1. Healthy Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, a time when people pay extra attention to getting exercise, eating healthy foods and doing other things to make their hearts healthy and strong. Your heart is the most important organ in your body, because it pumps blood to all the other organs, plus your muscles, bones and even your brain. And it’s an amazing organ. Though it is only the size of your fist, it pumps and recycles 2,000 gallons of blood through your body every day. That amounts to 700,000 gallons of blood a year — or more than 7-million gallons every 10 years! When the heart pumps, it carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body and removes wastes that can harm your health if they build up. To keep your heart healthy, medical experts say you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, choose lean meats like chicken for meals and cut back on fast foods and snacks that contain high levels of sugar, salt and cooking fats. To promote American Heart Month, search the newspaper and Internet for photos and ads showing people getting exercise or eating healthy foods. Use images you find to create a highway billboard showing people doing things that are good for the heart. You may create a stationary billboard that doesn’t change, or an electronic billboard that shows different images and “pages.”
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.
2. Cheetahs on the Move
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal, with the ability to run as fast as 70 miles per hour. They also are one of the world’s most beautiful “big cats,” with colorful spotted coats and distinct eye markings that look like tears. They are considered threatened or “vulnerable” in many places, and were once declared extinct in the Asian nation of India. Now, thanks to agreements with the African nations of Namibia and South Africa, cheetahs are being re-introduced to India in national parks. South Africa has agreed to send 12 cheetahs a year for the next eight to 10 years as part of a Project Cheetah program designed to return cheetahs to India. Earlier, Namibia sent eight cheetahs for the program. Cheetahs were declared extinct in India in 1952, CNN News reports, and are the only large carnivore in the country to have suffered that fate. “Project Cheetah aims to bring back India’s only extinct large mammal,” one wildlife official said. “As part of the project, 50 cheetahs will be introduced in various national parks over [the next] five years.” There are only about 7,500 adult cheetahs living in the wild in the world. Government and wildlife organizations do many things to help endangered or threatened species. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and photos about a wildlife species that interests you. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining ways people could help this species survive or succeed in its environment.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
3. Changing Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is one of the most famous writers of children’s books, and the creator of such favorites as “Charley and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach.” His books have sold more than 300-million copies worldwide, and he has been called “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century.” Yet many of his books were written more than 50 years ago at a time when attitudes were different than today. To bring Dahl’s popular books up to date, the Roald Dahl Story Company that manages his works has announced it is reviewing and changing some of the language to make it more inclusive and less offensive to readers. There are not a great number of changes, and they are “small and carefully considered,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. In one instance a boy in “Chocolate Factory” is no longer called “fat” but is described as “enormous.” What was described as a “weird African language” in the book “The Twits” is no longer weird.” The Oompa Loompas that were once described as “small men” are now “small people.” Not everyone agrees with the changes — some have called them “absurd censorship” — but the company said it wanted “to ensure that Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.” People often feel strongly about favorite books and stories, and wouldn’t want them to be changed. As a class, discuss books you like and why you like them. Pick one and write a book review for the newspaper or Internet. Tell what things you like most about the book, why you like them and how the story would be different if one of those things were changed.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
4. Hats Off to a Driver
Students who ride the bus to school can often get quite attached to their bus drivers. And bus drivers can get attached to their students! Consider the story of Patricia Reitz, a bus driver for the Clarence Central School District in western New York State. As gifts for her students, Reitz has knitted hats for them to wear in winter — lots and lots of hats. She started several years ago when a high school student admired a hat she was making, and since then she has hand made more than 7,000 hats for the students who have ridden her buses. She specializes in Santa hats, and it gives her a smile when she sees how many kids break them out and wear them during the winter holidays, the Modern Met website reports. She now drives elementary school children, and “she cares about her students,” one third grade teacher says. “Any student that I’ve had that has been on Miss Patty’s bus gets a hat, and they also get a friend. Miss Patty is one of the favorites.” Bus driver Patty Reitz has made many friends with children by making hats for them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another person who has made friends with children by doing something special for them. Use what you read to write a thank-you letter to that person as if you were one of the children helped.
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.
5. Long-Lost Letter
Letters that people send by mail sometimes can get delayed. But a delay in the European city of London, England may be one for the record books. A letter arrived an address in south London that had been mailed more than 100 years ago! The letter was sent in February 1916 in the middle of World War I and was addressed to “my dear Katie,” who was the wife of a local stamp expert and businessman, CNN News reported. It was sent by Christabel Mennel, the daughter of a tea merchant, while she was on vacation. It wasn’t a very good vacation. “I’ve been most miserable here with a very heavy cold,” Mennel wrote. The long-delayed letter has been turned over to local history experts for further study. Mail officials said it “may well have been lost sitting in a dark corner in [a] sorting office and only recently discovered.” Odd events often make news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an odd event. Use what you read to a haiku poem (HI-koo) telling about the event. A haiku is a three-line poem that has five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line and five in the third line.
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.