July 2007

For more free lessons and resources go to


The International Polar Year

Home pages




Nice link site


National Science Foundation

Free email updates about polar related funding, lessons, and more. Takes a while to navigate.


Links and lessons for elementary teachers


NASA Lesson all grade levels


Gander Academy’s Polar Bear Links


Cool Artic Doctor Stress Test


Interesting Antartica lesson plan

Quite elaborate


Snow and ice lessons


Elementary Polar Bear themes


The importance of the Artic


Animal Habitats: The Polar Regions

Nice unit of study with good printouts


Environmental issues


Global Warming Basics


Global warming and the polar regions





Global warming and polar ice melting


Tips on preventing global warming


Martian Polar Lessons

For those students who want to go beyond


Links to world organizations dealing with polar issues


Polar webcams




Mercedes Benz New Diesels:

The Magnificent Bluetec

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

We have owned a Mercedes diesel for over 35 years and it has proven both reliable and efficient even with about 500,000 miles on the engine. Since our love affair with our steadfast 240 D we have tested the Volkswagen diesels and found them excellent, and have enjoyed the ones that Mercedes put out a decade ago as well. However, nothing prepared us for effortless and clean running Bluetec that Mercedes is placing in its E 320 sedan and M-Class 320 CDI 4Matic SUV and large R-Class.

If you afford the $50,000 plus price tag this is the way to go, but don’t let that price fool you. The resale on these diesels is going to be awesome for many reasons. First, you get an engine that produces nearly 400 pounds of torque and turns mountains into hills. Secondly, you’ll have lower tune-up costs since a diesel does not have an ignition system per se. Thirdly, the fuel mileage is nearly the equivalent to that of a small hybrid. Finally, they have a well-proven reputation of being good for hundreds of thousands of miles. If you need more convincing, the diesel only costs about a thousand dollars more than the V6 E-Class sedan and it’s going to gain that back when you sell it.

The three-liter V6 engine provides the pulling power of a V8 with the fuel mileage of a subcompact. If you want to challenge your kidneys, you can go over 700 miles before refueling the sedan’s 21 gallon fuel tank. That means at least ten hours without having to stop should you feel up to the challenge. But what is most outstanding is the fact that the Bluetec isn’t smelly or noisy or even difficult to start. You can really only tell it is a diesel at idle and under initial acceleration. Once underway it is easy to get to 60 mph in less than seven seconds in a sedan that weights 4000 pounds.

Seventy years ago Mercedes started producing diesels and they haven’t lost their touch. Even Volkswagen and Audi use their technology. Indeed, if you can wait a bit and settle for a much smaller vehicle, Volkswagen is going to bring its new diesel to market in a couple of years with promises of over 50 mpg.  However, you aren’t going to get the grunt or the luxury of the Mercedes’ 3-liter, V6 turbo diesel with its 4-valves per cylinder, a common rail fuel delivery system pressurized to 23,000-psi and sophisticated turbocharging not to mention the chain-driven balance shaft to keep the hefty unit quiet.

Indeed, the real story here is the  “Bluetec” system. Although it is not available in all states due to environmental restrictions, the engine is kept clean with several scrubbers in the exhaust system in the form of two catalysts and a particulate filter. The first unit is an oxidizing catalytic converter followed by the important particulate filter that gets rid of the smoky exhaust so common to diesel engines. Before exiting the exhaust goes through a final cleaning designed to reduce the nitrogen oxides, which are formed when fuel goes through the combustion process. You can see these oxides as reddish cloud usually above urban areas and/or where heavy equipment is working. Mercedes has a particulate filter that is quite remarkable. When the computer management system senses that the trap is full it turns up the heat in the exhaust causing the particles to be burned off. As well, there is a synthetic urea called AdBlue, which is composed of nitrogen and purified water that is injected into the exhaust to make the diesel more environmentally correct. The replacement of the AdBlue is vital and so potential buyers might want to be aware of this cost.

The E-Class we drove had a 7-speed automatic transmission that was quite abrupt at low speeds. You quickly get used to it, but it does provide a jerk that gets your attention at first. It was present in both the M-Class and the E-Class even with different ratios, weights, and vehicles purposes as the M had all wheel drive. You can shift the automatic yourself, but we didn’t bother. With seven speeds and an engine with such a fat torque curve just letting the transmission do its thing was the logical step even though the Speedshift was easy to use. The transmission is also driver adaptive, too. We elected to use the comfort mode for a smoother take-off as it starts in second gear with this option. Unless you feel the need for speed or just to startle your passengers this is a good choice over the other modes.

Mom’s view: Love at first sniff. No odor, no soot, and no waiting. This is the car for me. The ride is tight; the handling far better than any other diesel, and it has a small turning radius, too. Although I felt the steering was too light, it was very easy to park and on the highway had a good on center feel. You didn’t have to be too attentive with the steering, but when you needed to make a fast correction it was quick to react.

As the ML, it has become too trucky for me. I absolutely adored the first version except for the spartan interior. The newer one lacks cuddle ability, although it is a significant bargain at $41, 680 with a sophisticated array of safety equipment and the same 215 horsepower, 398 lb-ft of torque at a usable 2800 rpm that the sedan offers. That being said, you pay dearly for the gearing and bulk of the SUV as I was unable to better 20 mpg with the air conditioning on despite 21-27 government estimates. Perhaps if I lived where the high stance and seamless all wheel drive system would be a significant benefit I would have snuggled up to the ML more. Or perhaps, it was just the fact that the E 320 sedan was so darn accommodating that it overshadowed the versatility of the M. I can be fickly when it comes to luxury cars and so the ride quality and range of the sedan were its real selling points as well as the great night lighting.

Dad’s view: Outside of a light chattering at idle, the Bluetec is unlike any other diesel we have ever tested or owned. And we have owned a bunch. Using Mercedes’ usual rear wheel drive layout the car feels quite balanced considering that diesel engines are usually heavier due to the sturdy engine needed to contain the high compression ignition. The front suspension is a 4-wheel multilink system and it is assembled along with the engine and steering gear as one unit. This makes for a complex package and one that doesn’t corner particularly well. But this is a luxury sedan and so you can relax knowing you are going to pass that sports car at the next gas station anyway.

Safety wise you get an abundance of airbags here there and everywhere as well as Airmatic semi-active suspension, adaptive damping, speed-sensitive steering, an electronic stability system, a brake assist devise that senses excessive brake pedal input and readies the discs for a faster stop. There are also ABS, traction control and terrific headlights that turn as you corner.

Acceleration is linear, with the best performance coming in passing situations. Getting on a crowded freeway isn’t a problem, but diesels take a while to rev and so it is best to shift the transmission yourself in tight situations. The ride is firm and very comfortable over all road surfaces. The engine sound is well isolated and the E-Class cabin quiet and comfy. As for the M-Class, it just didn’t get the good mileage we expected. We barely got 20 mpg in highway driving with the air conditioning on. As well, the transmission shifts were more immediate and the interior noise level greater probably due to the larger all season tires. I think Mercedes should consider bringing out a smaller SUV as the M-Class is getting too big to be as handy as it once was, although it was very well priced at $43,650 with plenty of standard features.

My feelings about the Bluetec are that is a winner and going to be a hot seller, with just the right touch of frugalness and performance. The E-Class is a perfect home for it, but the M-Class cannot be ignored if you need the larger cargo capacity at a bargain price.

Young working woman’s view: Elegant, understated, wood and leather done with taste, and every control feels like sterling silver rather than silver plate. Of course, I constantly got the cruise control and turn signal stalks mixed up, but an owner would quickly learn the difference. The GPS is too complex for easy use, the seats are almost as good as those in a Volvo or Saab, and the lumbar support is perfectly placed for even us taller folk. The test car had heated seats, a must for me, and Mercedes offers ventilated front seats as well.

You feel like you are in control of a fine yacht as the Mercedes E-Class cheerfully and obediently navigates life’s unpredictable waters. The security of the four year/50,000 mile warranty helps, but be warned that these are not for sale in states that require ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. If you feel the need to be different for over $6000 more you can sooth your fanny with a trim package that includes special paint and Nappa leather surfaces even on the edges of the floor mats.

The E320 Mercedes is not a fashion statement and for some the more blatant BMW 5 Series offers the badly needed attention they seek, but outside of the Command system, a navigation monitor that sits too low to easily read, the poor choice of colors on the GPS and its very complex operating instructions and its slow response this is a perfect car for the professional woman interested in making a statement about individuality and risk taking.

Young man’s view: The GPS sucks. The only good thing is that Mercedes has placed a dandy little LCD screen in the center gauge cluster that is easy to read and well located. The driver’s computer also has a readout that is very clear and provides information on everything, including the satellite station you are on since reverting to the Command system is tedious.

Our test vehicle had the $4000 plus Premium II package that equipped the E-Class with GPS, Sirius Satellite Radio, hands free phone capability, a power rear sunshade, a smart key system, and xenon headlights.  I could live without any of this and found the stereo less than I would have expected. On the other hand I really liked the $500 electronic trunk lid closer. Just press the small button and its lowers or raises itself while you run inside. Most fun to use.

The Harman Kardon 12-speaker 420-watt digital surround-sound audio system has a six-disc in-dash changer capable of playing CDs and MP3 and WMA discs and the whole system is magnificent. This should be a model for BMW. You can even get a readout of the information on your disc. If you feel adventurous try and find the auxiliary input jack. It took me a while before I found it in the glove box. Interesting choice as you can hide you iPod there, too.  As most vehicles of this ilk, hands free cell phone calls are provided for, but you better check and make sure your set works because this isn’t Bluetooth compatible.

Of course the engine is the real story and it is pretty terrific. From experience I know that winter weather and a diesel aren’t necessarily good for each other and we tested these Mercedes in the middle of summer, so I would hold my opinion until my Canadian friends report to me. One notable note is that Mercedes has a website that lists the stations that carry the ultra low sulfur fuel needed. Check it out before you take an extended trip into new territory at http://www.mbusa.com/locator/jsp/index.jsp?locatorversion=ulsd

You can’t argue with the benefits this car brings, even at a significant price point. It would be easier to justify the much less expensive ML or even the Chrysler products that are now offering diesel engines in smaller SUVs. Since most of the required fumes cleaning occur in the exhaust system in the form of converters and the use of a urea additive my concern would be the cost of replacing these units. Before buying I would check. Other than that these are very adult vehicles that behave that way. I like a little more pep and so I’d save and buy the CLK 63 AMG convertible and let the sun and wind temper my bad days knowing that in a world of Bluetecs there wouldn’t be any stinky diesel fumes to mar my travels.

Family conference: The perfect engine for the frugal who also want performance. If you love your cake this is the Mercedes to own. Although we found the M-Class too stiff legged and lacking the fuel efficiency we wanted, it still needs to be considered where SUVs can be of benefit. But be warned that if you run the air conditioning and other electronic doodads on a hot day your fuel mileage will drop by ten percent. We don’t know why, especially with all the power the engine has, but that is what happened on both vehicles. Nevertheless, you can easily get subcompact fuel mileage in a luxury sedan with this remarkable Bluetec. If you have to drive to one of the 45 states it is for sale and take a test drive. It is that good.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

Mercedes explanation of its engine


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Big and Little Mitsubishis: The Galant and the Lancer


The Car Family



For more reviews go to


With fresh new faces, serious improvements, and a determination to not be left behind Mitsubishi brought to the public two sedans to woo potential buyers in the form of its bread and butter Gallant and Lancer. Unfortunately, they also priced these two in the sweet spot of the market dominated by fellow Japanese companies Toyota and Honda as well as the established American contingent from Detroit. The result is that although the Mitsubishi’s are much improved so it the competition. Adding to the problem is that the Mitsubishi’s attract a great deal of interest with their terrific new look from younger buyers who usually have the most difficult time qualifying credit. We like the new Mitsubishis, but we strongly question the pricing especially given weak sale figures.

In the past the ready to romp Lancer with its eager to please powertrain, ample interior space, and low price tag promised good basic transportation and the Gallant with the new Ralliart option promised good handling capabilities. With either vehicle you can get a lot more in terms of features by selecting some of the more popular options such as keyless ignition, automatic climate control, touch screen navigation, Bluetooth capability, and a solid Rockford Fosgate stereo.

The Galant was fancier, but still offered a new car for a used car price. That was then this is now. The Base Lancer runs about $15,000 with the CVT and 2.0 engine. The Galant
Ralliart 3.8L 6 cylinder is $27,000 with the plain Gallant MSRP about 20,000. Both cars as tested ran $4000 more with options making them very dear indeed although the 160 horsepower, four cylinder Lancer returned around 23 to 25 miles per gallon on unleaded and the 230 horsepower V6 19 mpg on premium.

The turning radius in the Gallant was enormous at over 40 feet with the smaller Lancer requiring significantly less at 33 feet. You must plan your parking maneuvers with the Gallant well in advance.

Looks are pretty much everything with these Mitsubishis and it works. We were constantly surrounded by young people asking about the Lancer and some even thought the larger Gallant was the “new” Lancer. It appears that the interior was designed not to offend anyone. There are no surprises and everything feels just a little cheap, but at least you could read the main controls easily.

The build quality is much improved over earlier models and the ride and handling are clearly better. The four-cylinder engine was more than adequate, but the V6 was obviously more enjoyable everywhere but at the petrol station.

Overall, these are two much improved vehicles from Mitsubishi that are attractive, fun to drive, and quite roomy. Hopefully that will be enough to keep this marque in the market.

