Young students are curious about Earth and discovering ways that they can help the planet. As adults, it’s our responsibility to teach them how and inspire their ideas. Classrooms and media centers are ideal places for this type of learning and exploration. And Earth Day, which is April 22, is the perfect time!
SIRS Discoverer and its April Spotlight of the Month on Earth Day can assist in planning for this significant global holiday. Founded in 1970, Earth Day began and continues as a day of environmental education and action.
In honor of our Earth, here are some activities that promote awareness and appreciation of nature, recycling, and the environment:
1. Plant a garden and compost.
An outdoor garden is a great classroom. Gardens can help students develop listening, comprehension, and collaboration skills, as well as provide a solid foundation in Earth sciences. Try an activity that helps students understand the parts of a plant and how they grow. The printable PDF version of the associated Teacher’s Guide provides information, photos, and activities. You can help your students dig deeper and understand more about plant growth with this article and associated activities on composting.
2. Recycle and reuse.
Tell your students to pay attention to the amount of paper and plastic bottles they use. Guide them to reuse and recycle such items appropriately. For some hands-on learning, your students can learn the art of recycling with this activity, which provides age-appropriate ideas and instructions for recycling newspapers into papier-mache, collages, or weavings. Or, impress them with the power of nature, and show them great ways people are using wind, water, and sunlight to generate “clean energy.”
3. Write letters to local representatives and start petitions.
Much of environmental protection is done through laws and legislation. As a lesson in civics, organize a student letter writing campaign to a local or state representative. Allow your students to vocalize their beliefs on how the planet should be treated. Another idea is to sign or start a petition for climate change and clean energy.
4. Walk and bike. Don’t drive.
Fossil fuels contribute to many environmental problems. Because it can be done on a small scale, encourage your students to use their bodies as a form of green transportation. Plus it’s great exercise!
5. Learn about coral reefs and other worldwide environmental issues.
We can also help the Earth–and help young students help the Earth–by learning about what is happening around the globe, from the deteriorating condition of our oceans’ coral reefs, which can lead to discussions about the warming of our planet, to the destructive and growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which emphasizes the necessity of recycling and limiting our use of plastics.
Celebrate life on Earth, and Earth itself, this Earth Day. If it is important to you, it will be important to the children you reach!
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The lives of women are very different now than they were centuries, even decades, ago. There was a time when women were not allowed to serve in the military. It was unlawful for a woman to vote or own property. Wives were once considered their husband’s property. Because of the work and dedication of strong women, those ideas have changed. Women have more rights than they had just fifty years ago, and women today strive for equality in every part of life. During Women’s History Month we salute the countless women who have furthered women’s rights by making important changes in the ways women live and work.
SIRS Discoverer’s March Spotlight of the Month focuses on Women’s History Month. We have valuable content on women who have contributed to science, government, and human rights. Your students can research about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, meet African-American women who have changed history, read about early female politicians, follow women’s increasing role in the military, and celebrate women’s scientific achievements.
Elizabeth Blackwell–Born in England, she became the first female doctor in America.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton–An early champion of women’s rights, she became a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement.
Frances Perkins–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as Secretary of Labor in 1932 making her the first woman to hold a U.S. Cabinet office.
Grace Hopper–As an admiral in the U.S. Navy and computer scientist, she pioneered “user-friendly” computer software and she also coined the computer term “bug.”
Juliette Gordon Low–She founded the Girl Guides which eventually became the Girl Scouts.
Marie Curie–She performed groundbreaking work in physics and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Sally Ride–Chosen by NASA to be the first American woman in space.
Sandra Day O’Connor–She is a retired judge and the first female U.S. Supreme court justice.
Shirley Chisholm–She was the first African-American woman elected to U.S. Congress.
Student Activity: To learn more about each of these women, have your students answer these questions:
- When was she born?
- What was her education?
- Where did she live most of her life?
- What is she most famous for accomplishing?
- Why is she an important part of history?
- What changes did she make in her field?
How are you celebrating Women’s History Month in your library, media center, or classroom?
Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest.
February is Black History Month! In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week and then in 1976 President Gerald Ford proclaimed February as “Black History Month.” African Americans have played vital roles in shaping the country’s past and present. We encourage you to observe Black History Month in your classroom and media center by teaching about African Americans. On SIRS Discoverer, young researchers can find articles and images on the accomplishments, history, culture, and heritage of African Americans. Here are samples of what they can find:
- John Lewis — A vigorous civil rights worker, he has served as a Congressman from Georgia for more than 30 years. He is now the only organizer of the 1963 March on Washington who is still alive.
