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'.

May 16
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Since 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with over 6,000 members, has given awards for the best in film. The first ceremony, with 250 people in attendance, took place during a banquet held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Tickets cost $10 and the entire ceremony is said to have taken less than an hour-a far cry from the four-hour, star-studded extravaganzas of today.

Students love to watch and talk about movies. With persuasion, they can even be convinced to write about movies. For younger and middle-grade students, you can ask them to make lists of their favorite and their least favorite movies. Looking over these lists, students can then brainstorm qualities that make a film good or bad. Examples might include acting, special effects, and humor. Ask them to rank these qualities from the most to least important and then to explain why the top three are the most important elements to look at in a film.

Next, have students apply these criteria to a film they have seen by writing a movie review that makes their critical stance clear. Older students can take this activity one step further by comparing their review to that of another critic. After reading through one or more reviews, students should write an answer to one of the critics, defending their own reviews and critical stance.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929.

The official website of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this site includes lists of the current year's nominees and winners. There is also information on previous years' ceremonies.

In 1998, the American Film Institute announced their list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time, and this updated version was created ten years later. This list can be compared to a list of past Oscar winners.

The British equivalent to the Oscar.com website, the BAFTA website includes information on categories, nominees, and winners.

This page from Lincoln City Libraries features a list of past winners of the Best Picture Oscar which are based upon novels, plays, and short stories.

February 02
K - 5
Holiday & School Celebration

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!

 

Groundhog Day is February 2.

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.

 

February 29
3 - 7
Holiday & School Celebration

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.

Today is Leap Day!

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.

March 19
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Before the invention of the railroad, people used local "sun time" as they traveled across the country. With the coming of the railroad, travel became faster, exacerbating the problems caused by the hundreds of different "sun times." At the instigation of the railroads, for whom scheduling was difficult, the U.S. Standard Time Act was passed, establishing four standard time zones for the continental U.S. On November 18, 1883, the U.S. Naval Observatory began signaling the new time standard.

After learning about different time zones, ask your students to plan a video conference with a class from a different country or from a different time zone in the United States. As they plan, ask students to:

  1. Use the World Time Engine to find the best time to schedule this meeting.
  2. Research the country or state of the students with whom they will video conference and brainstorm a list of questions and topics for discussion. The place selected can be coordinated with topics they are currently studying.
  3. Brainstorm a list of topics about their own town or country that they would like to discuss. Alternatively, they could brainstorm a list of questions they think students from the other time zone might ask them.
  4. Use a time zone map to figure out how many time zones they would have to travel through to have this conference if video conferencing hadn't been developed.

If you decide not to carry out an actual video conference, alternatively, divide your class into two groups and allow them to conference with one group playing the role of the class from another time zone.

On this day in 1918, the United States passed the U.S. Standard Time Act.

This page from the Library of Congress' American Memory site offers excellent information and primary documents about the history of standardized time.

Students take a journey from ancient calendars and clocks to modern times, at this NIST Physics Laboratory website.

This site provides a clickable map that gives the official time for each time zone in the U.S.

BBC News looks at time zones--how they are worked out, why they cause so many arguments, and how they affect us all.

May 31
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the United States military.   In addition to having celebrations with family and friends, many people visit cemeteries and memorials and place flags on the grave sites of fallen servicemen and women.

Have students visit the Stories from the Veterans History Project site. Once there, ask students to choose one of the featured interviews to listen to, peruse the previous releases, or look at an alphabetical list of interviews to find more interviews that may be of interest to them. Students select an interview that interests them and take notes while listening to remember important facts and details about the veteran’s life. After listening to the interview, students complete one of the projects below to honor the veteran they researched:

Memorial Day is observed in the United States today.

This site includes a collection of personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

 

Information on the history and traditions of observing Memorial Day in the United States is provided here.

 

This site includes a history of Memorial Day and tributes to soldiers; includes audio, video, and photos.

 

April 27
9 - 12
Author & Text

Born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August Wilson went on to become one the most significant American playwrights of the 20th Century. The only African American at his high school, Wilson was eventually driven out by threats; his family suffered the same fate when they moved out of the Hill District to a white working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Wilson was the cofounder of the Black Horizon Theater Company in Pittsburgh. He is most famous for his collection of ten plays-the Pittsburgh Cycle-that, decade by decade, chronicle a portrait of African American experience in the 1900s. Two of those plays, Fences and The Piano Lesson, earned him Pulitzer Prizes in Drama. Wilson died in 2005 and is currently the only African American to have a Broadway theater named after him.

Taking inspiration from August Wilson's epic cycle of ten plays, each set in a different era and together representing a broad portrait of life in a particular community, work with a school or local librarian to gather a number of print and digital resources about the history of your community. Challenge students to find an event or theme that can serve as the focal point for a story set in each decade. Have the class work together to use the Timeline Tool to create a decade-by-decade record of the community's history. Then, have small groups choose one of the events/decades to develop into a play using the Drama Map as a guide.