Mom’s view: The list of competitors is like a what’s is what of the automobile industry. The Accord, Camry, Fusion, Aura, Impala, 300, Legacy, and Sonata all offer sedans priced nearly the same abeit not all as fun to drive. That being said the Gallant with its Ralliart option has a stiff legged ride that makes it a bit uncomfortable over roughed up roads. The chassis feels stout and the handling fairly accurate with a bit more body lean than I would have suspected. It does have some torque steer, but not a dramatic amount, and it always offers a sprightly

The interior is quite spacious with ample room for five adults, but there is a need for more interior storage spaces. The trunk lid just does not open enough when you use the remote and on the early model we were testing I could barely close the trunk. Hopefully this will be fixed. As well, the rear seat did not fold down and I couldn’t find any stability control that would be nice on a car with front wheel drive and 258 horsepower.

If you want a sporty sedan that looks good and does it job with a bit of an attitude the Gallant should be on your list. Whether or not you need the Ralliart option and the V6 are a wants versus needs decision.

As for the Lancer, it has come of age. The 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine produces an energetic on-ramp buzz, but don’t expect to get to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. We had the excellent CVT, which delivers the best fuel mileage and easy to drive combination. The manual transmission is pretty good, but the clutch take-up point was too high for me and you get better gas mileage with the CVT. In an attempt to resolve the sporty look of the Lancer with the shiftless CVT unit Mitsubishi provides a Sportronic feature that has two paddles behind the steering wheel that enables you to control the shift points yourself. I really just ignored this feature until I got into the mountains where it came in quite handy in slowing the vehicle. I was able to get nearly 25 mpg on the highway, which isn’t as good as the competition.

My favorite was the Lancer for two reasons, the Gallant’s large turning radius and difficult to close trunk offset the slightly larger cargo and seating area. Although I enjoyed the extra poke of the V6 engine, the premium fuel requirement didn’t justify the extra kick.

Dad’s view: Is bigger better? In the Gallant and Lancer’s case the answer is yes. Much more fun to drive than previous models, these Mitsubishi products are clearly more Mazda than Camry in terms of substance and performance. The aggressive styling incites comments and attention, but the interior with its center stack takes a while to enjoy. The GPS screen is a good size, but the numbers on the gauge cluster are too small. This is easily the best Mitsubishi ever, and we have one in our family, but it still lacks the polish of the competition in many ways. On the other hand, dealers are making some great deals and if you go with the more basic DE or ES models you can get a fun ride for $20,000. If you opt for the GTS or Ralliart the V6 engine is yours to command. Personally, the 2.4-liter, 160-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic with Sportronic shifting is more than adequate for most needs. The GTS comes with a 3.8-liter, 230-hp V6 and a five-speed automatic with Sportronic and the Ralliart has a 3.8-liter V6, with 258 horsepower.

The Lancer was a bit niftier to drive and more responsive at slow speeds. Above 35 mph the power of the Gallant’s V6 was difficult to ignore. The Lancer could stand a few more horsepower, with both the California and the 49 state versions lacking high thrust at highway legal speeds. Waiting patiently for an audience is t he Evolution version which should produce startling acceleration and with this body, be more user friendly.

In terms of safety the Lancer is equipped with front and seat airbags, a full-length head curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. Mitsubishi also has a tire-pressure monitor and ABS on most models as well as four-wheel disc brakes. The base DE doesn’t have the ABS or rear discs. The brake pedal feel in both vehicles is a bit touchy and needed a gentle touch. I suspect that was because the models were pre-production and not yet ready for prime time.

Neither Mitsubishi product overwhelmed me even though they are sharp looking and have a good road feel. I would probably go with the more nimble Lancer and wait for the Ralliart option that would give it some more power and a superior handling suspension.

Working woman’s view: At least this sedan gives you a distinct look. Safetywise almost all models have antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags with the GTS and Ralliart getting a tire-pressure monitor and traction control. Initial crash test scores appear to be very good.

My understated nature couldn’t be persuaded to accept the center console, the blue backlighting on the gauges, or the quality of the leather seating. It is distinctive. The climate and stereo controls are easy to use and the navigation system that is only available on the Ralliart is acceptably easy to master. The seats are comfortable, but a bit soft, and there is plenty of legroom front and rear. The trunk has a high lift over and isn’t all that large at about 13 cubic feet. There is a ski pass through, but the rear seats don’t fold down.

On the highway the V6 is eager to obey, but the steering is a bit over boasted making getting the full value of the Ralliart’s suspension one that requires more skill than I have.

Tire noise and wind noise are subdued, but present, and the ride quality adequate for most family sedan oriented buyers.

