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For Grades K-4 , week of Feb. 12, 2024

1. GROUNDHOG DAY

February brings a few winter holidays in the United States, including Valentine’s Day on the 14th and usually Mardi Gras, the Tuesday before the Christian season of Lent begins as the lead-up to Easter. But one of the most unusual is Groundhog Day, which happens on February 2. It started as a superstition in the Pennsylvania Dutch community that if a groundhog comes out of its burrow on that day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it doesn’t see its shadow, spring will come early that year. The groundhog of honor is named Punxsutawney Phil after the Pennsylvania town that holds an official ceremony every year. To explain how Punxsutawney Phil has been making weather predictions for more than 100 years, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club said they gave him an “elixir of life” to keep him alive—though they didn’t give it to his wife, Phyllis. TikTok users found this out and turned the idea into a crowdsourced musical, writing and duet-ing songs about Phil and Phyllis’ love story. Now it’s your turn! Write your own storybook, comic strip, or scene from a play about Punxsutawney Phil and his wife, Phyllis.

2. HEARTBREAKER PIZZA

With Valentine’s Day coming up and love all around, Pizza Hut unveiled a new item: break-up pizzas. From February 6 to 14, pizza lovers in Miami, Chicago, and New York City can order a free “Goodbye Pie” topped with spicy honey to be delivered to their boyfriend or girlfriend. The special website set up for the break-up pizzas even includes a break-up excuse generator with funny reasons like “the president called and he needs my help with president stuff,” “I’m the heir to a throne of a faraway land and I must go save my kingdom from impeding evil,” and the simple “my dog doesn’t like you.” Write your own silly break-up excuses to go along with Pizza Hut’s examples. Then share your favorite ones with your classmates.

3. REUNION DINNER

Two billion people around the world celebrated the first day of the Chinese New Year on February 10. The holiday is also called Lunar New Year or Spring New Year. Festivities begin with the “Reunion Dinner,” where family members share special foods that all have important meanings. Dumplings and spring rolls represent wealth and good fortune; long noodles represent a long life; and whole chicken represents family togetherness. The whole meal has eight or nine dishes because the number eight represents wealth and nine represents good luck. Think of your favorite meal. What could each of the foods in that meal represent? Write down each item, what you think it could represent, and why.

4. MORE THAN HEAT

Evaporation happens when a liquid heats up enough to turn into a gas. Or, that’s what scientists previously thought was the only way evaporation happened. However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently discovered a new way by accident. Water they were using in an experiment was evaporating more quickly than it should’ve based on heat. After many experiments, they discovered that light was responsible—and heat wasn’t needed at all. They tested different colors of light and found that green light evaporated water three times faster than other colors. Why do you think this could be? Think about a rainbow and where the color green falls on it. Write down your ideas of what you think could make green light more effective than another color, like red or violet, and discuss your ideas with your classmates.

5. NAP TIME

The way animals sleep can be very different from the way we as humans sleep. For example, dolphins turn off one side of their brain at a time, allowing them to sleep while continuing to swim. A recent study found that chinstrap penguins have a very unique way of sleeping. Instead of sleeping in one long stretch, they take thousands of “micro-naps,” each a few seconds long, throughout the day. This is probably a way for them to protect their eggs from predators while also resting. Researchers figured this out by fitting fourteen penguins with devices that tracked their brain activity and saw they took up to 10,000 tiny naps a day.