Playwright August Wilson was born in 1945.

This site is the online home for this not-for-profit organization that presents performing, visual, and education programs that celebrate the contributions of African Americans and the impact of cultural expression from Africa to the African Diaspora.

 

The work of Kutztown (Pennsylvania) University assistant professor Mike Downing, this site is an archive of information relating to the life and works of August Wilson.

 

This site offers a biography of August Wilson, plus links to all of his works currently in print.

May 03
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1971, National Public Radio (NPR) began the first commercial-free, live radio broadcasts. Financed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and listener contributions, NPR offers news, music, and other programs free to the public through more than 860 public radio stations. More than 26 million listeners tune in to over 130 hours of original NPR programming each week, including programs produced by local stations and other radio networks.

National Public Radio's commercial-free programming is largely financed by listener contributions. By not relying on advertising revenues, NPR and other public radio stations are able to produce programs that differ from those of commercial radio stations.

List some of the programs offered by a local NPR station (e.g., Fresh Air, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, or Living on Earth). Ask students to make some predictions about the content of each program based upon the program's title. Divide students into groups and instruct each group to listen to one of these programs once or more during the course of a week and report on its contents to the class. Discussions that might follow such reporting could include questions such as:

  • What did you learn as a result of listening to this show?
  • Is this a program that might be of interest to someone your age? Why or why not?
  • How might this program be different if it aired on a commercial radio station?
National Public Radio began broadcasting in 1971.

On the NPR website, students can listen to archived broadcasts of NPR programs. There are links to NPR programming such as Car Talk and Latino USA, as well as an audio search feature that enables listeners to search for a story that they have heard on the radio.

This collaboration between NPR and the National Geographic Society produces and broadcasts stories on the natural world and threatened environments, diverse cultures, adventure, and exploration and discovery.

This companion website to NPR's Radio Diaries includes archived audio files and transcripts. The site features information on how students can create their own radio diaries.

This page from the NPR site offers stories about education topics from a variety of NPR shows.

December 03
K - 6
Historical Figure & Event

On this day in 1967, Dr. Christian N. Bernard performed the first human heart transplant. He also developed a new design for artificial heart valves.

Chances are, every student in your class will know someone who has had heart problems. After discussing the causes of heart disease, talk about the role that diet and exercise can play in maintaining a healthy heart. Ask your students to go online and find healthy dessert recipes that do not involve cooking or to bring in magazines from home that include recipes for healthy desserts. You can also provide access to kid-friendly cookbooks, such as the Kids' Cookbook: All Recipes Made by Real Kids in Real Kitchens! (American Heart Association, 1993). After sharing their recipes, have students vote on which dessert will be made in class. Before eating the dessert, take your students on a brisk walk outdoors. If it's a rainy day, do some indoor aerobics to their favorite music.

Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first human heart transplant.

The Franklin Institute Online provides an interactive, multimedia learning experience about the heart. Visitors can hear the sound of a heart murmur, see photographs of the human heart, watch an echocardiography and open-heart surgery video, and learn how to monitor their hearts' health!

 

On this website developed by NOVA Online, visitors have the opportunity to perform a virtual heart transplant. After the operation, students will have a pretty good idea of how surgeons perform heart transplants.

 

Research has shown that heart disease begins in childhood. Parents, teachers, and students will benefit from the information on this website.

 

The American Heart Association offers dozens of lesson plans, activities, and other resources for teaching about heart health.

 

This lesson plan from ScienceNetlinks has students examine changes in diet and lifestyle from prehistoric to modern times and how these differences have spurred the development (and better treatment) of heart disease.

 

October 28
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Dr. Jonas Salk was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. In 1953, Salk announced that he had successfully developed a polio vaccine, reducing the number of deaths from the disease in the U.S. by 95%. During the last 10 years of his life, Salk focused on AIDS research. Salk died in 1995.

 

After learning about Dr. Jonas Salk, ask your students to interview a family member or somebody they know who remembers when polio was endemic. There are many stories related to the history of the disease in the United States-from the first people to be vaccinated to those who had the disease themselves. Students can share their stories and interviews in class. If students are unable to locate enough people who can share memories of the disease, visit the Share Your Story section of the March of Dimes website. Take advantage of the stories to talk about the difference between fact and opinion, making note of the information from the stories on the board. Compare the facts from the stories to the facts available in reference materials. If desired, students can submit their family stories to the appropriate area of the March of Dimes website.

 

Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine, was born in 1914.

This page from the Academy of Achievement provides an excellent biography on Salk, including video of his interviews and photographs.

 

Have your students read the comic-book style story of how Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio.

 

This website aims to increase awareness of polio and to raise the funds needed to eradicate the disease. The site offers an excellent history of the disease from 1580 BC to the present.

 

From the Eisenhower Library, this website provides online access to many of the primary documents related to the polio vaccine, including presidential statements and official government documents.