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National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Goddard Space Flight Center

Space Weather Action Center

Space Weather Action Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a SWAC?

This program encourages students to design, assemble and use an 'easy to make' learning center called a Space Weather Action Centers (SWAC) .These centers provide a focused environment where students can monitor and report the progress of a solar storm. As part of the SWAC setup, each center includes one computer with internet access to current and archived NASA data. Student flip charts offer 'Step by Step' instructions needed to quickly retrieve and transfer data to specified data collection sheets. As an additional part of the learning experience, students are encouraged to design their action centers with readily available art supplies and downloadable NASA imagery. This artistic approach instills a sense of student ownership and establishes NASA as a visual point of interest in the classroom environment. Additional directions are provided to help your students transform all of the newly acquired information into regularly scheduled news reports. Ultimately these brief reports can be presented through variety of accessible media including inexpensive video editing software and/or already existing school-based broadcast studios.

Are Instructional Guides available for educators?

Yes. You can download 2 separate guides that from the Getting Started section of the SWAC website: Instructional Guide, Flip chart Guide.

The Instructional Guide follows the 5E Learning Cycle. The 5E lessons ask students to use inquiry skills by exhibiting what they know and what they can do with their knowledge in a real time dimension. Included in the guide are Instructional Objectives, Standards Connections and Activities. Every activity has been carefully designed to follow the sequence of events that occur during typical Solar Storm and are therefore comprised of the following four main sections: Sunspot Regions, Storm Signals, Magnetosphere, Auroras. Student analysis of the data associated with each section will contribute to a deeper understanding of the overarching concept: How can we predict solar storms to protect satellites, power grids, and astronauts?

The Flip Chart Guide provides a snapshot of all four student flip charts: Sunspot Regions, Storm Signals, Magnetosphere, Aurora. Each section contains a brief overview, helpful tips and questions from the student Data Collection Sheets. The student flip charts and data collection sheets can be downloaded from the SWAC website at:

How much class time is required to operate a SWAC?

Initial SWAC Learning Center Assembly Time: 90 Minutes

  • 25 minutes: Instructional Flip Chart Assembly
  • 20 minutes: Data Collection Clipboards or Notebook Assembly
  • 45 minutes SWAC Display Board or bulletin Board Assembly

Ongoing Data Collection and Recording: 30 minutes

  • 15 minutes (per day): Data Collection (Retrieval and Recording)
  • 15 minutes (per week): Writing SWAC News Report

Are SWACs difficult to set up?

No. Each SWAC contains four basic elements:

  • Computer (Internet Access Required)
  • Instructional Flip Charts (Assembly Required)
  • Data Collection Clipboards or Notebooks (Assembly Required)
  • SWAC Display Board or Bulletin Board (Assembly Required)
Complete setup instructions are provided in the Instructional Guide.

How many people can use a SWAC at a time?

The SWAC program is extremely flexible and can be quickly modified to fit the needs of any number of students. Although, one person could monitor their SWAC learning center in as little as 15 minutes per day, there are several ways to incorporate your SWAC as a full classroom experience. One way is to assign students to one of the following 5 subject area groups:

  • Sunspot Regions (1-5 students)
  • Storm Signals (1-5 students)
  • Magnetosphere (1-5 students)
  • Auroras (1-5 students)
  • Broadcasting (1-5 students)

The recommended maximum student group size is 5 or less. Four students in each group will act as Data Miners while one student from each group will act as a data analyst. The students in each group can share or rotate data collection responsibilities for their given subject area on a weekly basis. This allows students to learn about the four sections of SWAC, continue to collect and analyze data, make first-hand observations about how the data changes over time and gain experience in broadcasting. By sharing and graphing the data over a month-long period, they can look for patterns or trends in the data and develop a thorough understanding of the targeted concepts.

Small groups of 2-4 students can rotate and share data collection responsibilities. However, the entire group can take part in the optional reporting out and/or broadcasting component.

Is the data difficult to analyze?

No. After your learning center is setup, your students will be analyzing data and predicting a solar storm with ease and accuracy by following the step by step instructions provided in the SWAC Flip Charts. Each Flip Chart contains introductory space weather information and tips on data analysis and website navigation!

After students have collected and analyzed the data in each section, they will be ready to explore additional data from the other links and resources that are readily available in the Space Weather Resources 'Additional Data' section of the website.

Is the data difficult to access?

No. The SWAC website is an extremely robust "one stop shopping' learning tool complete with step-by-step tutorials on how to interpret live or 'near real time' space weather data from 10 missions and 36 instruments. All of the data links required to make your space weather observations are located on a single webpage called Space Weather Data. Beside each of the 'live data' links you will also find 'tutorial' links containing easy to read tutorials that that will help you when interpreting the data. You can always find your place by returning to this page!

How is 'Color Coding' used with the SWAC resources?

We have divided all of the Space Weather Action Center resources into four 'color-coded' categories: Sunspot Regions (orange), Storm Signals (green), Magnetosphere (blue) and Aurora (purple). The same color code scheme is used in the flipchart, the data collection sheets and on the Live Data and Tutorials webpage. You can always know which section you're in with one quick glance!

What is the Space Weather Media Viewer?

The Space Weather Media Viewer is one of the main observation tools that you will be using. Once the Viewer is open, we recommend that you simply keep it open in a separate browser tab or window for faster data access when needed.

What is a SWAC Broadcast?

As part of the SWAC approach students are encouraged to transform their SWAC reports into real regularly scheduled news reports. These news reports can be presented through variety of accessible media including inexpensive video editing software and/or already existing school-based broadcast studios. The SWAC website includes sample scripts, video clips, sample reports, teacher guides, downloadable graphics, etc.

These additions will be necessary if you decide to utilize video broadcasting or movie editing software.

  • One (1) additional Internet capable computer and desk
  • One (1) Webcam or camcorder
  • One (1) wall area for use of a 5 by 6 foot green screen or backdrop

Audio/Video Recording Software: There are a variety of software options available including: SONY Vegas Movie Studio, Adobe's Visual Communicator 3 (VC3), CCTV, iMovie, Audacity, Garage Band, etc.

A sample Space Weather video report can be viewed on the SWAC website at:

Is the SWAC program connected to the National Educational Standards?

Yes. In the For Educators section of the SWAC website you will find information on the following topics: National Standards and Assessment, Methods and Techniques, Inquiry, Peer Review, Prediction Reflection, etc.

Where can I get more background information about Space Weather and Solar Storms?

Should we just put links in here for the time being?

Are additional activities available?

Yes. Simply visit the Additional Activities section of the SWAC website. http://sunearthday.

Who do I contact with questions or comments?

We welcome you're feedback! Feel free to send your questions or comments to SWAC producers Elaine Lewis or Troy Cline.