December 11, 2009 | Grades 1 & 2 In This Issue: The Promise Academy; A New Space Plane; Christmas Bird Count
Helping Students Succeed Geoffrey Canada promises parents one thing: that after attending his school, their children will go on to college. Canada runs the Promise Academy Charter Schools in Harlem, which have helped low-achieving students in New York City break a pattern of academic failure. The three schools and a community organization called the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) are giving kids from this poor neighborhood opportunities that kids who are better off may take for granted, including smaller class size and a stable, disciplined environment. In these and other ways, Canada has eliminated the achievement gap between black and white students. The HCZ program has been so successful that President Obama has announced plans to create 20 such neighborhoods across the country. Tell your child that poverty and other factors beyond kids' control sometimes get in the way of a good education. A man named Geoffrey Canada is working to change this. Watch Geoffrey Canada on 60 Minutes.
Talk with your child about his or her class. Together, make a list of a few favorite things about school. Is there anything he or she doesn't like? What is it and why?
Tell your child that Geoffrey Canada promises parents their kids will go to college. Discuss what it means to make a promise. Suggest that he or she come up with one thing to learn or do by the end of the school year. Write down the promise and together brainstorm ways to make it happen.
Compare Communities: Have your child think about ways that he or she might be similar to a child that lives in the city.
A Ticket to Space If you've ever dreamed of going into space, then your rocket has arrived—as long as you have $200,000 to spare. Virgin Galactic has unveiled a commercial spaceship, the first of its kind. The craft, called SpaceShipTwo, seats six and is designed to take passengers on a 2 1/2-hour joy ride beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Some 300 thrill seekers have signed up to be among the first, but they will have to endure a bit of a flight delay; SpaceShipTwo won't officially launch until 2011, after test flights. For now, this animated flight video from Virgin Galactic will have to do.
Share this with your child:Passengers will experience five minutes of weightlessness during the flight.
Tell your child that NASA astronauts spend time training in a pool to prepare for space flight. ASK: How might working underwater prepare them for space?
Visit the Exploratorium's calculator to see how much your child would weigh on other planets. NUMBERS: Have your child figure out how much more or less he or she weighs on each planet compared with Earth. Suggest your child draw the planets with Earth in the middle; then order the planets as such—the "greater than" planets in ascending order to the left, the "less than" planets in descending order to the right.
See images of the Wright Brothers famous first. ASK: Do you see any similarities between the Wright Brothers plane and the ones we fly in today? Use a Venn Diagram to identify the shared features as well as those that are different.
Big Bird Count
The Audubon Society's 110th annual Christmas Bird Count takes off on December 14. Every year, tens of thousands of volunteers join the effort to identify and record the birds in their area. The data gathered by these "citizen scientists" help researchers better understand how birds and their environment are faring, as well as what needs to be done to protect them. Suggest to your child that you join the bird count. Or set up a bird feeder and conduct your own count without leaving home.
Research with your child the kinds of birds that winter in your area. Use the information to make your feeder as inviting as possible.
Set aside 15 minutes at least once a day to watch the birds at your feeder. Have your child record the different visitors. Pick at least three birds to follow closely each day.
After a weekend's worth of research, help your child make a chart identifying the birds that made daily visits to your feeder. If possible, include a photo of each bird, as well as information about its appearance, behavior, frequency of visits and eating habits.
Have your child compare his or her data to the pre-feeder research. ASK: Were there any "surprise" visits by birds that hadn't shown up in your research? Did your child expect to see a particular bird that never showed? Why might scientists want to keep track of the bird population from year to year?
Achoo! Eew! Tired of telling your child to cover his or her mouth during a cough or sneeze—only to be ignored? Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand germs... This CDC photograph of a sneeze might be just the right medicine to cure your child's bad habit.