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Transcript of Sun-Earth Day 2007 Podcast, Program 4

We live in the atmosphere of a dynamic, magnetic star that interacts with the Earth, the solar system and space beyond.

My name is Troy Cline and you are listening to the fourth in a series of NASA podcasts for Sun-Earth Day 2007: Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun.

As many of you know, the Sun Earth Day program is made up of numerous activities and events that occur throughout the year... culminating with a webcast or broadcast near the spring equinox. The website is filled with a rich array of resources and materials that will help you make your SED event a reality in your local area. It also reaches a variety of audiences including educators, teachers, and students, Amateur Astronomers, museums, and science centers.

To give us more on the topic, I have Isabel Hawkins from UC Berkeley, California standing by. Isabel is the Informal Lead for this year's Sun-Earth Day program. So lets give her a call!

Isabel: Hello?

Troy: Hello Isabel!

Isabel: Hi Troy! Thank you for having me.

Troy: Oh, your very welcome, we're happy to have you. You have quite a bit of information we need today, and basically, Isabel, you are the informal lead for Sun-Earth Day 2007, is that correct?

Isabel: That's right.

Troy: Can you tell us what that means, informal lead or informal education?

Isabel: It's basically, I coordinate all the activities for what we call informal education . . .

Troy: Mm hmm.

Isabel: And basically, what that is, is any kind of education that happens in a free choice environment. So the person, you know it could be a family, a child, or member of the general public, will choose to go to a place such as a museum, a planetarium, or a club. For example, an amateur astronomy club, and they choose to participate in fun activities related to science. And so in this case, we have developed a number of resources for free choice learning environments, like museums, planetaria for amateur astronomers when they work with the public, for youth clubs, and even national parks.

Troy: So, if a teacher is interested in this, a teacher should pretty much, when they go to the website, or come to Sun-Earth Day, they'll look primarily in the formal section which is for the classroom, but if your in anything outside of the classroom, including the museums and after school programs, that's considered informal?

Isabel: That's right. Even you know youth groups like girl scouts, boy scouts, we encourage them to go to a site in our website for Sun-Earth Day called "Public Outreach." We also have a site for educators, and that part of the website has resources for the classroom, for teachers to use in the classroom. And those materials are more structured and have to be in line with standards for learning. So they're a little bit different. Free choice kinds of materials are usually of short duration. It's something that can be done by groups that have various ages. For example, a family group, or an adult and a child together. They will require very easy to find, inexpensive materials, and many times they'll make something in a museum or in a club for example, and be able to take it with them to be able to use at home or in other parts or areas of the museum for example.

Troy: Now, I know when you were in most recently Side, Turkey, and that was an incredible experience with the eclipse. And there were quite a few activities off to the side, over, apart from where the actual eclipse was being broadcast out. Would those be considered make and take activities where students were looking at the shadow of the Sun right through the branches of trees for instance?

Isabel: Yes. I think that for example, some of the things that we did in Turkey, and actually we involved several educators including you Troy, I remember, and Carolyn Ng, and others, is basically to work with students in an environment that's outside of the classroom. You can, for example, use very straight forward kitchen materials like a colander, or even using their criss-crossed fingers to create pin hole cameras, and then be able to see the partially covered Sun as the Moon goes right in front of it. You end up with a little crescent Sun which gets projected through the holes between your fingers for example. And they act as little mini pin hole cameras. And so we used a variety of things. And then the kids started to experiment which is fun. And they brought some tree branches and were looking at the images through the leaves, and it's really fun. I mean there's a big factor of just having fun.

Troy: Mm hmm.

Isabel: And seeing signs of something that's very accessible.

Troy: Now I know that you just recently had several make and take activities uploaded to the Sun-Earth Day website. Can you describe a few of those activities for us so when people go they'll exactly know what they're looking for?

Isabel: Sure. What I recommend is that if you're an informal educator, say you're a museum educator or a youth group leader, or an amateur astronomer that's working with kids or the public. Of course we also have a section on the website that's specific for amateur astronomers, that sometimes when they're working with children or youth clubs, its good for you to also look under Public Outreach. So if you go to the Sun-Earth Day website and you click on Public Outreach, you will find a variety of free sources for you including what we call make and take activities. So if you go to that section, and all these things are very easy to find, and the website has been designed in a way that's very straight forward to navigate. So if you go to the make and take activities you'll find a series of little icons - little images that give you a taste of what the activity is all about. And we begin with some of the fundamentals of the Sun-Earth Connection. For example a scale model of the Sun and the Earth that will show you in a very visual and engaging way - relative size and distance of the Sun-Earth system. For the younger kids we have edible models of the Sun so you can create your own solar cookie. (Laughs) Very cute!

Troy: Now I have done that - that is a lot of fun.

