Earth Science Week 2009: Understanding Climate
The Dynamic Earth DVD cover

The Dynamic Earth DVD provides an 18-minute overview of the Earth system, climate change and how NASA observes the planet. Image Credit: NASA

The theme of this year's Earth Science Week -- "Understanding Climate" -- presents a timely opportunity for students to learn about Earth's climate, how it affects them and vice versa. Earth Science Week takes place Oct. 11-17. It coincides with a period of increased media attention on Earth's climate as the U.S. Congress considers legislation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and world leaders negotiate a new global climate treaty.

The American Geological Institute hosts Earth Science Week annually in cooperation with various sponsors to encourage understanding and appreciation for the Earth sciences and stewardship of Earth.

During Earth Science Week, NASA will release five short educational videos, all part of a series entitled "Tides of Change." The videos will focus on the connection between ocean and climate. Each video will focus on a specific aspect of the connection, such as rising sea levels or the carbon cycle. The videos will be posted at, which will be a one-stop shop for NASA Earth Science Week education resources related to understanding climate.

On Wednesday, Oct. 14, classrooms around the country are invited to participate in a live webcast. The webcast will feature two oceanographers who will discuss their careers, illustrate NASA's unique view of the oceans from space, and answer questions submitted by participants. The webcast will be available at

In addition, NASA has contributed to the following items included in an educator kit designed to help teachers engage students in Earth science before, during and after this special week:
  • "The Dynamic Earth" DVD -- A new DVD provides an 18-minute overview of the Earth system, climate change and how NASA observes the planet. The DVD also includes slideshows about various Earth science topics. The online home of "The Dynamic Earth" DVD -- -- contains a DVD glossary, links to related Web sites, and downloadable versions of the video in iPod, iPhone or AppleTV format.

  • Global Climate Change Bookmark -- A color bookmark shows a series of images that depict the long-term progression of global surface temperature departures from average. The bookmark points to, a hub for climate news and features, visualizations of NASA climate data, and a 3-D interactive that allows users to fly around Earth on the wings of a satellite.

  • Hurricane Katrina Learning Module -- The Category 3 hurricane that devastated parts of the Gulf Coast in August 2005 is the subject of a learning module for grades 5-12. Students are tasked with describing how Katrina affected each of Earth's four spheres -- the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and hydrosphere; how each sphere affected Katrina; and how the spheres affected each other. The Earth System Science Education Alliance, or ESSEA, developed the module. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA, ESSEA supports educational institutions across the country in offering a series of online Earth system science courses for K-12 teachers. More learning modules are available at the ESSEA Web site:

  • Tropical Atlantic Aerosols Learning Activity -- A MY NASA DATA lesson for students in grades 7-9 is featured as the May learning activity in the Earth Science Week 2009-2010 Earth Science activity calendar. The calendar text provides background information about aerosols, tiny liquid droplets or solid particles suspended in the air. The full lesson plan is available at Students use NASA satellite data to determine where over the tropical Atlantic Ocean the greatest concentrations of aerosols are found. The MY NASA DATA Web site,, features a collection of K-12 lesson plans that use NASA Earth science data.

  • NASA/NOAA Cloud Chart -- A two-sided color chart shows different cloud types and the altitudes at which different clouds form. The chart includes an illustration of Earth's water cycle and an explanation of cloud names. Visit to print a PDF file of the chart.

  • Climate Literacy Guide -- A color brochure outlines the essential principles of climate science important for individuals and communities to know and understand about Earth's climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches to adaptation or mitigation. The seven principles were developed with input from multiple government science agencies, nongovernmental organizations and numerous individuals. See for more information about the guide.

  • USA National Phenology Network -- A two-sided information sheet explains phenology -- the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events, such as when flowers bloom, leaves turn color or birds migrate -- and the work of the USA National Phenology Network. The USA-NPN brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, nonprofit groups, educators and students to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. Visit the USA-NPN Web site at

For more information and to order an educator kit, visit the Earth Science Week Web site:

Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies