July 01
1 - 6
Historical Figure & Event

On the morning of July 1, 1874, the first zoo in the United States, the Philadelphia Zoo, opened its doors to visitors who, for a quarter or less, could visit and view the 813 animals that lived there. Today, the Philadelphia Zoo has more than twice as many animals and four times as many visitors as it had during its first year of operation.

Much more has changed in the zoo than the number of animals and visitors. Visit the Philadelphia Zoo's History Overview to learn more about the first zoo in the United States. Then have your class compare features and aspects of the first zoo with a modern zoo, using the interactive Venn Diagram tool. Ask your students to think in particular about the differences in how animals are cared for and the habitats where they live.

Once your students have considered how zoos have changed over the past century, invite them to imagine the zoo of the future. How will animals be cared for? What will the zoo look like? Who will visit the zoo? What will be the primary mission of the zoo? In small groups, students can explore these questions and then design their own zoo of the future using drawings, posters, dioramas, or a similar display technique.

The first U.S. zoo opened in Philadelphia in 1874.

National Geographic Education’s encyclopedia entry on zoos includes information on zoo history, types of zoos, zoo specialization, and conservation efforts. Related terms are defined in a Vocabulary tab. The website includes related reading suggestions, illustrations, and links to related National Geographic Education resources.

This site highlights the traveling Robot Zoo exhibit. This online exhibit explains how the robots work and how they relate to the real animals that they are modeled after. Students can even pet the animals online!

If you don't have a zoo nearby, you can use this site to find pictures and information about animals and their habitats. This site also features Classroom Resources, such as free curriculum guides and information about outreach programs.

September 08
K - 12
Literacy-Related Event

International Literacy Day (ILD), celebrated annually on September 8, shines a spotlight on global literacy needs. On ILD (and every day), advocate for a literate world, support literacy educators and leaders, and celebrate the power of literacy.

International Literacy Day is celebrated annually and is designed to focus attention on literacy issues. The International Literact Association estimates that 780 million adults, nearly two-thirds of whom are women, do not know how to read and write. They also estimate that 94—115 million children worldwide do not have access to education. International Literacy Day is just one way groups can strive to increase literacy around the world.

This year, International Literacy Day (8 September) will be celebrated across the world under the theme of 'Literacy in a digital world'. On 7 and 8 September, 2017 a special two-day event will be organized at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, with the overall aim to look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate increasingly digitally-mediated societies, and to explore effective literacy policies and programmes that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides.

Invite students to think about how they access literacy in a digital world.

Celebrate International Literacy Day!

ILA supports International Literacy Day and the countless activities that take place worldwide. Visit for an archive of resources.

This year, International Literacy Day (8 September) will be celebrated across the world under the theme of 'Literacy in a digital world'.

January 01
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Ireland, became the first person to enter Ellis Island on New Year's Day, 1892. In the 62 years that Ellis Island served as the entry point to the United States, over 12 million people were processed through the immigration station. Ellis Island was closed on November 12, 1954. Part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1965, the buildings were restored after decades of disuse and reopened as a museum in 1990.

Take your students on an interactive tour of Ellis Island. Scholastic provides a tour, including audio, video, and photographic resources.

Allow students plenty of time to explore the tour and the resources provided there, supplementing the information with additional resources from the Web Links section below. Be sure to listen to the audio stories of immigrants included in most stages of the tour. Invite students to interview an immigrant in your town to collect his or her story. Students can publish the stories they collect online and read stories published by other students.

To show how children who did come through Ellis Island felt, you might share books such as The Memory Coat (Scholastic, 1999) and Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story (Troll Communications, 2001). Based on what they've learned through their exploration of Ellis Island online, their interview with a local immigrant, and in the available texts, have students assume the persona of someone who has just landed on Ellis Island and write a diary entry about his or her experiences. Collect the entries into a class anthology that shows students' understanding of the feelings of people coming to the U.S. for the first time.

Annie Moore becomes the first immigrant to enter Ellis Island in 1892.

This Library of Congress site from the America's Story collection explores the arrival of 15-year-old Annie Moore, the first person to enter the U.S. through the gates of Ellis Island.

This site includes historical information on the role that Ellis Island played in the lives of the more than 12 million people who immigrated to the United States over the course of the 62 years.

Ellis Island comes to life in this interactive tour featuring audio, photographic, and video files. This site is part of a Scholastic collection titled Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today.

May 31
7 - 12
Author & Text

American poet Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, in 1819. In 1855, Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Several editions of the book, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005, were later published. Whitman wrote other important works, including "O Captain! My Captain!," which was a response to the death of Abraham Lincoln. Walt Whitman died on March 26, 1892.

Invite your students to write and illustrate their own children's stories, using the text from a Walt Whitman poem. First, have students read Whitman's poem "Miracles," from Leaves of Grass. Next, share the picture book Nothing But Miracles, which features the text of the poem. Have a volunteer read the story to the class, and then as a group, discuss the book's illustrations.

  • How do the illustrations enhance the telling of this story?
  • How did the experience of reading this poem with illustrations differ from reading it without illustration?

After discussing the book, have students select Whitman poems that would make good children's picture books. Have students create illustrations for the poems they select and then publish their books. Share the books with a primary classroom in your school or district. You might also have your students create digital storybooks to share on the Web.

Today is Walt Whitman's birthday.

The Academy of American Poets presents this profile of Whitman, with a bibliography of his works and links to selected poems.

The Walt Whitman Archive offers manuscripts, correspondence, biographical information, images, and other resources related to Walt Whitman and his work.

This Learner.org feature provides brief biographical information about Walt Whitman. Also included is a video clip of Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, along with links to related resources.

The Library of Congress offers this online exhibit exploring Whitman's life and work through primary source materials, such as journals, letters, photographs, and etchings.

December 07
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1941, the United States forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were taken by surprise when Japanese warplanes began to drop bombs on the city and naval base. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed during the raid, and the Navy suffered the loss of a great number of ships and other military hardware. This event marked the American entrance into World War II.

 

On December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy" in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, many Americans were called upon to act as heroes. Countless Americans gave their lives in defense of our country and its citizens in Pearl Harbor. Similarly, the surprise attacks on America on September 11, 2001, called for heroic acts of selflessness from ordinary citizens, as well as firemen, police, military personnel, and other government workers. Ask students to compare these two events using the interactive Venn Diagram. How are they alike? How are they different?

How did each event change American citizens' perspectives on war and the need for war? How did the two different Presidents of the United States react? What was different about the media coverage?

The class could be divided into groups to brainstorm various aspects of this discussion and then report back to the class as a whole.

 

Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941.

This resource from the National Archives includes the typed first draft of President Roosevelt's War Address to Congress with his handwritten edits. An audio excerpt of the speech is also available.

 

This page by the Naval Historical Center features a historic overview of the Pearl Harbor raid and its aftermath.

 

This Teacher Tool Kit contains a variety of primary and secondary sources that can be used to supplement your curriculum instruction and offer the most direct explanation of the events surrounding the attack on December 7, 1941.

 

This page from the Library of Congress includes a copy of the U.S.S. Ranger's Naval dispatch from Commander in Chief Pacific announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

November 21
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

World Hello Day began in 1973 to promote peace between Egypt and Israel. There are now 180 countries involved in the attempt to foster peace throughout the world, and letters supporting the effort have been written by people such as John Glenn, Colin Powell, Kofi Annan, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Throughout history, important leaders and institutions have used letters to make their beliefs known and to convince others of the importance of peace and unity. Invite your students to study one of the letters below for its message promoting peace in some way:

Have students examine one of the letters to determine the author's purpose in writing, and to identify words and phrases that were used to make the letters more meaningful to the reader. Then, have them use the ReadWriteThink Letter Generator to write a letter of their own promoting peace. More tips are available about using the Letter Generator. Students may choose to write about world conflict, or they may choose to write about issues closer to home, such as bullying or peer conflicts.

 

Today is World Hello Day!

This site provides a wide range of materials for students at all grade levels. Resources include information about the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, a timeline, and a series of informational articles.

The Jane Addams Peace Association furthers the cause of peace by selecting and awarding children's literature that promotes the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and equality.

The material in this website will enhance social studies and literature lessons in all primary grades. Your students will want to revisit this site throughout the school year.

This site lists eight easy activities designed to celebrate world language. The activities are perfect for ESL and bilingual classes and are beneficial to all primary school students.

June 07
K - 12
Author & Text

Louise Erdrich was born today in 1954. Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and is the author over a dozen novels as well as poetry, short stories, and books for children. Her work depicts Native American characters and settings and has won a number of awards, including the National Book Award for The Round House and the O. Henry Award for “Fleur.” She is also the owner of an independent bookstore in Minnesota.

Project for students the short video Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose, talks about her love of books. Briefly discuss Erdrich’s attitudes toward and associations with books before inviting students to write their own short memory piece about a pleasurable experience with a book, at a bookstore, or in a library.

Encourage students to include sensory details about the book, such as how it looked, felt, smelled, and so on. Then ask students to share their memories to join in Erdrich’s love of books.

Celebrate Louise Erdrich's birthday today.

Erdrich's Poetry Foundation page includes biographical information and links to several of her poems, including "Turtle Mountain Reservation" from Jacklight (1984).

 

This HarperCollins page offers a biographical sketch as well as information about all of her major works.

