Read these 43 Lesson Ideas Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Academic tips and hundreds of other topics.
•Scraps of paper
Birds' nests are more than just straw baskets--they're great engineering works. The weaver bird of Africa builds a spiraling, hanging nest with a special trapdoor. The albatross makes mud chimneys in which to lay its eggs. Storks make huge 6-foot nests on the roofs of houses in Europe, where they're considered good luck. Your local birds may not make such exotic nests, but they're no less wondrous.
•When the leaves have fallen from the trees in your area, take a walk and see how many nests you can find. (Don't confuse them with the ill-engineered nests of squirrels, which tend to be in the high forks of trees.) Perhaps you'll find a nest that has fallen to the ground, or one that's low enough to study.
•To appreciate the engineering feat, have your child try building a nest of his or her own, with twigs, string, dried grasses, scraps of paper, and cloth. Difficult, isn't it? Just imagine trying to do it with your mouth!
Be Late For Something Day - For creating a release from the stresses and strains resulting from a constant need to be on time. For more info, contact: Les Waas, President, Procrastinators' Club of America, Inc., Box 712, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009
Anniversary of the First Continental Congress Assembly - In 1774, this first assembly of the forerunner of Congress took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Jesse James' Birthday - (b 1847) Western legend and bandit, known for bank, stagecoach and store robberies.
Arthur Charles Nielsen's Birthday - (b 1897) Marketing research engineer.
Voyager I -US - In 1977, Voyager I set a new distance record when it reached 6.5 billion miles from Earth.
James Naismith's Birthday - (b 1861) Inventor of the game of basketball.
Saxophone Day - A day to recogneze the birthday of Adolphe Sax, Belgian musician and inventor of the saxophone and the saxotromba. Sax contributed an entire family of brass wind instruments for band and orchestra use.
John Philip Sousa's Birthday - (b 1854) American composer and band conductor, remembered for stirring marches such as "The Stars and Stripes Forever," "Semper Fidelis," and "El Capitan."
Gustavus Adolphus Day - Honors Sweden's King and military leader killed in 1632.
•Barbados Independence Day - Commemorates independence from Great Britain in 1966.
•Lucy Maud Montgomery's Birthday - (b 1874) Author, known for her Anne of Green Gables series.
•Bonifacio Day - Philippines - Also known as National Heroes' Day, it commemorates the birth of Andres Bonifacio (b 1863), the leader of the 1896 revolt against Spain.
•Mark Twain's Birthday - (b 1835) Celebrated American author, born Samuel Longhorne Clemens, whose books include: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Prince and the Pauper.
•Margot Zemach's Birthday - (b 1931) Illustrator, she won a Caldecott for Duffy and the Devil.
Douglass Escapes To Freedom - Dressed as a sailor, Frederick Douglass boarded a train at Baltimore, MD and Wilmington, DE where he caught a steamboat to the free city of Philadelphia. He then transferred to a train for New York City and entered the Underground Railroad.
Anniversary of the Surrender of Italy - In 1943, General Giuseppe Castellano signed a "short armistice" surrendering unconditionally in WWII.
Qatar Independence Day - Commemorates the severing of treaties with Britain in 1971.
San Marino National Day - In honor of St. Marinus, the traditional founder of San Marino.
The Treaty of Paris Ends the American Revolution - In 1783, a treaty between Britain and the US was signed at Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.
Gregor Mendel was a 19th century scientist who developed modern genetics. He discovered that new colors of sweet pea could be formed when mixing different varieties of the plant. Try to do the same in class, when studying about genetics.
- Plant different colors of sweet pea.
- When they flourish, cross-pollinate, mixing the two, and find if you can make new colors.
More about Mendellian genetics and about other possible experiments can be found at: Mendel Experiments
Andorra National Holiday - Honors our Lady of Meritxell.
Anniversary of the Galveston Hurricane - In 1900, this national disaster was the worst in US history with more than 6000 lives lost.
