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.

March 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns Caesar to "Beware the Ides of March." Caesar ignores the warning and is, in fact, murdered on March 15, called "the Ides" on the Roman calendar. Over time, the date has become associated with doom and momentous events-particularly ones with disastrous effects.

In addition to teaching your students a famous Shakespearean play, you could use the Ides of March to explore the role of superstitions in our lives and culture.

  • Begin by asking students to list the superstitions they know: the number 13, spilling salt, breaking a mirror, finding a penny, etc.
  • Next, have them try to categorize these superstitions. For example, which ones relate to good luck, bad luck, death, happiness, etc.?
  • After they have categorized them, ask students to define a superstition. What is their purpose or role? What do they tend to relate to?
  • Finally, have students think about superstitions and proverbs. Share a list of proverbs from around the world. Which ones on the list also sound like superstitions? What are the similarities and differences between proverbs and superstitions? You can use the ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram interactive for this activity.
Beware the Ides of March!

Turner Classic Movies creates sites for educators on several of their most popular films. This one on Julius Caesar includes activities and resources for the play and the 1953 version of the film.

This National Geographic article describes the events leading up to the assassination of Caesar, including a discussion of Plutarch's, Shakespeare's, and Dante's treatments of the leader.

This is a site where people have sent in visual depictions of a superstition or urban legend. Be sure to preview the images to ensure they are appropriate for your students. Students might try a similar activity using photography or other media.

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal offers information about common superstitions. They also offer ideas for a Superstition Obstacle Course.

May 19
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Named Malcolm Little by his parents in 1925, Malcolm X became one of the most prominent militant black nationalist leaders in the United States. He was a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam and founder of both the Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.

What do names tell us about people? Ask students to write about the origin of their own names in their journals. How did they come to be named? Who made the decision about their official names? What nicknames do they have? What names do they like or dislike and why? If they could pick out their own names, what would they select?

After students have had time to reflect and write on this topic, explore the names Malcolm X used during his lifetime: Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, and Omowale. Students may have an easier time understanding Malcolm X's switches if they consider Esperanza's desire to change her name in Sandra Cisneros's House on Mango Street. Share this excerpt with students, and then hold a class discussion about the different names Malcolm X used during his life. Next to each name, ask the class to brainstorm adjectives that might be used to describe Malcolm X during that period in his life.

Malcolm X was born in Nebraska in 1925.

Links at this site provide resources about Malcolm X and his life. Included are an audio archive of his speeches, photographs, a timeline, links to related Internet resources, and more.

This site from Columbia University includes new research and multimedia materials about Malcolm X. Research for an upcoming biography about Malcolm X is included in the site, as well as numerous digital interviews with people who knew him.

This Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Malcolm X includes biographical information, as well as suggestions for further reading and links to other people and places related to black history.

This historical article, from the New York Times Learning Network, discusses an interview with Malcolm X, given the week before he was killed by assassins identified as Black Muslims.

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.


March 31
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

César Chávez led the efforts to improve working conditions for California's migrant farm workers and formed the United Farm Workers Union. Chávez was committed to non-violent protest. He conducted several fasts and led a number of strikes and grape boycotts to further the cause of field workers.

Chávez was able to accomplish a great deal in his lifetime, promoting the civil rights and improving the working conditions of migrant farm workers. Have your students name other leaders who, like Chávez, have used non-violent means to achieve their ends. Some examples could include Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, or Susan B. Anthony.

Then, have students work in small groups to research one of these civil rights leaders. Students should find information about the leader's philosophy, the social cause for which he or she was fighting, and some of the specific methods he or she used for peaceful protest. Next, have students work, in their groups, on a creative writing piece. Have students imagine how history might have been different if this person had never lived, or had held a different philosophy. Then ask them to write a short story (or alternately, a play or poem) about this imagined history.

César Chávez was born on this day in 1927.

The Library of Congress offers this brief description of César Chávez' work. The page includes a timeline and links to related information.

