Since it became a national observance in 2004, Constitution Day has commemorated the date of the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Day offers students a chance to learn about this important document, from the Preamble to the seven articles to the twenty-seven amendments.
Help students deepen their understanding of one aspect of The U.S. Constitution by asking them to explore The Interactive Constitution. From the section on the articles, students can choose from among the Preamble, the branches of government, and more. Alternately, they can explore each of the twenty-seven Amendments (currently the first fifteen amendments are fully developed). Each section provides a common interpretation followed by Constitutional scholars’ discussion of a debatable issue.
Let pairs or small groups choose what they will learn about. After they read and discuss the entry, direct them to the Trading Card Creator, where they will select the Abstract Concept template. After they complete their Card, have groups present informally to share what they have learned.
The online presence of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, this site offers background about the Constitution as well as lesson plans, activities, and resources.
More appropriate for older students, this collection of official government documents and journal articles can enhance inquiry into the nature and function of the Constitution.
This site of the National Archives offers activities designed around artifacts from their collection, as well as a link to their document-based workshop on teaching the Constitution.
Wilbur and Orville Wright's landmark flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was the realization of their dream of powered human flight. Although their historic achievement lasted only 12 seconds, it continues to symbolize—even after more than 100 years—human determination, imagination, creativity, and invention.
The anniversary of the Wright brothers' amazing flight offers a great opportunity for a highly motivational learning experience. After your students learn about the Wright brothers, have an anniversary party to showcase their creative work. Remember to include a cake in the shape of an airplane!
In addition, the following activities for elementary school students can be used as extensions to the lesson plans listed below:
- Students can create a multimedia timeline presentation on the lives of the Wright brothers or on aviation over the last 100 years.
- Ask students to compare the Wright Flyer, which Wilbur and Orville flew, with the planes we have today. Have them imagine what airplanes will be like 100 years from now and design or illustrate a future model.
This website provides information about the Wright brothers' development of the first powered aircraft; included are interactive experiments, an electronic field trip, and information on the restoration of the Wright Flyer.
The Franklin Institute provides an excellent multimedia resource for students interested in learning more about the Wright brothers and seeing film clips of early flights.
This page from Scholastic celebrates 100 years of flight with a biography of the Wright brothers, information on how they invented their plane, and an activity that walks you through making some of the decisions you'd have to make to build your own plane.
NASA provides this site for kids, which includes information about the history of flight, how flight works, and how jet engines work. Also included is an interactive game about the Wright brothers.
Annie Jump Cannon was born today in 1863. Cannon, who was deaf for nearly her entire career, studied astronomy in college and is responsible for developing a system for classifying stars based on decreasing order of surface temperature.
Turn students' attention to the stars by pointing them toward the StarDate Constellation Guide, Enchanted Learning's Constellation page, and Norm McCarter's Constellation Legends. After choosing and constellation and reading about it across multiple sources, students can share their learning by creating a trading card for their constellation using the Trading Card Creator interactive or Trading Cards app.
This website sponsored by the Museum of Flight offers additional information on Cannon’s career and photos of her lab and other related images.
Learn about the American Astronomical Society award honoring Cannon at this website.
Cannon's page on this site is one of many profiles of femals astronmers, both historic and cotemporary.
This website offers students an image of the Google homepage honoring Cannon, as well as a chance to take a Star Quiz.
Groundhog Day is observed each year on February 2. The famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is pulled from his simulated burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to make the most anticipated weather forecast of the year. The legend says that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, spring is just around the corner.
Observe Groundhog Day in your classroom with your own shadow-watching activity.
Begin by bringing in a stuffed animal to stand in as the "groundhog." Have students select a name–something catchy–such as "Fairview Fred" or "Springfield Sal." Then plan a Groundhog Day celebration by choosing a location on school grounds and inviting other classes to attend the event.
Model your celebration after the annual event in Punxsutawney by including a variety of activities such as a scavenger hunt, storytelling, and games. Punxsutawney residents always include music in their celebration. Invite your school's band or chorus to provide live entertainment. At a predetermined time, have your "groundhog" look for his shadow, and then make the official announcement.
Later, have students watch or listen to news reports describing what happens in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day and compare it with their predictions. Then, watch the calendar to see if your forecast is accurate!
