Leap Year was established in Rome by Julius Caesar in 46 BC after Cleopatra introduced him to Egypt's more accurate calendar. To learn more about this Leap Day love story and the history of Leap Year, read the National Geographic News article, "Leap Year: How the World Makes Up for Lost Time." Scholastic has a shorter, slightly simpler article about the day that would work for younger students.
Then find out how Leap Day has been celebrated in different places throughout its history. One tradition holds that Leap Day is an occasion for ladies to propose to men, as shown in this century-old Leap Year postcard.
In 1904, the New York Times reported a Leap Year Dance in which the women wore linen collars while men carried bouquets and other feminine accessories.
In 1988, the little Texas/New Mexico border town, Anthony, declared itself to be the the Leap Year Capital of the World and began holding their Worldwide Leap Year Festival, a quadrennial Leap Year birthday celebration.
Teacher's Guide and Resource Book. The guide includes a kid-friendly summary of the story as well as lots of information and activities related to the opera in which a boy born on February 29 must wait until his 21st birthday (which won't occur until he's in his eighties) to be set free from his apprenticeship as a pirate.
After studying the history of the day, tie in math skills as well with Scholastic's Leap Year Math Quiz. It's also a great day for practicing skip-counting by fours. Play Cat Man Math Blues for a fun variation on the usual recitation. Just scroll down the page to the Skip by Fours section. I found this fun song by way of Mrs. Woody's Wonders, where you can find lots of other Leap Day links.