- Frederick Douglass — Born into slavery, he was a journalist, public speaker, and well-known antislavery leader.
- Sojourner Truth — Also born into slavery, she was an advocate for the abolitionist movement and women’s rights.
- Ralph Bunche — A diplomat and a mediator working for the United Nations, he was the first African-American to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson — These barrier-breaking African-American athletes defied racist attitudes and became trailblazers in their sports.
- Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison — Award-winning and prolific, these authors wrote about the experiences of African-American women.
- Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, and the Freedom Riders — These children and students played pivotal roles in the civil-rights movement.
How are you celebrating Black History Month in your library or classroom? Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson introduced War on Poverty legislation in his annual State of the Union address. He emphasized improved education as one of the foundations of the program. On August 20, 1964, he signed a $947.5 million antipoverty bill that was intended to help more than 30 million U.S. citizens.
National Poverty in America Awareness Month promotes knowledge and understanding of the realities of poverty in the United States. According to the U. S. Census Bureau in 2015, more than 43 million Americans–13.5 percent of the population–lived in poverty. Reasons are complex and multifaceted and the effects on the nation are immense.
January’s Discoverer Spotlight of the Month explores the issue poverty in the United States. Use this month as an opportunity to examine poverty and perhaps even get involved in local anti-poverty campaigns. Direct your students to featured articles, images and websites to understand the many causes and ramifications of poverty. Dig deeper by researching the devastating Great Depression and the current impact of poverty on youth and families. Explore the Pro/Con Leading Issues: Poverty page as it highlights content for young researchers.
The winter season is here! For many people, the winter season means cold, wind, and snow. Trees may be bare and the ground could be icy. The sun may set sooner, delivering darkness to our late afternoons. Whether you live in a place that’s cold, hot, or somewhere in between, winter means lots of fun holidays and celebrations around the world.
These holidays may be associated with religious beliefs, spiritual customs, past events or cultural practices. This diversity makes each holiday very unique. Just think about all of the ways holidays are celebrated! Traditions may include festivals, lights, singing, decorations, parades, gift-giving, prayer, fairs, fasts or feasts. Each holiday has its own symbols, too, such as red lanterns for Chinese New Year, pine trees for Christmas, menorahs for Hanukkah, ears of corn for Kwanzaa, and Yule logs for the winter solstice.
Wonderful holidays full of light, warmth, family, and love have been created out of these cold, dark days. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the miracle of light with family and communal rituals, including the lighting of a Menorah candle each night for eight nights. Christmas, a Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, is observed with family gatherings, songs, and trees decorated with lights representing the Star of Bethlehem. Some families take part in a Kwanzaa ceremony, which incorporates candles, music, food, and blessings. A beautiful luminary can be part of the Mexican observance of Las Posadas.
Visit SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month and learn more about winter observances and holidays and the many ways that they light and warm our winter months.
Each November, the United States celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month by honoring Native Americans and their diverse cultures, contributions and achievements. Many achievements and influences can be found in art, music, literature, agriculture, spirituality, and medicine. National American Indian Heritage Month has been a significant national celebration since 1990. This yearly commemoration honors Native Americans’ accomplishments and their role in the development of American culture and society, while recognizing the evolution of the Native American experience and emphasizing the importance of preserving Native traditions and heritage. Visit the November SIRS Discoverer Spotlight and join us in commemorating the cultures and recognizing the hardships of Native Americans. Young researchers can read about Crazy Horse as a child; discover the history of the Sioux tribe; explore the wonders of totem poles, and much more.
Other topics to research can include:
It’s #FeatureFriday! Learn about editorial cartoons in the Spotlight On… feature of SIRS Discoverer.
The origins of editorial cartoons date back to the eighteenth century. By the mid-nineteenth century, several magazines such as Punch and Harper’s Weekly were publishing editorial and political cartoons. It was during this time that Thomas Nast, known as the “Father of the American Cartoon,” popularized editorial cartoons with his take-down of corrupt politicians–particularly “Boss” Tweed. Nast is also known for his creation of the Republican Elephant and Democratic Donkey.
Visual Literacy and Common Core Standards
Several forms of literary and visual devices such as exaggeration, personification, symbolism, irony, satire and caricature are often used in editorial cartoons. Because of this, editorial cartoons support dynamic classroom lessons in Visual Literacy. Cartoons invite students to think critically and analyze what they see in the images. Such cartoons also provided an excellent opportunity to evaluate bias and point of view as most cartoonists illustrate their beliefs towards their subjects.
