December 11, 2009 | Grades 5 & 6 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, 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 talked about 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?
How will a college degree help students break the cycle of poverty?
Have your child think about his or her school experiences, then write about a teacher, subject or opportunity that helped him or her gain confidence in a skill or inspired him or her to tackle something new or unfamiliar. ASK: How would things be different if that hadn't happened?
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, after test flights. 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.
Imagine that a person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth is visiting Jupiter, Mars and the moon. On Jupiter, he weighs 250 pounds. That person's weight is now ______ (2 1/2 times) what it was on Earth. What does this say about the force of gravity on Jupiter compared with Earth? (Jupiter's force of gravity is stronger.)
On Mars, he weighs 38 pounds. Have your child represent the difference as a fraction and a percentage. Is the gravity on Mars stronger or weaker than Earth's? (weaker)
On the Moon, he weighs a mere 17 pounds. Calculate the difference as a fraction and a percentage.
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?
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.
Activity: Imagine that it is the year 2050, and that all of the planet's nonrenewable fuels have been used up. Have your child choose a type of renewable energy and write a proposal promoting it, to include its benefits.
Suggest your child create an energy brochure for his or her renewable choice, that highlights key information, pictures and diagrams.
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.