Isabel: Yes it's very fun! I know, the raisins or chocolate chips become the Sun spots. And then we have kids playing with shadows and other concepts that are related to eclipses for example. And we explore typically unseen radiations from the Sun like ultraviolet by using UV sensitive beads. So there's just a lot of wonderful things that you can do with very very simple materials and engage children and adults, and sometimes the whole group in a very fun way.

Troy: Now if there are museums and people who are interested in participating, and they've gone to the website, and they have additional questions, or they would like to email someone, how do they contact you?

Isabel: I think the best way, you know the most straight forward way that we recommend everybody does when they want to participate in Sun-Earth Day is to be sure that you register. So if you go to the home page for Sun-Earth Day,, right there on the front page on the right hand side, there's a button that says register. And when you register, you know, you go to a web form and very simply, you can fill out the registration, and if you select that you are a museum or other kind of informal educator, that information will go into a database. And then you will start to receive emails from me with updates on what's going on with Sun-Earth Day. For example, we have a new resource out, or there's a webcast coming up, you know, be ready for it. The packets have been sent to you, and that's another important thing. When you do register you get a free packet of amazing resources from NASA, from all the Sun-Earth missions. And that can help you engage your audiences. So if you register, then you have a link to me. And once you get my emails you can respond to me. I have my contact information there. And you can respond to me and ask a question.

Troy: That sounds really easy to do, and as of now, there are thousands of registrants that have over the past several years that have registered for Sun-Earth Day and are still very active in Sun-Earth Day to the point that if people would like to receive a packet, they are limited - correct?

Isabel: Yes. We only have about 50,000 packets, and they go like hotcakes!

Troy: They sure do!

Isabel: So it's very good to register early.

Troy: On a first come first serve basis. However, if people don't get a packet, if they didn't register in time, you can still download the majority of the materials directly from the website through PDF files. And we'll make sure that that's there.

Isabel: Yes! That's the nice thing about that. Yeah, that's a great straight forward thing to do, and it also gives you access to the materials throughout the year because that's the fun thing about Sun-Earth Day is you can always find engaging and fun activities on the website throughout the year that you can use. We have for example this wonderful series called Technology Through Time, in which scientists and educators put up wonderful articles and you know the latest things about how human impacts of space weather, etc.

Troy: Mm hmm.

Isabel: It's always very fun to look at, and that's throughout the year.

Troy: That's a good point. And it also makes me think it would be a good idea to tell people that not only can you get to this year's Sun-Earth Day, but you can also get to past Sun-Earth Day's, right from the Sun-Earth Day homepage. And I know, we worked quite a bit together when we did the Ancient Observatories Sun-Earth Day theme, and there we were in Chichen Itza, and that's where I saw Isabel high on a platform about 70 feet straight up (laughs).

Isabel: Oh gosh. Well, that was an Interesting story (laughs).

Troy: Oh!

Isabel: I'm telling you!

Troy: I was terrified. And you were a trooper. You went right up there even in a dress. And here I was in you know, jeans, and straps, and scared to death. You saw the look of fear on my face, I know you did. (laughs).

Isabel: But it was actually just a mutual fear right there - trying to help each other. You don't realize how steep these structures are until your up on the top. Your climbing up and your feeling really confident - aw, this is a piece of cake - you know just going up.

Troy: Mm hmm.

Isabel: And then when you get up there and you look back down, you can hardly see the edges of the pyramid, it's quite frightening.

Troy: Oh - it is! And plus, there were no rails up there, so the wind was blowing.

Isabel: Oh yes. It was such an amazing thing.

Troy: And, not only that but you were sitting on the top of stools that were just placed on top of the platform (laughs).

Isabel: I know - I know. Well, those are the kinds of things that you just say, well, I love my job, I like science you know. Thank you for the Sun and all those wonderful things.

Troy: I know it.

Isabel: You know, step up to the plate and do it, but it was quite the frightening experience.

Troy: Anybody who would like to, that webcast came out beautifully. It was broadcast out in English and in Spanish, and it's still available on the Ancient Observatories website. So if you go to, and you click on the Ancient Observatories icon, you'll see Isabel looking like she's not scared at all, but I think her toes were wrapped around the bottom of that stool (laughs).

Isabel: (Laughs) I know! That's right! They actually had some like sandbags or something to hold them still.

Troy: I wasn't up there. I stayed under the tree (laughs).

Isabel: But the nice thing about the webcast was that it was also in Spanish.

Troy: Yes it is.

Isabel: You can access it in the two languages though. I recommend - that's actually a fun thing for people to show in their museums as well. If you have a small auditorium for example, and you want to do something related to the fun, you can show some of these webcasts. People like to watch them even to this day.

Troy: Now your currently working on some projects to help translate many of the materials we have into Spanish. A lot of them have already been translated.

