AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN "WEATHER WORLDS" -- COMPARING


From: Geoffrey Haines-Stiles <ghaines@mail.arc.nasa.gov>
Subject: AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN "WEATHER WORLDS" -- COMPARING
Date: Fri, 05 Sep 1997 19:00:57 -0400


Dear Educator members of "discuss-lfm",

Welcome to the 1997-1998 incarnation of the LIVE FROM MARS project. We hope
the first days of school have gone well, and that you're ready to think
ahead to some unique projects for the months ahead.

We know many of you were following the astonishing success of Mars
Pathfinder over the summer, and the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE/LIVE FROM MARS
team is working hard to allow you to focus some of that excitement into
classroom activities this Fall. As you're probably aware, Mars Global
Surveyor arrives at Mars next Thursday, September 11th, to begin--we hope--a
2-year mission mapping Mars, and gathering all kinds of orbital data.

Whether you're new to LFM this school year, or following up what we hope
were your own educational successes from 1996-97, we trust that "WEATHER
WORLDS" (which we've been informally calling "PET Lite") will be one way to
bring the exploration of Mars down to Earth, by:

1) challenging students to see what Pathfinder has already discovered about
weather on Mars, and prime them for Global Surveyor's results
2) encourage them to think about how they'd record comparable weather data
on Earth
3) engage them in a nationwide online activity, designing a simple set of
instruments and observations, and debating how best to do it with their peers, 
4) providing an opportunity to interact with NASA's Mars experts, and, lastly:
5) gathering actual data and contrasting their results with what the NASA
spacecraft have been discovering about the Red Planet. 

FULL INFORMATION ABOUT HOW TO PARTICIPATE AND HOW TO SUBMIT IDEAS AND DATA
WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THIS LIST (AND STILL MORE WIDELY TO OTHER NEWS GROUPS)
MONDAY WEEK, SEPTEMBER 16H, BUT AS MEMBERS OF DISCUSS-LFM, YOU'RE--OF
COURSE--THE FIRST TO KNOW!!!

"PET" and "PET Lite": SOME DEFINITIONS
First, what's "PET"? This stands for the "Planet Explorer Toolkit", a set of
instruments (they had to fit in a shoebox and be valued at less than
$200.00) selected by students during a 4-month long online collaboration
last school year. PET resulted in weather and environmental data collected
in Spring 97, which was then shared online, and featured during the second
LFM program which aired nationally on April 24th. (for more see:
http://quest.arc.nas.gov/mars under "Featured Events")

Why do we say "Lite" for the upcoming activity? Because we wanted to take
advantage of all the good thinking that's already been done and Pathfinder's
actual results from Mars, and suggest a shorter, more focused activity,
while still retaining the most unique and rewarding aspects of the full
"PET" project. 

This note lays out the core ideas and timetable, but we invite you and your
classes to research, brainstorm and share your own suggestions, and so
become true "co-llaborators", co-creators of the kind of project which is
only possible through the use of the Internet.

THE BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATION
Is it worth it to become involved? Listen to some teachers' comments from
last school year: 

"I thought that... the PET projects were the best use of the Internet that I
have ever experienced. The students had to use thinking skills to come up
with the answers, and they have enjoyed the time on the computer--even
though I have only one in the classroom and must teach the content of my
science course."

"The PET was a big hit with all five of my classes... I will definitely
repeat this activity next year."

"The PET Activity was excellent. I hope that you can continue with this next
year with a new crop of students..."

Well, as in many other aspects of PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE, we take your input
to heart and try to respond. So, now, here's what we have in mind for "PET
Lite". 

THE CHALLENGE
PET and Pathfinder:
Pathfinder and the Sojourner Rover have done an amazing job of
characterizing the rocks surrounding its Ares Vallis landing site. But
Pathfinder (renamed the Sagan Memorial Station, in honor of astronomer Carl
Sagan, 1934-1996) is also a weather station, recording temperature, wind
speed and direction, and pressure. Along with the clouds, and dust storms,
frosts and volcanoes, we think the fact that we can receive daily
weathercasts is a major reason Mars seems so real: like Earth, like our home
states, it's a place with familiar phenomenon.

RESEARCH WEATHER AND WEATHER INSTRUMENTS ON EARTH AND MARS
So here's the challenge: classes should first research the weather data
which Pathfinder is gathering on Mars, and then compare and contrast
Pathfinder's results with weather data which they could gather for their own
neighborhoods. (For Pathfinder--as you almost certainly already know--link
in via the LIVE FROM MARS web site, or check http://mars.sgi.com for a list
of NASA and mirror sites: you'll see weather data both on NASA/JPL's own
pages and via the University of Washington's LIVE FROM EARTH AND MARS
project which has the most regularly updated time series of Pathfinder
temperature and other data.)

How could they gather similar data close to home? Could it, or should it,
differ in some ways? (Would be nice to know about rainfall on Earth... but a
rain gauge on Pathfinder would have been quite a waste of weight!) Perhaps
their school already has its own weather station. Or maybe they could gather
together a set of inexpensive instruments (using last year's PET as a
baseline) to gather weather data. Perhaps they and their teachers might
think that consulting the National Weather Service or local newspapers and
newscasts would give them the best coverage (though we think that some kind
of direct hands-on design and data gathering produces the most powerful
learning.)    

GO ONLINE AND SHARE IDEAS WITH PEERS
Then we invite them to go online, and share their ideas and suggestions with
other participating classes around the nation (and--we hope--some
international participants as well.)