This page from the Stormfax Weather Almanac offers information about the origins of Groundhog Day. There is also a record of past Groundhog Day predictions and information about the Groundhog Day film starring Bill Murray.
Check out the area for Teachers to find activities, lesson plans, and games to share with students during your Groundhog Day festivities. Students can even submit poetry or video for inclusion on the site.
Students can read weather-related folktales and proverbs at this American Folklore website.
Students can meet real groundhogs from Lums Pond State Park in Delaware at this rich multimedia site. The site includes basic information about groundhogs, as well as audio, video, and images.
Our solar year is 365.24219 days. Since our calendar does not deal in partial days, every four years, we add an additional day to February. Therefore, our calendar year is either 365 days in nonleap years or 366 days in leap years. A leap year every four years gives us 365.25 days, sending our seasons off course and eventually in the wrong months. To change .25 days to .24219, we skip a few Leap Days every one hundred years or so.
Many years ago, people did not have the scientific information that we have available today to explain the change of seasons, the need for a Leap Day every four years, and the cycle of moon phases. Early civilizations relied on other means of explanation such as myths and folk tales.
Divide the class into groups and provide each group with an explanatory myth (e.g., the children's book Max and Ruby's First Greek Myth by Rosemary Wells or the works of Gerald McDermott or Tomie dePaola). Have students write summaries of the stories to share with the class. Then have the students in each group compose an original myth that explains either the same phenomenon from the book they summarized or another one of their choosing. Stories can be illustrated and collected into a book to share with other classes in the school.
This site explains things about Leap Year that are not common knowledge to most, has resources for party planning, and also includes a list of Leap Day books.
Wonder of the Day based on the student question “Why is there leap year?”
Intended for grade-school-level students, this NASA website recommended by SchoolZone has information about astronomy as well as projects, lesson ideas, and resources for the classroom.
This site from NASA, focusing on an image of a coin minted with Julius Caesar's likeness, provides a brief explanation of the origins of Leap Day. The site also references Sosigenes, the astronomer who consulted with Caesar on the calendar and invention of Leap Day.
Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, although perhaps it should be, since Mexican Americans treat it as a bigger holiday than do residents of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, where in 1862 a small number of Mexican soldiers defeated the French 100 miles east of Mexico City. People of Mexican ancestry in the U.S. celebrate this day with parades, folk dancing, mariachi music, and other fun.
Ask students to conduct research in the library and on the Web to find images and artifacts that suitably represent Mexico. Students can choose to research a piece of art, music, dance, literature, or food. Challenge students to think beyond stereotypical images of Mexico and Mexican-American culture (such as tacos, chihuahuas, and sombreros), and look for objects and icons with a deeper and more substantial meaning. Start your students' research with a brainstorming session which can include:
- Artists such as Diego Rivera
- Ancient Mexican peoples, such as the Aztecs
- The history of the Mexican state of Puebla
After students have completed their research, have them create a presentation that highlights something interesting, beautiful, significant, or amazing about their choice-and share the information with the class.
This article from America's Story from America's Library discsusses Cinco de Mayo as a "local legacy."
This site contains basic information about Cinco de Mayo, as well as dozens of links for further exploration an activities.
Xpeditions provides this map of Puebla, central to the story of Cinco de Mayo.
On a series of three artificial islands and in the surrounding ponds, visitors to the 1854 World's Fair at the Crystal Palace in London saw the first life-size replicas of dinosaurs such as the Iguanodon, the Megalosaurus, and Pterodactyls, all created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.
Waterhouse Hawkins' dinosaur replicas offer a great opportunity for an inquiry-based project. Some of Hawkins' models are known for their minor errors or incomplete detail. Consider the horn on the Iguanodon or the submerged Mosasaur (with body obscured since only fossils of the head had been discovered). The replicas are in fact more of a historical artifact than an accurate scientific model.
After learning about Hawkins' replicas, do a study of what we know about these same dinosaurs today-what did Hawkins get right and where did he draw the wrong conclusions? Students could work individually or in small groups to investigate a dinosaur of their choice, comparing Hawkins' versions to current knowledge about the prehistoric animals. The ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram is a nice tool to help students organize and present their findings.