Isabel: Yes. That's right. There are resources even on our website. If you go to the Educators section, right there under Hot Spots you will find Spanish Resources, and we have lots of wonderful activities, you know related to Auroras, to making a simple solar plot that you can use with your students outside. An introduction to the Sun. You know, even like satellite models that kids can put together. Just a lot of wonderful activities and even some simple print resources like there are little books that the kids can color and learn about basic facts about the Sun. There's just a lot of wonderful materials and what we've been trying to do is make them more coherent so that people who are working with Spanish speaking audiences can find the whole story of the Sun-Earth Connection and the materials and follow through in a way that's more coherent. So that's what we're planning on doing. We have some resources that have been translated but we'd like to do more. And there's also a wonderful resource by project ASTRO that was funded by the National Science Foundation that's called "Universe At Your Fingertips," in English or "Universo a sus Pies" in Spanish. And that would be a wonderful also resources to be able to integrate into the materials that we have so we're working on all those angles.

Troy: It sounds like this has expanded incredibly over the past few years. So for everybody out there listening, make sure you go visit the website and take a look at the materials Isabel's talking about. They truly are incredible and a lot of people already have been participating with those materials. Now Isabel, with the remaining few minutes that I have, I always like to find out a little bit more about the person that I'm talking to or interviewing. Could you tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in education because I know you're a scientist by trade.

Isabel: Yeah, sure. I can tell you a little bit about you know how I got interested in Astronomy and how I ended up in education. I was born in Puerto Vallar, Argentina, boy, 48 years ago - imagine that!

Troy: Wow!

Isabel: When I was very young, like around 8 or so, I remember there was an encyclopedia salesman that just came to our house. There was this amazing book that he had. It was a special astronomy supplementary book, and I just latched onto that thing. I was just so hoping my parents would buy it. And then of course they did. And I was so happy. I think it really changed my life. I just couldn't put it down and I was so fascinated by the blackness of space. You know why was space black compared to our blue sky? So that was just a question that fascinated me. From then on I just started to you know to read up on Astronomy any chance I got. My Dad took me to the planetarium in Buenos Aires when I was young and that sort of really sparked my interest even more. So when I really decided that that was my career, I ended up in the United States studying Astronomy. There aren't any big telescopes in Argentina. There are some in Chile, but basically it was a good thing for me to try and come to the States and study. So I was very fortunate and got a PhD in Astronomy at UCLA. And then worked for satellite missions actually for NASA satellite missions here at UC Berkeley for several years until the web came along. And we started thinking that gosh, the web's a great medium to share some of the wonderful results from the satellites with much broader audiences, not just the scientists. And so we started working on very simple web interfaces that would allow people to access our data. And working with teachers and museums. And that was a while back and you know, ever since then I've been just so fascinated in just figuring out how to better show the materials, how to best share the materials with museum educators, with amateur astronomers, with other scientists so they can work with their audiences. It's been very rewarding and I have never regretted my path that has sort of taken me more towards education. And then I have the chance to work with wonderful people.

Troy: Yes.

Isabel: So all of that made it into a good outcome for me.

Troy: You know, it's always interesting when I talk to people about what was it that was that first spark that got you interested in Space Science or Science or a career path. And most of the time, they always go back to some story or instance when they were a small child, sometimes 5 years old and they'll say "oh yeah yeah, I saw a rocket launch and from that moment on . . ."

Isabel: I know.

Troy: For me it was my Grandmother. She took me out and she looked up at the sky and told me what the Moon was and shared the Moon with me. And I just saw it like you said in the blackness of space and I was amazed. And it was also her shepherding - that I saw her respect and how she revered you know that body in space. And I never forgot that.

Isabel: Oh, that's great.

Troy: Well Isabel, thank you so much for your time and good luck with igniting the passion in young students around the world with these materials, and I look forward to seeing more.

Isabel: Definitely, we'll continue to let our informal education audiences know about updates on our website, about upcoming programs that will be of interest to you. So do check out our URL:, and look under Public Outreach for your wonderful resources that you can use with your audiences.

Troy: All right! Thank you very much Isabel.

Isabel: Thank you Troy. Thank you so much! We'll be in touch.

Troy: It's been nice talking with you.

Isabel: Bye bye.

Troy: Bye!

In upcoming podcasts we will introduce you to the people working directly on Space Weather related missions. And when possible... we plan to visit these people on location where they work. That can include 'Clean Rooms', lab facilities and, if we're lucky, a few launch sites! So it's shaping up to be a very exciting and informative lineup.

For all other details about the Sun-Earth Day program including information about past SED themes be sure to visit our website at

Sun Earth Day is a program sponsored by the NASA Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory.

To find out more about the Sun Earth Day program, visit our website at:

This is Troy Cline signing off.

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