INTERACT WITH NASA EXPERTS AS ONLINE MENTORS.
During this debate phase, LIVE FROM MARS will enlist some of NASA's own
experts on Martian meteorology who will comment on student suggestions,
relate student ideas to what's being done on Mars with actual spacecraft,
and provide that real-world connection which we've found is so important.

REACH A CONSENSUS ON THE "PET LITE" INSTRUMENT PACKAGE
LIVE FROM MARS will broker a final consensus on instruments and procedures,
and publish the results online.

GATHER THE "PET LITE" PACKAGE AND MAKE OBSERVATIONS.
Teachers and students assemble the instruments, practise procedures, and
"take data."

SUBMIT DATA, AND WATCH RESULTS TAKE SHAPE ONLINE AND BE FEATURED IN THE
NOVEMBER 13TH LIVE FROM MARS BROADCAST!
As in previous PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE projects, students' results will be
assembled into a nation- and/or world-wide "map", with every contributing
school listed by name. Then, as further validation of student efforts, we'll
feature the process and the results during the final planned LIVE FROM MARS
broadcast, which will also provide live interaction, direct from NASA/JPL,
with key scientists from the Pathfinder and Global Surveyor missions.
(Evaluation has shown that students find such real world validation of their
efforts to be extremely motivational, and just as during the last school
year, we'll try to showcase some of "America's Most Scientific Home Videos"
submitted by as many classes as time allows.)

Those are the steps: here's the timetable:

1) by SEPTEMBER 19TH. Publish the full "Invitation to Participate in the
LIVE FROM MARS 'WEATHER WORLDS' Activity" online. By that date, there'll be
simple step-by-step instructions, which should make it easy to participate
whether your class has more or less time. We'll feature the activity on
"discuss-lfm", in the weekly Updates, and via short bulletins widely shared
on educational mail lists. Participants are invited to subscribe to
"debate-lfm". PTK/LIVE FROM MARS responds to teacher and student questions
and comments and clarifies the activity.

2) SEPTEMBER 26TH. Teachers present "WEATHER WORLDS" to students, and
classes begin to debate, brainstorm, revise and refine off-line, asking for
guidance online as required.

3) OCTOBER 10TH. Classes submit their suggestions for "PET Lite", what data
should be gathered, what instruments should be used, and what
data-collection processes should be followed.

4) OCTOBER 10-31ST. "THE GREAT PET LITE DEBATE" Students interact with each
other and NASA mentors about instruments, data, plans and find out more
about how weather is recorded on Earth and Mars.

5) OCTOBER 31ST. PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE/LIVE FROM MARS publishes the
consensus instrument package and procedures. (The 4th LIVE FROM MARS program
to air on October 30th features the ongoing activity, but we assume most
interested teachers and students will already have found out about it
online. However, even latecomers will be welcome to adopt the PET Lite
consensus and gather data using it.)

6) NOVEMBER 1ST THROUGH 10TH. GATHER AND SUBMIT DATA
The LIVE FROM MARS Web site will provide full information about how to
submit each class's results.

7) NOVEMBER 13TH: RESULTS PUBLISHED ONLINE AND ON CAMERA during the 5th LIVE
FROM MARS program.

***

OPEN ISSUES FOR CLASSES AND TEACHERS TO DEBATE AND DECIDE!
We hope teachers will help students explore the wealth of weather data
returned by Pathfinder to figure out what information should be gathered
down here on Earth. But we don't have to mirror Pathfinder in all aspects.

For example, Pathfinder's meteorology mast has temperature sensors at 3
different heights, since researchers wanted to measure the great variations
that come with relatively small differences in height above the Martian
surface. Perhaps students will want to see how temperatures on Earth vary
(or don't) over such distances, or will decide to forego this set of data
altogether. 

Again, temperatures on Mars vary greatly by day/night cycle, and by season.
If students want to plot night-time temperatures, they and their teachers
(or parent volunteers) will have to figure out how to capture that data
(unless they have automated weather stations.) In the past, enlisting parent
involvement has been a welcome by-product of these kinds of projects.

Perhaps students in America's desert regions will recognize this diurnal
cycle as similar to their own, and come up with an activity which will use
graphing and math to challenge other participants to find out which
reporting site on Earth has the most similar pattern of high and low
temperatures to Mars.

Knowing the creativity of many PTK/LFM teachers and students we're sure
they'll be many more suggestions. But remember, as the LITE in the title
suggests, we're hoping to make this a shorter, more focused activity than
was the full "PET" project, making it easier for many to get engaged and
then follow through with the full project, relating results all the while to
the actual data returned from Mars. 

We hope this sounds intriguing! The WEATHER WORLDS debate will be
co-moderated by 2-3 teachers who been part of previous PTK projects, and
know what it takes to nudge students along, while providing enough but not
too much data and input form the real world. "Discuss-lfm", moderated by Jan
Wee, will be available for more general questions, and be assured we'll be
providing NASA experts to interact at key points in the process.

We think this will be exciting, even challenging, for you and your students.
As the comments quoted above show, this new kind of learning experience is
uniquely powerful in relating school work to the real world.

We hope you'll journey with us, Onwards and Upwards, to Mars and beyond.
          
Geoff Haines-Stiles
Project Director, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE & the LIVE FROM... specials
"electronic field trips to scientific frontiers"
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