on March 18, 2011.


Below you will find the Updates Archive. Also below are Blue Titled sections that provide an overview of the tense time in Mission Control when the signal from the spacecraft was unexpectedly lost during close approach on September 29, and a Twitter archive for the Voices of Mission Control—captured live during the flyby—so you can relive the experience.


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