Find Editorial Cartoons on SIRS Discoverer
Editorial and political cartoons are featured throughout SIRS Discoverer on a wide variety of topics. Cartoons are editorially selected from prize-winning and reliable sources. These cartoons can be located through a Subject Heading search and a Subject Tree search. In addition to these searches, a cartoon can be found within the In the News feature (located in the Spotlight On…) where at the beginning of each month, SIRS editors hand-select an editorial cartoon that focuses on a news event. Students are then invited to answer a question based on the featured text and cartoon.
Want to know even more about the editorial cartoons? Patrick Chappatte is the cartoonist who is often featured within SIRS Discoverer. Take a look at his TED Talk where he discusses the power of cartoons.
We are in the midst of Hispanic American Heritage Month! There is so much to know about the Hispanic presence in the United States and its impact on the country’s development and its continued growth. Populations of Hispanic descent have thrived here since 1565, when Spanish explorers founded the Florida city of St. Augustine. That’s 42 years before English explorers arrived in Jamestown. America has always been Hispanic!
While it’s important to delve into the history of the Hispanic American community and meet prominent Hispanic Americans, it is also valuable to learn about from where Hispanic Americans have descended. For example, did you know that the beautiful South American country of Bolivia, ruled by the Inca Empire for centuries, was colonized by Spain in the 1500s? And that the mountainous Central American country of Honduras was once part of the Mayan civilization? Perhaps you can challenge your students to pick a country, research its history and cultures, and present their findings.
Or, direct their research with questions so that they can research for answers! Maybe you want to try a history question like “What Central American country was home to the Olmec civilization thousands of years ago? What other ancient civilizations lived in this country and what impact did they have?” Or a cultural question like “What is a quinceanera? It originates from the Spanish word quince, which means what?”
This information and much more is available on SIRS Discoverer. During the month of October our Spotlight of the Month highlights Hispanic American Heritage Month. Not only can your students learn about the histories and cultures of Hispanic countries, but they can meet Hispanic American authors, poets, politicians, musicians, civil-rights activists, and more. There’s so much to learn about the United States and the amazing people who compose its beautiful diversity.
The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is the first Olympics held in South America.
Let’s take a look at some other Olympic firsts….
1900 Women first competed at the Olympic Games in Paris.
1900 Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera was the first black athlete to compete in the Olympics. He competed for France.
1908 John Taylor, as part of the U.S. relay team in athletics, was the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal.
1912 The Olympics, for the first time, included competitors from all five continents.
1936 The Berlin Olympics were the first games to be televised.
1972 Waldi the dachshund was the first Olympic mascot, appearing at the Munich Olympics.
1984 Professional athletes were first allowed to compete in the Olympics.
2004 The Olympic torch traveled to all five continents for the first time for the Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The Olympics provides several teachable moments for you and your students. This month the SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month focuses on the Olympics. Here you can find articles and images that examine the history of the Olympics as well as editorially selected content for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Learning about other countries and exploring their histories and cultures are integral parts of any K12 research. During the month of July, SIRS Discoverer’s Spotlight of the Month features articles and Web sites on the country of Canada. Our Spotlight of the Month presents information on Canada’s provinces and way of life, but it also highlights Canadian people who have influenced our world.
Several authors used Canadian themes and landscapes into their works. Lucy Maud Montgomery created the popular Anne of Green Gables books. Farley Mowat, best known for his books People of the Deer and Never Cry Wolf, often wrote about the Canadian North. Although her works are primarily aimed at adults, Margaret Atwood makes Canada–primarily Toronto–the setting for many of her books.
Artists and Entertainers
Emily Carr painted Canadian landscapes and was often inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Canadian comedians Michael J. Fox, Mike Meyers, and Jim Carrey all started their careers in Canada. They have achieved fame and success all over the world
Birute Mary Galdikas is a famed primatologist and founder of Orangutan Foundation International.
Canadian scientists Irene Ayako Uchido and Ralph Steinman made great advancements in the field of biology.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec and Lake Champlain is his namesake.
Laura Secord was a woman who warned Canadian troops about an attack during the War of 1812.
Direct your K12 students and young library patrons to ProQuest SIRS Discoverer and explore all that is Canadian! We are pretty sure that you’ll learn something new about this beautiful and diverse country.