International Literacy Day - Celebrated worldwide to promote reading and its benefits.
Northern Pacific Railroad Completed - In 1883, after 19 years of construction, the No. Pacific Railway became the second railroad to link the east and west coast of the US.
Anniversary of the TV Premiere of "Star Trek" - In 1966, the first 79 episodes of Star Trek began airing on NBC.
Assign an independent project at the beginning of each grading period - to be completed and turned in at the end of each grade period. Need an example?
For Algebra - assign a ratio/proportion project in which students make a scale model of a household object and write a report about how they determined what scale to use, about what jobs require such knowledge, etc.
Use a large cardboard box, a length of butcher paper, two paper towel tubes and drawing pencils, felt markers or crayons to make a TV. Turn the box so that the bottom is facing towards you. That is the "front" of the television. Cut out a large square to be the "screen." Decorate the front with buttons and dials as desired. Cut vertical slits on the sides of the box (near the front). The students will scroll the butcher paper through these slots to make their television documentary.
•Cortes Conquers Mexico - In 1656, after landing on the Yucatan peninsula in April, Spaniard Hernan Cortes and his troops marched into the interior of Mexico to the Aztec capital and took Aztec emperor Montezuma hostage.
•Edmund Halley's Birthday - (b 1656) Astronomer and mathematician. He observed the great comet of 1682 (now named for him), first conceived its periodicity and wrote in his Synopsis of Comet Astronomy: "...I may venture to foretell that this Comet will return again in the year 1758." There have been 28 recorded appearances of this comet since 240 BCE. Average time between appearances is 76 years. It is next expected to be visible in 2061.
•Montana Admission Day - Montana became the 41st state in 1889.
•X-Ray Discovery Day - In 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen discovered X-rays, beginning a new era in physics and medicine. Although X-rays had been observed previously, it was Rontgen, a professor at the University of Wurzburg (Germany), who successfully repeated X-ray experiments and who is credited with the discovery.
Anniversary of the Completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway - In 1885, at 9:30 AM, the last spike was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia, completing the Candian Pacific Railway's 2,980-mile transcontinental track between Montreal, Quebec, in the east and Port Moody, British Columbia in the west.
Marie Sklodowska Curie's Birthday - (b 1867) Polish chemist and physicist. In 1903, she was awarded, with her husband Pierre, the Nobel Prize for physics for their discovery of the element radium.
Anniversary of the Election of the First Black Governor - In 1989, L. Douglas Wilder was elected governor of Virginia, becoming the first black elected governor in US history. Wilder had previously served as lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution - This holiday in the old Soviet Union was observed for two days with parades and military displays and appearances by Soviet leaders. According to the old Russian calendar, the revolution took place October 25, 1917. Soviet calendar reform causes observance to fall on November 7 (Gregorian). The Bolshevik revolution began at Petrograd, Russia, on the evening of November 6 (Gregorian), 1917. A new government headed by Nicolai Lenin took office the following day under the name Council of the People's Commissars. Leon Trotsky was commissar for foreign affairs and Josef Stalin became commissar of national minorities. In the mid-1990's, President Yeltsin issued a decree renaming this holiday the "Day of National Reconciliation and Agreement."
Anniversary of the Republican Symbol - In 1874, Thomas Nast used an elephant to represent the Republican Party in a satirical cartoon in Harper's Weekly. Today the elephant is still a well-recognized symbol for the republican Party in political cartoons.
Anniversary of the Election of Roosevelt to His Fourth Term - In 1944, defeating Thomas Dewey, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first, and only, person elected to four terms as President of the US. Roosevelt was inaugurated the following January, but died in office April 12, 1945, serving only 53 days of the fourth term.
Brazil Republic Day - Commemorates the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889.
Shichi-Go-San - Japan - An annual children's festival, the Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three) rite is "the most picturesque event in the autumn season." Parents take their three-year-old children of either sex, five-year-old boys and seven-year-old girls to the parish shrines dressed in their best clothes. There the guardian spirits are thanked for the healthy growth of the children and prayers are offered for their further development.
