End of the World

Today, I was asked, for the eleventy-billionth time, if the world is going to end in 2012. I've done all the persuading I can do alone. I need to call in the experts to corroborate my story.

Fortunately, NASA seems to have reached a similar point of exasperation with all the hub-bub over 2012, so they have graciously lent their astro-brilliance to the matter and published "2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won't End?"  This concise article explains clearly why students can relax a little about impending doom.

After reading, visit the "2012 Doomsday Myths Debunked" photo gallery at National Geographic.

Image from National Geographic

Plant Life Cycle Activity Cards

Visit Craft Jr. to get this set of printable, plant life cycle cards. Students can practice putting the pictures in order to reinforce their memory of the life cycle of plants. If you print two sets, kids can turn them over and play memory.
Craft Jr. has eight other plant-life lesson ideas accompanying this printable. Also check out the black-and-white version of the cards, that students can color themselves, and the printable plant-life mini-book and word puzzle.

Images from Craft Jr.



I like Thanksgiving and the idea of stopping to think of what we have to appreciate. While I was shopping this week, I hoped to find some Thanksgiving candies to give with thank you cards. With the way holidays are commercialized, I thought it would be easy to find some little turkey-shaped chocolates. But, everywhere I went it seemed to already be Christmas. I like Christmas too, but put on the brakes. So, in celebration of slowing down a little to be thankful, I've compiled some of my favorite Thanksgiving stories and ideas.

Read Thanksgiving on Thursday from Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House Series and its non-fiction companion book, Pilgrims.
In the illustrated fiction book, Jack and Annie, the series' main characters, take their time-traveling tree house back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621. The kids meet Squanto, Captain Standish and Governor Bradford and help prepare for the first harvest festival. Readers learn about Wamanoag and early colonists' ways of living. Random House, the books publisher, has a Thanksgiving on Thursday teacher's guide that includes a printable Thanksgiving Quilt worksheet. They also have a section of activities that can be used with all of the Magic Tree House fiction books.
Follow-up this story by reading Pilgrims, which rehashes the first Thanksgiving story from a completely non-fiction perspective and includes plenty of illustrations and diagrams of Wampanoag and Colonial clothes and lifestyles.
To find out more about the colonies, visit PBS' interactive history of 1628 in North America.

Then read Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, a biographical picture-book about Sarah Hale who helped Thanksgiving become a national holiday in 1863.
Visit author Laurie Halse Anderson's site for a Thank You, Sarah teacher's guide full of guided reading questions and activity ideas.

Then visit Danielle's Place to get instructions for Story of Thanksgiving turkey,
table-top teepees,
and bunches of other Fall and Thanksgiving ideas.

Craft images from Danielle's Place.


Space: The Final Frontier

I watched a lot of Star Trek as a kid, because it was my dad's favorite show. I found all the futuristic trappings (warp-speed travel, funny-looking but human-like creatures from other galaxies, the virtual reality holodeck, Geordi's vision-granting visor) exciting, but I never thought much about the science behind the fiction.

To learn about where human's have been boldy going, check out this space round-up.
Start by exploring the Evolution of the Solar System pictorial timeline. This beautiful graphic by the Lunar and Planetary Institute gives learners an idea of the way our solar system came to be. Then visit Kids Astronomy's Solar System article to find out more about how scientists think stars and planets form.
Learn the history of space exploration with NASA's PlanetQuest animated timeline depicting major events in the study of other worlds as well as spacey pop-culture milestones like the debut of Star Trek.
Students can play the Astroventure Design a Planet game to understand what qualities an inabitable planet would require. After playing the game, find out about conditions on the other planets in our solar system at Planet X-treme Weather.

Visit NASA's interactive lunar outpost to learn about lunar habitats and equipment that will be necessary for humans to visit and spend time on the moon. Visit the Planet Quest New Worlds Atlas to learn about the 403 planets that have been discovered beyond our galaxy.
Then read NASA's Exoplanet House of Horrors article to learn about some of the terrifyingly uninhabitable planets that have been discovered.

After exploring the varied planets of our universe, learn about the stars that sustain them. Learn about constellations at NASA's Space Place.Then print and fold the star-finder for this month so students can explore the stars on their own. Students can also make film-canister constellation viewers by poking these constellation patterns through one end of the plastic containers.
Teach students the fate of the universe's largest stars with HubbleSite's Black Holes video.
Then let students travel through space to one of Earth's nearest black holes. This interactive voyage gives learners a sense of how vast the distances between objects are in space.

Also check out Crayola's moon phase foldable.

Images from Lunar and Planetary Institute, PlanetQuest, Astroventure, NASA, NASA's Space Place, and HubbleSite.