Activities & Lesson Plans - 3rd & 4th Grade Newsletter 1/15/10 - Cars Of 2010 And Beyond

Grade: 3rd-4th

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January 15, 2010 | Grades 3 & 4

In This Issue: An Elephant Dictionary; Cars of the Future

ElephantMy, What Big Ears They Have

You may have heard of elephants that can paint, but have you heard that they can talk? A scientist working in Central Africa for nearly 20 years spends long days observing forest elephants—counting their numbers, monitoring their health and listening to what they have to say. Researchers at Cornell University's Elephant Listening Project are using this information to create an elephant dictionary. Most of what they say cannot be heard by humans, as the pitch is too low. Among other things, the dictionary will help conservationists monitor and protect the population of this threatened species. 

Watch an artistic elephant

Activity Ideas
Language Arts
Over the period of a week or so, have your child write down a few unfamiliar words per day. If possible, suggest that your child include a note or two about the speaker's body language, tone of voice, or if it's a book, the context in which the word was used.      

Help your child create a dictionary to include words that he or she doesn't understand.
  • Arrange the words into alphabetical order. 
  • Then, based on body language or context, choose the definition that most closely matches the the way the word was used.


Imagine that you are a scientist trying to understand an animal's language. Take time to observe an animal in your environment, whether it's the family dog or the squirrel that tosses acorns at you from a tree in the front yard.  

  • Make a list of several routine noises, actions or behaviors that you see. Then, based on what you observe, come up with a phrase or meaning for each one.  

Example - Oxford Dictionary of Squirrels

Action: Tosses acorns at people below

Translation: Stay away from me and my tree.

Action: Stands motionless upon seeing you

Translation: Nothing to see here; I am a garden sculpture.

Action: Stands motionless but continues to take bites of an acorn in its paws

Translation: I see you but I'm busy stocking up for the winter!


Game: Word Play

Learning Tips: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Atlas and Encyclopedia

Prius 2010A Smaller, Cleaner, Greener Drive

The recession and rising fuel costs are driving the latest trends in the auto world. Hybrid, electric and fuel-efficient cars replaced the gas-guzzling giants of old at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. The new models, including the Tango—a slim electric car where the passenger rides behind the driver—and Toyota's tiny FT-TV (Future Toyota electric vehicle) are quite a departure for Americans who are accustomed to ruling the road. 

 See photos from the show

Activity Ideas
Math - Miles Per Gallon
A VW Jetta has a gas tank that holds about 12 gallons. 
The Jetta gets a reported 21 miles per gallon (mpg) with stop-and-go driving in the city; 31 mpg on the highway.

  • If the current price of gas is $3 a gallon, how much will it cost to fill up the tank? $36 (12 gallons x $3/gallon)
  • Imagine that a Jetta owner in Los Angeles drives to and from work in city traffic, traveling 60 miles a day. How many miles will he travel during a typical work week? 300 miles (60 miles/day x 5 days/week)
  • How far can he travel on one tank of gas? 252 miles (21 mpg x 12 gallons)
  • Assuming that he starts the week with a full tank, how many days can he travel before getting gas? 4 days (252 miles ÷ 60 miles/day = 4.2)
A Toyota Prius has a gas tank that holds about 12 gallons
The Prius gets a reported 51 mpg in the city; 48 mpg on the highway.
  • At $3 a gallon, how much money will a Prius driver spend to fill up the tank? $36 (same equation as above)
  • Imagine that the Prius driver has the exact same commute as the Jetta driver, above. How far can Mr. Prius travel on one tank of gas? 612 miles (51 mpg x 12 gallons) 
  • Knowing he drives 300 miles in a typical work week, how many days can Mr. Prius travel before getting gas? 10 days (612 miles ÷ 60 miles/day = 10.2)

Game: Action Fraction


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