Georgia O'Keeffe's Birthday - (b 1887) Described as one of the greatest American artists of the 20th century, O'Keeffe painted desert landscapes and flower studies.
Learning to recognize shapes isn't just an activity for preschoolers. The ability to find a common shape among several objects is one key to learning to read; we recognize many words by their "shape". To help your child get better at recognizing shapes, try this:
Draw a simple shape (like a rectangle) and have the child see how many examples of that shape he/she can find in your home. Encourage them to look beyond simple matches. For example, a place mat might be a rectangle, but so is the center leaf of the oval dining room table.
One stage in learning to read is making a connection between each letter and the sounds it represents. That's the basic idea behind phonics. Here's an activity that helps reinforce the learning she'll be doing at school.
•Draw large block letters on 12x12-inch pieces of poster board. Cut them out. Start with a few letters, such as the ones in your child's name.
•Choose one letter and help your child locate small items that begin with that letter sound. For example, glue buttons and beads on a letter B. Or, make handprints with tempera paint on the letter H.
•At first, you can name the object for a letter. Later, ask your child which of two objects starts with the letter's sound. Finally, have your child find the objects.
Amazing fact: If you slowly pour a cup of sand on one point ten different times, the resulting piles will always have the same shape.
Why is this? It has to do with the fact that every material has a specific "angle of repose." Engineers define this as the limiting steepness beyond which particles will slip downhill. In other words, a pile of sand cannot get any steeper than a certain angle, no matter how carefully you pour it. The angle is steeper for larger and irregular or wet particles. So gravel has a steeper angle of repose than sand, and sand has a steeper angle of repose than dry clay (which has finer particles). See for yourself with gravel, sand, and dirt in your garden or at the beach. Now then, what's your angle?
Enid Bagnold's Birthday - (b 1889) Novelist and playwright. National Velvet
James Cook's Birthday - (b 1728) English sea captain and explorer who discovered the Hawaiian Islands and brought Australia and New Zealand into the British empire.
Anniversary od the New York City Subway - In 1904, running from City Hall to West 145th Street, the New York City subway began operation. It was privately operated bu the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and later became part of the system operated by the NYC Transit Authority.
Theodore Roosevelt's Birthday - The 26th president of the US, succeeded to the presidency on the assassination of William McKinley. He was the youngest man to have ever served as president of the US. Roosevelt was the first president to ride in an automobile(1902), submerge in a submarine (1905), and to fly in an airplane (1910). Although his best remembered quote is "Speak softly and carry a big stick," he also said, "The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight."
Saint Vincent of the Grenadines Independence Day
Turkmenistan Independence Day - Commemorates independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
At the beginning of the year, introduce the concept of cooperation by performing this simple experiment: Gather a class supply of old, "dirty" pennies, a box of salt, and a bottle of vinegar. Tell the children you need to clean your pennies and sprinkle some salt over 2 or 3. When nothing happens, pour vinegar over a couple more. Next, mix the salt and vinegar in a pie pan, and add the pennies. Let them help stir. They will appear noticeably shinier. Talk about how the salt and vinegar worked together and ways we can work together to get things done. Depending on the age of your students, you may wish to give each one a penny to take home, or give to parents with a note about the experiment.
•Piece of stocking
•OPTIONAL - Insect net
Do you have fireflies in your area? If so, you have nature's lighting at your fingertips.
•Fireflies are easy to catch with a large plastic jar or net (you can purchase an insect net or make one yourself).
•Place them in a transparent plastic container, using a piece of stocking and a rubber band for a top. Be sure to explain to your child that the insects are fragile (supervise their capture and transfer), and that you're going to let them go when it's time to turn in.
•Once your child has collected a dozen or so fireflies, place the jar where its inhabitants can be easily observed. See if your child can time the intervals between flashes.