This page from Smithsonian.com lists some dinosaur books appropriate for kids, along with brief descriptions.
Nyder's site includes photos of all the remaining dinosaurs in their original location on artificial islands outside the site of the original Crystal Palace building at Sydenham.
This Brooklyn College page details not only Hawkins' work on the Crystal Palace dinosaur replicas but also the ill-fated plans to build similar replicas in New York City.
Scientists out on a dig have found parts from six different dinosaurs. Put the parts together to create a dinosaur that really existed, OR create an imaginary dinosaur of your own!
On September 23, 1957, police officers had to be stationed around the Central High School campus to ensure the safety of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine African American students who were to attend the school and, thus, break the color barrier. The right to an equal education was granted to all African American students by the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
Begin by viewing some of the footage from the actual event (you can access some of the footage at the PBS website). Ask students to jot down the thoughts and feelings they think might have been going on in the minds and hearts of the Little Rock Nine. Have students use these notes as the basis for a bio-poem that might have been written by one of the African American students on that historic day.
An alternative activity might be to show students portions of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that reunited the Little Rock Nine with some of the classmates who threatened and taunted them upon their arrival at Central High School. After viewing each segment, ask students to summarize their reactions to what they have seen and heard on the program. Were they surprised by anything they observed? If so, what surprised them and why?
This site celebrates the 50th anniversary of the integration of Central High School. Links to the historic event are provided, including links to information about the nine African American students who attended the school.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the integration of Central High School, NPR compiled an extensive collection of resources, including interviews with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
This Teaching Tolerance page includes resources that focus on primary documents from Brown v. the Board of Education, poetry, arts, and critical thinking. Additional links at the end connect to photographs and more classroom resources.
PBS offers a section on Southern School Desegregation as part of its Eyes on the Prize: American Civil Rights Movement feature.
The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children honors the work of educator Charlotte Huck, who championed the classroom use of storybooks to teach reading and language arts. The award was established in 2014 to promote and recognize excellence in the writing of fiction for children that invites compassion, imagination, and wonder.
After sharing one or more of the winning, honored, or recommended titles as a classroom read-aloud, invite students write and illustrate their own story in which someone learned how to be more compassionate or to feel empathy for those who are different from themselves.
Allow students to decide to tell a story from their own lives or to create characters and imagined situations that would inspire others to be more compassionate. Share tools such as the Story Map and Cube Creator to help students plan and generate ideas. Arrange for a time for students to share their stories with classmates or with younger students.
This festival, hosted by the University of Redlands, brings together authors and illustrators of children’s literature with teachers, librarians, and families.
Charlotte Huck’s HarperCollins biography page includes a link to her book Princess Furball, illustrated by Anita Lobel.
NCTE’s page for its children’s book awards, also including the Orbis Pictus Award for nonfiction.
In 1990, NCTE established an annual award for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children in grades K-8. The name Orbis Pictus commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, whose Orbis Pictus-The World in Pictures (1657) is considered to be the first children's picture book. One title is selected for the award each November at the Annual NCTE Convention, and as many as five Honor Books are also recognized.
Have your students conduct research and write original works of nonfiction on topics of their choice. Students may wish to work collaboratively on this project as coauthors or author-illustrator teams.
- First, have students brainstorm possible topics individually or in small groups.
- After each student or team has selected a topic, have them conduct research using appropriate Orbis Pictus Award-winners, Internet resources, and other reference sources.
- Have students plan and write informational picture books, biographies, or other works of nonfiction. You may wish to have students use the ReadWriteThink Flip Book to help them organize their information. More tips are available for use with the Flip Book.
Explore the Three Ways to Bind a Handmade Book printout, and consider laminating book pages for durability. Then add your students' finished works to your classroom library for all to learn from and enjoy.
The National Council of Teachers of English provides information on the annual Orbis Pictus Award, including its history, selection criteria, and nomination procedures.
This sample chapter from the NCTE text The Best in Children's Nonfiction explores the elements that come into play as the committee chooses the winner.
This page, from the State Library of South Australia, offers information about Johannes Amos Comenius and his illustrated Latin primer for which the Orbis Pictus award is named. Additional links and an image from the book are also included.