This resource, based on the PBS film The Fight in the Fields, provides information on Chávez' struggle. Features include information about the film, a timeline, and links to related resources.

This biography, from the California Department of Education, is intended for intermediate students. The detailed account includes related images.

This Internet activity from SCORE encourages upper grade students to select from 11 American labor leaders, including Chávez, and to create museum exhibits highlighting their accomplishments.

September 07
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882. It became an official federal holiday in 1894 and is now celebrated on the first Monday of September. Born out of the rise of unions as part of the American labor movement, the day is marked by parades, picnics, and other celebrations—and it marks the unofficial end of summer.

Students tend to know little more about Labor Day than it's a day off of work and school. Encourage them to learn more about the American labor movement by giving them time to research one of the figures from the list below. In paris or small groups, they can locate print and Web based resources about their lives and contributions to labor reform. Groups can use the Biocube Interactive to organize and share what they learn.

  • Jane Addams
  • Sarah Bagley
  • César Chávez
  • Samuel Gompers
  • Dolores Huerta
  • Mary Harris Jones
  • John L. Lewis
  • Lucy Randolph Mason
  • Luisa Moreno
  • Leonora O’Reilly
  • Albert and Lucy Parsons
  • Franics Perkins
  • Esther Peterson
  • A. Philip Randolph
  • Walter Reuther
  • Rosina Tucker
Labor Day honors the labor movement in the United States.

This page from the US Department of Labor explores the legislation behind Labor Day and the controversy over the identity of its originator.


The History Channel's section on Labor Day offers articles, videos, and speeches related to the holiday.


This Time Magazine article offers an accessible introduction to the history and significance of Labor Day.


The History Channel's section on the Labor Movement offers an overview of key figures in labor reform.

October 31
3 - 8
Holiday & School Celebration

In the United States, Halloween is celebrated on October 31. The holiday has its roots in the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain. It was Christianized in the 9th century as "All Hallows' Eve," which precedes the Roman Catholic celebration of All Saints' Day on November 1.


  • If you have Internet access in your class or school, assign one common aspect of Halloween (e.g., costumes, pumpkins, witches) to a group of students and ask them to search for information about how that aspect came to be a part of Halloween tradition.

  • Have students make a list of the characters from a text that they are currently reading (or from texts read earlier in the year). Ask students to create masks or costumes that represent one of the characters from the text. Each student could then be asked to deliver a short monologue as that character to a small group.

  • Ask students to write a narrative describing their best Halloween ever, an expository essay that tells how to plan a Halloween celebration, or a spooky Halloween mystery story. They can plan the last one using the interactive Mystery Cube tool. Helpful information can be found on the Mystery Cube page.


Celebrate Halloween!

This online magazine is a great place to research the history of Halloween and includes a link for teachers to find a few classroom activities.


Elementary students in the United States and Canada share their language arts activities in this collaborative Internet project about autumn. Students can view the work and use it as a model for their own projects. Don't miss the Haunted House showcased in Mrs. Silverman and Miss Sowa's class.


This page from provides an annotated list of books about Halloween.


This page from the Library of Congress American Memory website features primary documents related to Halloween, including interviews, folk tales, and audio files. Some highlights include images of magician Harry Houdini, first-hand accounts of Halloween tricks of the past, and spooky songs.


May 08
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Known as the "King of the Delta Blues," Robert Johnson was born May 8, 1911, in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. His legendary recordings of such blues standards as "Cross Road Blues" and "Sweet Home Chicago" have had an astounding influence on blues singers and rock musicians for generations. His amazing talent and mysterious death in 1938 sparked an old blues folk tale that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his ability to play the guitar.

Having students write their own blues lyrics is a great way to teach rhythm, rhyme, and word choice. The most common form of the blues is referred to as the "12-bar blues" because of the twelve measures that are typical of the style. Share a blues song with your students before they begin to write, and distribute copies of the lyrics to a song with this structure. You may want to play a clip from Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues."

