For Grades K-4 , week of Dec. 06, 2021

1. White House Decorations

One of the things people look forward to at this time each year is seeing how the White House will be decorated for the holidays in Washington, DC. As the home and workplace of the President and First Lady, the White House gets special attention not only for the beauty of the decorations but for the message they offer the nation and the world. The theme is picked by the First Lady, and this year Jill Biden chose “Gifts From the Heart” — things that “unite us all” such as Faith, Community, Family, Friendship, Learning, Nature, Gratitude, Service, The Arts, Peace and Unity. Each of these gifts is represented by the decorations of a single room. The Green Room, for example, is decorated to celebrate the Gift of Nature, while the Blue Room shows the Gifts of Peace and Unity and the State Dining Room the Gift of Family. The State Dining Room is also home to the official Gingerbread White House, which this year is surrounded by community buildings such as a hospital, a fire station and a schoolhouse to show gratitude for “our nation’s frontline workers who kept our country running” through the coronavirus epidemic. Gifts From the Heart are all around us. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find examples of each of the Gifts of the Heart featured in this year’s White House holiday decorations. Use what you find to create a “Gifts From the Heart” poster or artwork. Display your posters at home or in your classroom.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Awe

Most people know and recognize emotions they feel, such as sadness, happiness, love, fear and anger. But there is another emotion that is often overlooked, according to child development experts. That emotion is awe, the feeling you have when you encounter something huge and wonderful, mysterious or inspiring. Something that makes you feel you are part of something larger than yourself. It can be experiencing nature and seeing things in new ways. It can be watching extremely talented athletes or musicians performing. It can be seeing beauty in small things like flowers or giant things like mountains. It can be looking closely at things you see in everyday life. Children especially can benefit by feeling awe, because it can reduce stress and anxiety, child development expert Deborah Farmer Kris wrote recently in the Washington Post newspaper. “Awe might be our most overlooked, undervalued emotion,” she said. As a class, discuss things you have seen or experienced that made you feel the emotion awe. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find a photo or story showing something that is awe-inspiring to you or others. Describe your awe-inspiring thing in a poem. Try to use one or two similes in your poem (or more!). A simile (SIM-uh-lee) compares one thing to another using the words “like” or “as” (“run like a deer,” “colorful as a rainbow”). Share poems as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language.

3. Turkeys Go to School

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but in many communities the turkeys are still around. Wild turkeys that is. They are becoming more and more common in communities across the nation, and in many places they are moving onto college campuses. Even when the colleges are in the middle of cities, the New York Times newspaper reports. The big, bold birds roost in trees and hide in bushes. They eat berries and acorns. They perch on bike racks and stroll down walkways. And on occasion they get annoyed with students and chase them. That can be a scary experience, since male “tom” turkeys can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh 25 to 30 pounds as adults. “College campuses are just ideal habitat” for turkeys, said David Drake, a professor and extension wildlife specialist at the University of Wisconsin, where a sizable flock has made its home near student housing. “Lots of food. Lots of things to see,” added Richard Pollack, senior environmental public health officer at Harvard in the state of Massachusetts. With natural habitats getting smaller in many areas, wildlife are moving into places where people live and work. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one species that is doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering advice on how to behave and stay safe around this species if you meet up with it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Name That Snowplow!

In northern states in the winter months, snowplows play an important role keeping roads clear and communities running. In the northeast state of Vermont, highway officials decided to honor their snowplows this year by inviting school children to give them special names. Each school was assigned a snowplow in a maintenance garage close to it and challenged to give it a name. A total of 163 snowplows were named, and the choices were a showcase of student creativity. Choices came from superheroes (Captain Snowmerica), music (Jennifer Snowpez) and “Star Wars” movies (Snowbegone Kenobi). Others had origins in nature (Wolf Tracks, Snow Hawk, Snow Bobcat). And some were even inspired by snack foods (Dorito and Brr-ito). Many, of course, reflected the vital role snowplows play (Storm Breaker, Snow Destroyer, The Ice Crusher and Blizzard Wizard). Many kinds of equipment play important roles in communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely study a story or photo involving a piece of equipment that makes your community safer or a better place to live. Write a letter to local officials thanking them for this piece of equipment and describing how it makes the community better.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

5. Holiday Season

December is here, and that means the holiday season is getting into full swing. Three major holidays are celebrated in December — Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. And for many people, that means giving and receiving gifts. As a class, talk about favorite gifts you have given or received in the past. Then use ads in the newspaper or online to find gifts you would like to give family and friends, and gifts you would like receive. Don’t worry about prices when doing your “shopping,” but think carefully about the reasons you would like to give or receive the gifts you choose. Make a list of gifts you would choose for family or friends and write a reason for choosing each one. Then make a list of gifts you would like to receive and write a reason for each. Share lists with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.