December 11, 2009 | Grades 3 & 4 In This Issue: The Promise Academy; A New Space Plane; Climate Change Conference
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. The three schools and a community organization called the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) are giving kids from this poor neighborhood opportunities that they would not have otherwise. 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. Geoffrey Canada is determined to help kids learn their way out of poverty. In addition to longer school days, smaller class sizes and tutoring services, kids have on-site access to free medical, dental and mental health services. ASK: How might something that's not a class or academic workshop help students succeed?
ASK: Why is the school named the Promise Academy? How will a college degree help students break the cycle of poverty?
RESEARCH: Tell your child that Harlem has a rich cultural history known as the Harlem Renaissance. Have him or her research the period and choose an artist, singer, performer or writer to profile. Have your child explain how this person changed the art world. ASK: How might learning about one of these stars help kids in Harlem today?
Discuss with your child the importance of role models: Geoffrey Canada wants his students to be inspired by his success.ASK: Why is it important for kids to have "models" of success?
Encourage your child to identify one goal that he or she would like to achieve during this school year. Then have him or her promise to try to make it happen.
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. Passengers will experience five minutes of weightlessness during the flight. 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. For now, this animated flight video from Virgin Galactic will have to do.
Share this with your child: Gravity holds us to the surface of the Earth; as such, an object's weight is a measure of the gravitational force acting on it. So, if you visited another world your weight would change because the force of gravity there is different from the force of Earth's gravity.
Visit the Exploratorium's calculator to see how much you or your child would weigh on other planets. ASK: On which planet is the force of gravity strongest? Where is it the weakest? How do you know this?
Have your child research the history of flight—from the Wright Brothers famous first to space travel—then make a timeline. ASK: How did that first flight make space travel possible?
Talking Climate Change
Representatives from more than 190 nations are working together to create an international strategy for fighting global warming. By the end of the week, participants had drawn up a six-page draft that set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by the year 2050. Find news, blogs, climate facts and more at the United Nations Climate Change Conference site.
Discuss with your child the idea of drawing energy from the sun and other sources; be sure to emphasize that these sources are renewable. Then have your child imagine that he or she has discovered a new source of renewable energy. Encourage him or her to be creative—it could be anything from dandelions to people's sneezes. ASK: What about your choice makes it a good source of energy?
Now that your child has come up with a new source, he or she needs to convince lawmakers and environmental officials that it is a good idea. Have him or her write a letter explaining the ways in which it is better than other energy sources.
MAP IT: Have your child locate Copenhagen on a map. ASK: What country is it in? What continent? Then have your child locate China. Note its distance from the U.S. ASK: Why does it matter to the U.S. how China and other distant countries treat the environment?
Create a list of your family's routines, activities, appliances or gadgets that would be included within the water heating and lighting and appliance consumption categories. Brainstorm ways that your family can reduce consumption in these areas.
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.