After looking at the lyrics, ask students to identify the structure used. They should be able to see that the lyrics of a 12-bar blues song often follow an AAB pattern. "A" refers to the first and second four-bar verses, and "B" is the third four-bar verse. In a 12-bar blues song, the first and second lines are repeated, and the third line is a response to them-often with a twist.

Next, brainstorm a list of subjects with your students about things that might give them "the blues." Then, have students choose a topic and try to write a blues song that follows the pattern they identified. Invite adventurous students to perform their songs!

Celebrate blues legend Robert Johnson's birthday.

This thorough University of Virginia resource features a biography, song lyrics, and critical analyses of Johnson's work.

This site anchors a multi-media celebration that raises awareness of the blues and its contribution to American culture and music worldwide.

The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation is dedicated to preserving the music and memory of Robert Johnson through the provision of art education, competitions and scholarships.

This National Park Service site includes an overview of two styles of blues and extensive biographies of thirty bluesmen and blueswomen who created a rich legacy of American music that forms the foundation of today's popular music.

October 14
1 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

On October 14, 1884, George Eastman received his patent for photographic film. This led the way for the production of the first small hand-held box camera, bringing photography out of the exclusive realm of the professional photographer. Today, the possibilities for bringing photography into the classroom are nearly boundless.


Explore photography and digital imaging to discover new ways of combining visual and textual composition to enhance every area of the curriculum. Create a scrapbook that includes photographs, video clips, audio clips, and student work. First, choose a format based on your available resources. Examples include PowerPoint presentations, websites, videotapes, or booklets. Keep a camera/video equipment handy, and include some of these in your project:

  • Students' favorite pieces of writing or artwork, including descriptive captions or commentary
  • Videotapes of songs or skits
  • Students' descriptions of what they are learning, via a video or audio interview or in writing
  • Photomontages of units studied

Work on your scrapbook throughout the year, and then present it to parents at an end-of-year party!


Kodak was issued a film patent on October 14, 1884.

This U.S. Patent and Trademark Office press release describes how George Eastman's invention allowed for the mass production of cameras.


This article from Education World offers two dozen different classroom activities that make use of a digital camera.


On this page of educational technologist Kathy Schrock's website, she provides links to resource pages specifically designed to enhance the use of cameras and other devices in the K–12 classroom.


This lesson plan from Scholastic is designed for grades 6–12.

April 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

The RMS Titanic, a British luxury passenger liner, sank en route to New York City, and some 1,500 of its passengers perished. The ship had been designed and built by William Pirrie's firm of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. A credulous public had believed that design innovations such as its 15 "watertight" bulkheads would make it "unsinkable."

Your students probably had some background knowledge about the Titanic even before the release of James Cameron's movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett. A nice way to begin your study is with the Internet Workshop model. You might use the recommended Websites from this calendar entry as part of the Internet Workshop.

Some questions you might ask students to explore are:

  • Could this disaster happen today?
  • What could have been done to prevent the disaster at that time?
  • What really sank the Titanic?
  • Did anything good happen as a result of this disaster?
The RMS Titanic sank on this day in 1912.

Visitors to this website learn about Halifax, Nova Scotia's role during the tragedy's aftermath. Included is a transcript of Robert Hunston's wireless document The Titanic Disaster as Viewed from Cape Race.


This exhibit includes hyperlinks to facts about the Titanic and a large collection of historical photographs.


The Anderson Kill & Olick law firm offers this interactive mock trial of the Titanic's operators, the White Star Line.


The BBC's site contains 13 audio recordings of survivors relaying their experiences. The collection also includes six primary source documents.


This site has a collection of fifteen short videos about the Titanic. Included in that collection is an interactive infographic from called "Titanic by the Numbers". The timeline starts with the construction of the Titanic and ends in 1913 with stories from survivors.