Questions to ask:Is the time interval always the same? What is the greatest number of fireflies lighting up at the same time? Do some fireflies seem to light up more than others?
Leafs, rocks, shells, insects and a myriad of other objects can be collected, labeled, classified, and displayed. A child could enter a collection in the state fair or other similiar community event. The collection serves as a visual review of facts learned during the course of the unit study.
California Admission Day - California became the 31st state in 1850.
Colonies Become The United States - In 1776, the Continental Congress decided that the name United States would replace the name United Colonies.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea National Day - National holiday in North Korea.
Luxembourg Liberation Ceremony Anniversary - Commemorates the liberation of Grand-Duchy by Allied forces in 1944.
Tajikistan Independence Day - Commemorates independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Anniversary of the Death of William the Conqueror - William I, The Conqueror, King of England and Duke of Normandy died in 1087.
On the first or second day of school, have a treasure hunt for the children to help learn about the lay out of your school. The night before, bake a large gingerbread person (the entire size of a cookie sheet). Hide this in the school kitchen (or any other room - discuss with the staff beforehand). The day of the treasure hunt read the story of the gingerbread boy. Next, tour the school asking each classroom if they've seen a missing gingerbread person. After locating the missing gingerbread person, return to the classroom and eat this treat.
Anniversary of the Founding of Los Angeles, California - In 1781, founded by decree and called "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula."
Newspaper Carrier Day - Anniversary of the hiring of the first "newsboy" in the US - 10-yr-old Barney Flaherty.
Sarah Childress Polk's Birthday - (b 1803) Wife of James Knox Polk, 11th president of the US.
Anniversary of the Atomic Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima - On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 AM, Little Boy was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan by the Enola Gay.
Bolivia's Independence Day - Named for Simon Bolivar, Bolivia gained its independence from Spain in 1825.
Anniversary of the First Woman Swimming the English Channel - In 1926, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle of NY, NY swam the Channel in 14 hours and 31 minutes.
Alexander Fleming's Birthday - (b 1881) Scottish bacteriologist who discovered penicillin.
Halfway Point of Summer - 47 days of summer gone and 47 more to go before the autumnal equinox and the beginning of Autumn.
Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt's Birthday - (b 1861) Second wife of Theodore Roosevelt.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 Signed - Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was written to prevent discrimination against minorities at the polls.
•Guy Fawkes Day - England - This is the anniversary of the "Gunpowder Plot." Conspirators planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I in 1605. Twenty barrels of gunpowder, which they had secreted in a cellar under the Parliament, were discovered on the night of November 4, the eve of the intended explosion, and the conspirators were arrested. They were tried and convicted, and on January 31, 1606, eight (including Guy Fawkes) were beheaded and their heads were displayed on pikes at London Bridge. Though there were at least 11 conspirators, Guy Fawkes is most remembered. In 1606, the Parliament, which was to have been annihilated, enacted a law establishing November 5 as a day of public thanksgiving. On the night of November 5, the whole country lights up with bonfires and celebrations.
Anniversary of the Babe Ruth's Homerun Record - In 1927, George Herman "Babe" Ruth hit his 60th homerun of the season off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators. Ruth's record for the most homeruns in a season stood for 34 years - Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. Maris' record was broken in 1998 by Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and right after by Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.
Botswana Independence Day - This national holiday celebrates the independence of the former Bechuanaland Protectorate (British Colony) in 1966.
Edgar Parin D'Aulaire's Birthday - (b 1898) German author.
Feast of St. Jerome - Patron saint of scholars and librarians.
Anniversary of James Meredith Enrolling at Ole Miss - Rioting broke out in 1962 when James Meredith became the first black to enroll in the all-white University of Mississippi. President John Kennedy sent US troops to force compliance with law. Three people died and fifty were injured in the rioting. On June 6, 1966, Meredith was shot while participating in a civil rights march at Mississippi.