College going male’s view: The Ralliart Gallant did not appeal to me in the least. It was big, bold, and brash. The sound system was good, but my major complaint was why bother? Clearly the fit and finish aren’t as good as the completion and neither is the resale. However, that 10 year, 100,000 warranty could alleviate a lot of fears.

Now the Lancer is something else indeed. Sharp looking, better fuel mileage, and just a tad less space than the Gallant, it can be under your carport for well under $20,000. The Lancer’s trunk is only one cubic foot less than the more expensive Gallant, too. Mitsubishi officials stated that the front end had shark nose and it certainly looks menacing. Add that Evo turbocharged, all wheel drive option, a Bluetooth and GPS availability and you have a WRX and Civic crusher.

I was a bit surprised at the roomy backseat and disappointed at the fact that the steering column did not telescope. For many people it won’t matter, but for those with short arms it is difficult to find a comfortable driving position.

It is a bit tubbier than the previous model, but the extra 200 pounds has been put to good use as the new Lancer clings to the road with a more substantial feel. The extra girth requires more power and the Lancer simply does not inspire the courage necessary for high speed passing. This is a fun car, good looking, and capable of far more than the engine can deliver. I like its look and with the right engine this Lancer could save Mitsubishi and thus continue to put the “i” on my keyboard in danger of wearing out.

Family conference: Mitsubishi deserves credit for trying. The new Gallant and Lancer are fresh and playful. Unfortunately, the pricing places them in against some well-proven players. We don’t know who the strategic planners are for Mitsubishi, but we believe that they should strive to make the youth market their playground and stuff that turbocharged Evo engine into everything they have, including the Outlander. People are willing to pay for performance. In the meantime, the new Lancer is fun and was glitch free.

Reliability ratings


For a list of all vehicle manufacturers go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

By Alan Haskvitz


I have been a teacher for 30 years and will lose $800 a month due to the “offset”. If my wife dies first, over $1800 a month.

Being a teacher is a noble calling. Working with children, helping touch the future, seeing a child learn and grow under one’s guidance are all terrific and significant possibilities when you become a teacher. However, if you wish to teach in a public school in much of the United States you can pretty much kiss off those 40 plus Social Security quarters you paid into once you become a teacher or work for the police or fire deparment. By law they may only get one third or less of the benefits they qualify for because they served the public.

They have a fancy name for it, Social Security Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination provision, but what those in power decided was that if you get a public subsidized pension from your employer, you can’t get the full benefits of your Social Security pension. What is even worse for many is that if your spouse is listed as your beneficiary on your public pension, and if he or she qualifies for Social Security, their Social Security benefits will also be impacted. The surviving teacher will not get them.

If you have worked in any occupation and paid in for at least 40 quarters to Social Security there is a real possibility that when you become a teacher you can count on over $1000 a month being deducted from your Social Security for the rest of your life.

Is that what you want for your family?

I highly recommend that you NEVER become a teacher at a public school where this is the reality. All that good feeling and noble deeds could cost you over $12,000 a year. With most teachers retiring with an average of 20 more years to live that means a loss of $120, 000 to $240,000 or more. That is a stiff price to touch the future.

Consider yourself warned, as is required by law.

http://www.webslingerz.com/jhoffman/congress-email.htmlHere is more about the law.




For the best selection of free teaching resources on the web go to


Global Warming  Lessons and Links

By National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz


Whether or not you believe there is a global warming trend or not, the teachable moment it represents it a major plus for integrating lessons in math, science, language arts, social studies, and economics. Here are some quality sites that offer free resources. Hopefully, you took advantage of the free copy of An Inconvenient Truth that was featured on Reach Every Child earlier this year. I shared my copy with the entire school.

Air and Weather sites


Transportation sites

To give background on why transportation is vital and its history.



Global Warming themes and lessons

A large link site.



Global Warming link site with the emphasis on definitions and articles


Academic links

Some very good work here for a great debate.



Unit of Study


An Inconvenient Truth’s Lesson Plans


Photos of impact of global warming

Click on the boxes at the top of the site.


Global Warming: Does it Exist?

And other links that cover all grade levels.



Global Warming International Center


Alternative Actions

From the always excellent Constitutional Rights Foundation


EPA Site on climate



Teacher’s Guide to Global Warming


Global Pollution Map


Air Quality Maps by State

Updated daily


Environmental Ratings of Car Companies

A good way to integrate current events, science, and math.



Graph of global warming last 1000 years


Small math unit on impact of Global Warming

Nothing you couldn’t do yourself, but a nice template to follow.


There is no global warming and debate site





President Bush on Global Warming


And a rebuttal to the President’s comments


Ask the Climate Guy