Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Orangutan in Argentina Wins Court Case! Using the news as a Bell Ringer

I remember a few months ago, a black macaque swiped a camera and took a very cute selfie. A court case questioned the owner of the photograph. Was it the macaque's or the photographer that owned the camera. It was determined that being non-human, the monkey had no rights to "ownership". What do you think of this new court ruling? Should primates have any rights?

 Perhaps, you may find this news story of interest to use in your classroom:

What makes a court in Argentina determining that Sandra has rights newsworthy is that Sandra is... an orangutan.
Until this ruling, animals were declared things. The historic court decision states that  twenty-eight year old Sandra is a non-human person and thus, has basic rights. In this case, Sandra has been living  at the Buenos Aries' Zoo for twenty years. The Argentina's Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights said in their petition, that Sandra has been denied her basic rights to freedom. If the court ruling stands and is not appealed, Sandra's right to freedom will mean, she will be moving to a sanctuary to spend the rest of her days.
It is thought that such a non-human person ruling would only apply to primates as they have much of the genetic codes with humans.

1. Should animals have rights?
2. If you were the judge, how would you have ruled?
3. What other rights might primates have?
4. Pretend you are representing the Buenos Aries' Zoo. Why should a primate such as an orangutan be considered a thing and not a non-human person.

Learn about orangutans:
The word orangutan means "man of the forest".
Orangutans are native to the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo .
Did you know an orangutan can have an arm span of almost 8 feet?
The orangutan does not have a tail.
Orangutans are both meat and plant eaters. They are called omnivores.
Orangutans are APES not monkeys.
No larger animal lives in trees. Some can nest about 100 ft. up in a tree!
Orangutans given Ipads seem to enjoy using them.
Orangutan have the same number of teeth as humans...32.
Orangutan have opposible thumbs.(They can touch their other fingers with their thumbs)
Very intelligent, orangutans will use sticks to catch insects and to determine the depth of water. They also make "sponges" from chewed up leaves.

Extension Activities:
Draw/ color a picture of an orangutan. Write 3 facts learned about orangutans.
Pretend you are Sandra and tell about a day in your life at the Buenos Aries' Zoo.
Do an interview with one student being the reporter and the other student being the lawyer arguing Sandra's cause to be classified as a non-human person and not a thing.
Check the status of orangutans in the United States, England, Canada and Australia.

Photograph of Sandra from

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy 2015!


Bonne annee(French)

Frohes neues Jahr(Germany)

Felice anno nuovo(Italian)

Gott nytt ar(Swedish)

Feliz ano nuevo(Spanish)

Shana tova(Hebrew)

Hauoli makahiki hou(Hawaiian)

Gelukkig nieuwjaar(Dutch)

Did you know that there are 24 different time zones? That means people around the world celebrate New Year’s Eve at different times. When the fireworks are going off in Australia, it’s still morning in New York! 

There are  lots of different customs done by people to celebrate the New Year. There are also several different types of New Year’s celebrations.  Get your noise makers and let’s learn about how people  around the world celebrate the New Year!

Fun Facts about New Year’s Celebrations:
In Russia, divers place a New Year’s tree into Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake. 

Did you know that in Denmark on New Year’s Eve, people like to throw old broken dishes at the front door of friends?

Did you know that eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight  is considered good luck in Spain?

Hogmanay is a custom celebrated in Scotland at New Year’s. The word means “last day of the year”. One of the activities is “first footing”, being the first person to visit a neighbor or friend in the new year. Usually, a gift is brought, too.


1. New Year’s has been celebrated for over 4000 years. It began with which ancient culture?_________________They celebrated the beginning of the new year with the first new moon , after the vernal equinox occurred. Their celebration lasted 11 days! In which month did New Year’s take place?_____________What important event always took placed during this time?_______________________Find the answers at this link:

2. On the Jewish calendar, September welcomes the new year. What is the name for this religious celebration?_________________ What does this phrase mean?____________________ What is a shofar?______________________What are two things which  Jewish people often do at this time of year?____________________What is the name for the bread often eaten at this time of year and what is often spread on this bread?______________Find the answers at this link:

3. The celebrating of the new year on January 1st began with which ancient culture?__________________For whom is the month of January named?__________________Why did he have two faces?_________________________For a time, ___________was used as the beginning of the year as was ____________In which year, did Pope Gregory X111 return the calendar to January 1, as New Year’s Day?_________________Find the answers at this link:

Learn about the history of New Year's with my complete resource. There are nine questions, lots of interesting customs of how people celebrate New Year's around the world, comprehension questions, extension activities and the key. Great activity for reading for information and research/computer skills.Included are also other holiday New Year's celebrations including Diwali, Chinese New Year, Songkran and Rosh Hashanah. The resources also mentions how April Fool's Day originated over when to celebrate New Year's!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oldest Time Capsule in USA Discovered! Using the News as a Bell Ringer Activity

While fixing a leak, workers made an amazing discovery. What is being called the oldest time capsule, found in the United States,has been unearthed under the Golden Dome, at the Massachusetts State House. The 219 year old capsule, originally made of cowhide,was actually buried by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, back in 1795! It was actually found in the cornerstone of the building, back in 1855. At that time, it was revealed that the capsule contained papers, a Raul Revere plate and coins dating back to the 1600s.After adding some additional artifacts, the capsule was reburied, this time inside a copper box. The historic capsule,now covered with white plaster and having turned green, will first  be X-rayed, before opening it.  It hasn't yet been determined what will be done with the time capsule.

What do you think?
1. Do you think the time capsule should be reburied after it has been reviewed or should it go on display  in a museum? Give a reason for your opinion.
2. If you could add 3 items to the capsule to show events of our current world, what would you place inside?Give a reason for your selected items.
3. Why do you think the time capsule will be x-rayed before opening it?


Photogrtaph of the conservator for the Boston's Museum of Fine Arts holding the time capsule is from

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reindeer Cops-In the News Bell Ringer/Extension Activities

Seems Santa isn't the only one that relies on reindeer to get things done.Police in Siberia are thinking of a new way to fight crime...using reindeer!
Seems that snowmobiles are no match for chasing crooks in the deep snow and reindeer may be the answer. Reindeer have the ability to see in the dark. Reindeer eyes seen the sun's UV rays reflecting off the snow. Reindeer also have great hooves that cut into ice. Their hooves act like shoeshoes,spreading out as they move! And, they never run out of gas or break down like snowmobiles do.  Police are finding that law-breakers using carts pulled by reindeer are getting away from them! A four-legged police transport may be the answer!

Extension Activity:
* Pretend you are a reindeer cop and tell about a day in your life.  What's going on? What do you do?Etc.
* Discuss persuasive writing. Write a paragraph trying to convince someone that using reindeer in law enforcement in such a snowy region would be a good idea.
* Write a persuasive paragraph expressing why you would oppose the idea of using reindeer in law enforcement.
* Read the story,"How the Reindeer Got Their Antlers", by Geraldine McCaughrean 
* Learn about Siberia:  Have groups of students find 5 interesting facts about Siberia and share their findings with the class. Have students draw/color a picture of a reindeer. Write FIVE facts you learned about Siberia

Fun Reindeer Facts:
Reindeer are known as caribou, wild reindeer and reindeer.
Male and female reindeer have antlers!
With a great sense of smell, a reindeer can find lichen to munch on, 2 ft. beneath the snow. The favorite lichen is called "reindeer moss".bg
Reindeer are very good swimmers!
A Reindeer can run at speeds of up to 40 mph.
The sound a reindeer makes is a bellow.
Like fingerprints, a reindeer's antlers are unique.No two are alike!

Photograph from

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holiday Writing Prompt: A "Day in the Life of a Christmas Tree"

Holiday Writing Prompt: A Day in the Life of a Christmas Tree.

Have kids draw/color a picture of a Christmas Tree. Exchange drawings with other students to write descriptive words on the back of the drawing.Encourage students to write descriptive phrases and not just one word. 
Using the comments, have the students write a "Day in the Life of a Christmas Tree".In the first person, the "Christmas tree" tells what it hears, sees, feels, etc. as it stands in the room. It might overhear conversations, it might be ticklish as it is being decorated, it might be sad to have been cut down, etc. Encourage the students to use some of the descriptive phrases in their writing.
You could open this up to other holiday things such as an ornament, a menorah, the Kinara(candle holder )for Kwanzaa, a stocking hanging on a chimney mantle,etc.
Gail Hennessey
Check out my resources at my Pinterest page: website for teachers/kids