The first day of school give each child a purple plate. Have them turn the plate into a picture of themselves by adding eyes, hair, a mouth, etc. Once dry, arrange the plates on the board in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Add a stem and leaves along with the title "What a 'Grape' Bunch of New Students".
Duct or plastic tape
Small, heavy toys
The car sinks slowly into the quicksand pit, soon to be drawn into oblivion. Onlookers gasp as they wonder about the fate of the inhabitants. A scene from an Indiana Jones movie? No, the car is a toy, and the quicksand "pit" a plastic container. Here's how to make one yourself.
•Take a large yogurt or cottage cheese container or bottom of a quart milk jug and cut a half-inch hole in the side near the bottom.
•Cut eight half-inch slits radiating from the hole, like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
•Push a garden hose into the hole, then seal the edges around the hose as best you can with duct or wide plastic tape.
•Fill the container with sand, not quite to the top -- do not pack or tamp down.
•Put a rock or small, heavy toy on top of the sand and turn on the spigot so the water trickles into the container (test beforehand to determine how much of a turn of your faucet handle produces a trickle).
•The sand will rise slightly as the water seeps between the grains, weakening its ability to support the toy. In other words ... quicksand!
Flashcards - Flashcards can be easily created using clip art and index cards. There are a multitude of uses and potential subject matter for these aides, normally reserved for drilling math facts. How about musical instruments? The animal kingdom? Dinosaurs, plants, insects, art masterpieces and many other possibilities abound. Use flashcards for learning names, classifying into like groups, foreign language vocabulary, and more.
Do you have a pond or stream nearby? If so, collect tadpoles in mid-spring. Your children will enjoy watching them grow and change.
•First, prepare an "observation tank." A plastic dishpan or large plastic jar will be fine. You'll want to outfit it with a screen top when the critters get too big.
•Now collect some tadpoles from your local pond or stream. Put them into a plastic transfer jar along with the pond water.
•Provide rocks that project above the surface, so the tadpoles can climb out of the water once they develop legs--remember, they're becoming air breathers.
•Also be sure to add fresh (not tap) water weekly. Point out to your child how their legs emerge and their tails disappear as they grow.
•When the tadpoles become mature frogs take them back to their pond or stream.
•Visit the pond a year later and thank them for serving as guest lecturers in your home biology class.
TIsaac Asimov's Birthday - (b 1920) Although Asimov was one of the world's best-known writers of science fiction, his almost 500 boks dealt with subjects as diverse as the Bible, works for preschoolers, college textbooks, mysteries, chemistry, biology, limericks, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan and modern history. During his prolific career, he helped elevate science fiction from pulp magazines to a more intellectual level. Some of his works include the Foundation Trilogy, The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire, Nemesis, Murder at the A.B.A. (in which he himself is a character), The Gods Themselves and I, Robot. The Clock We Live On is a children's book on the origins of calendars.
TAnniversary of the 55-mph Speed Limit - In 1974, President Richard Nixon signed a bill requiring states to limit highway speeds to a maximum of 55-mph. This measure was meant to conserve energy during the crisis precipitated by the embargo imposed by the Arab oil-producing countries. A plan, used by some states, limited the sale of gasoline on odd-numbered days for even-numbered license plates. Some states limited purchases to $2-$3 per auto and lines as long as six miles resulted in some locations.
TGeorgia Ratifies the Constitution - In 1788, by unanimous vote, Georgia became the fourth state to ratify the Constitution.
TAncestor's Day - Haiti - Commemorates ancestors. Also known as Hero's Day.
TLuna 1 -US - In 1959, this launch of the robotic moon probe missed the moon and became the first spacecraft from Earth to orbit the moon.
TAnniversary of Spain's Capture of Grenada - In 1492, Spaniards took the city of Grenada from the Moors, ending seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain.
THelen Herron Taft's Birthday - (b 1861) Wife of William Howard Taft, 27th president of the US.