 

Louise Erdrich's blog is frequently updated and offers a glimpse into her work as an independent bookseller and reader.

 

This compendium of NPR resources includes booklists featuring Erdrich's works as well as links to archived audio content.

 

From the documentary series by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this page includes videos of Erdrich discussing her genealogy and the importance of ancestral history.

August 25
3 - 12
Author & Text

Lane Smith has collaborated with Jon Scieszka on titles including the Caldecott Honor book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories and the best-selling The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. In addition to his collaboration with Scieszka and other authors, he has written and illustrated several of his own children's stories. His illustrations have appeared in several publications other than books, including The Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek.

 

Discuss with your students some of the ways in which illustrations can enhance a story. Begin by reading just the text of a picture book. Then share the actual book, pointing out the illustrations. Ask students how the pictures help them understand the story better. Then, have your students become illustrators, using a variety of media. Offer choices including paint, pencil or colored pencil, pen and ink, felt-tipped markers, or collage. Offer students a variety of choices such as:

  • Illustrate a favorite story they have written.

  • Collaborate with a partner and become an author—illustrator team. Alternatively, each student writes a story and then illustrates each other's works.

  • Select a favorite children's book and mimic the illustrator's style, or create illustrations for the story in their own style.

When students have completed their illustrations and stories, be sure to display them in the classroom or school library!

 

Caldecott-winning illustrator Lane Smith was born in 1959.

This site offers information on the adventures of the Time Warp Trio, as well as links for games and the TV show. There is also a section of links for teachers and parents.

 

Penguin Publishers offers this biography of Smith. Also included are links to an author interview and a booklist.

 

This resource from Scholastic provides suggested activities for teaching Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. There is a link on the page to similar resources for The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

 

Lane Smith's website offers a brief biography and bibliography, as well as sketches, videos, and games related to his work.

 

August 12
3 - 12
Author & Text

Walter Dean Myers authored dozens of young adult novels, short stories, and other works. He began writing at an early age, after discovering that he could easily read his own words, despite a speech disability. Myers' novels about adolescents in real-life situations have earned a number of awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award for several titles, such as Fallen Angels, and a Newbery Honor Award for Scorpions.

 

Monster is presented in the form of a film script, written by the main character. Discuss how this format affects the story and why the author may have selected this writing style. Have students write a story using a similar format. Some options include:

  • Have students rewrite a story as a screenplay from a character's point of view. Younger students could select a favorite children's story or picture book for this activity, while older students may choose their favorite novel.

  • Ask students to write an autobiographical story. Have students first list interesting events from their lives, and then write a true or fictional account based on the facts.

Have students share their stories by creating a class book or reading them aloud.

Walter Dean Myers, author of the Printz Award-winning novel Monster, was born in 1937.

This Houghton Mifflin page offers a biography of Myers and a booklist of his works.

 

HarperChildren's provides this reading group guide for Monster. There are discussion questions and information related to Myers and the book.

 

This page from Reading Rockets features an interview with Myers. Also included on the page are links to an annotated booklist and a brief biography of Meyers.

 

Scholastic offers this brief autobiography of Myers with links to additional information about his poem Harlem and a page focusing on the work of Myers and his son, illustrator Christopher Myers.

 

January 28
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, 74 seconds after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All seven astronauts on board were killed, including teacher Christa MacAuliffe, who was to have been the first U.S. civilian in space. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched the explosion on television.

Students will not have first-hand memories of the explosion, so interviewing an adult about the events of that day is one way for students to obtain information while learning more about how to conduct an interview.

In groups or individually, have students interview a parent or another adult on the subject; then, have them share the information they gather. In particular, ask students to consider whether everyone interviewed had the same memories and recollections. Encourage them to hypothesize about possible reasons for the differences.

Alternatively, ask middle or high school students to write about their own recollections of the Columbia disaster from February 2003. Have students compare accounts of the events, again noting differences and possible reasons for those differences. Have students research another historic event from multiple perspectives.

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

The New York Times Learning Network provides this article about the Challenger disaster that appeared in the Times on the day of the explosion.

This official NASA website offers archives of the 135 space shuttle missions and the ongoing missions of the international space station. Details on space shuttle missions include original launch details, the history of human space flight, and the construction of the shuttle.

This Kennedy Space Center website provides historical information related to the space shuttle program, including mission facts and a reference manual.

In August 2007, Barbara Morgan, who trained with Christa MacAuliffe as back-up candidate for NASA's Teacher in Space program, finally travelled in space as part of the mission STS-118 crew. Read about the mission and Morgan's experience at this NASA page.

NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education shares a video of astronaut-educator Ricky Arnold performing one of McAuliffe’s experiments aboard the International Space Station.