TJames Wolfe's Birthday - (b 1727) English general who commanded the British army's victory over Montcalm's French forces on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec City in 1759. As a result, France surrendered Canada to England. Wolfe died at the Plains of Abraham of battle wounds on September 13, 1759.
Victory Day - Italy - Commemorates the signing of a WWI treaty by Austria in 1918 which resulted in the transfer of Trentino and Trieste from Austria to Italy.
Anniversary of the Discovery of King Tut's Tomb - In 1922, one of the most important archaelogical discoveries of modern times occurred at Luxor, Egypt. It was the tomb of Egypt's child-king, Tutankhamen, who became pharaoh at the age of nine and died, probably in the year 1352 BCE, when he was 19.
Sterling North's Birthday - (b 1906) Author of Rascal.
Flag Day - Panama
UNESCO Anniversary - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was formed in 1946.
•Samuel Adams' Birthday - (b 1722) Revolutionary leader and statesman, Samuel Adams was a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress who urged a vigorous stand against England. He signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation and supported the war for independence. Adams served as lieutenant governor of MA under John Hancock and later as governor himself.
•Ancestor Appreciation Day - A day to learn about and appreciate one's forebears. For more information, contact: W.D. Chase, A.A.D. Association, POB 3, Montague, MI 49437
•Saint Vincent de Paul Feast Day - French priest, patron of charitable organizations and founder of the Vincentian Order and the Cofounder of the Sisiters of Charity. He was canonized in 1737.
Yardstick or any long, straight stick
Colored ribbons or string
How much snow really fell in your yard last winter? How much is out there now? This activity will turn your child into an expert on the subject.
•At the first snow of the year, take a long, straight stick or yardstick and tell your children to put it in the snow until its bottom touches the ground.
•Select a level area that isn't subjected to excessive wind. If you're using a yardstick, your children can read off the snowfall level and jot it down in a notebook. If you have a plain stick, children can tie a string or colored ribbon at the point the snow comes up to on the stick. You both can then measure the snowfall with a ruler.
•At each subsequent snowfall, children can measure the new snowfall and compare it to the previous spot on the stick. Add a new ribbon to a plain stick. If all the snow melts before the next snowfall, they start measuring at the bottom again.
•Encourage them to add the totals all season long.
Rocks, branches, moss
Screen or stocking
A terrarium is a world in miniature. If you have a large, clear plastic container or jug, you can make one in your backyard.
•First, let the chidren put in a couple of inches of sterile potting soil.
•Place a few rocks in the terrarium -- these will add natural beauty and will hold heat during cold nights.
•Next come branches and moss, as well as small plants. Choose the ones in 2" pots.
•Select plants that will tolerate the growing conditions that will be similar to those in the terrarium. For instance, if the terrarium is going to be in the shade, select shade-loving plants; if it's going to be partly in the sun, let the child choose semi sun-lovers.
•Water the terrarium so that it's moist inside (not too much!), then cover the opening with a sheet of plastic. The terrarium will also make a nice temporary home for worms and other varmits -- make a screen to allow air flow (or use a stocking) and make sure it's not in the full sun.
Your child will enjoy checking the terrarium and maintaining this world in miniature.
Tie together the handles of a plastic shopping bag with the end of a ball of string. Staple a few 2-foot lengths of ribbons to the bottom of the bag for kite tails. Now find a windy spot outdoors and start running. As the bag fills with air, slowly let out string and the kite should begin to soar and dive.
A good geography lesson plan would be to research the many different countries that are mentioned in the datelines of newspaper articles. Have the students locate these countries on a world map. For older students, you can have them pick one of the countries and write a short research paper on it.
Brazil Independence Day - Commemorates independence from Portugal in 1822.
Elizabeth I's Birthday - (b 1533) Queen of England. The "Elizabethan Age" was named after this daughter of Henry VIII.
Grandma Moses Day - A modern primitive American painter, Anna Mary Robertson began painting at the age of 78.
Neither Snow Nor Rain Day - Anniversary of the public opening of the New York Post Office in 1914.