All posts by Katie Sindt

Social Studies Enrichment #27: “Presidents’ Day”? The Truth Behind the Holiday

In 1879, the United States made Washington’s February 22nd Birthday a federal holiday. Today, the third Monday in February is frequently referred to as “Presidents’ Day.” So which is it? Let’s get to the bottom of what’s official and what’s not.

According to, George Washington was a humble man who did not enjoy flashy celebrations. During his lifetime, Washington didn’t really celebrate his birthday, choosing instead to use the day to respond to letters or attend to matters at Mount Vernon. However, national celebration of his birthday began while he was alive and continued after his death.

The road to what the majority of people in the United States now recognizes as Presidents’ Day is a long and confusing one. After Washington died in 1799, his birthday was informally celebrated across the country. But, it wasn’t until  January 31, 1879, that Washington’s birthday became a federally recognized holiday.

Washington’s birthday is also recognized in another unique fashion. Starting in 1896, it has become a tradition to read Washington’s Farewell Address on February 22nd (the actual day of his birth) in the US Senate by a current member. This tradition reminds us of a man whose patriotic spirit still inspires us to this day, particularly federal workers who uphold what he helped create.

On June 28th, 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”. This law aimed to provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays. The act was also created to provide federal employees with more three-day weekends. Under this new law, Washington’s birthday would be celebrated on the third Monday of February, partially losing the value and identity of the importance of his birthday. Washington’s birthday has not been celebrated on the actual day of his birth since the law took effect in 1971.

Today the nation typically combines Washington’s Birthday with Presidents’ Day, celebrating both days on the third Monday in February. However, Presidents’ Day is not the official name of the holiday. While the name “Presidents’ Day” was proposed for this Monday holiday in 1951, the U.S. government never officially changed the name. In the 1980s, thanks to advertising campaigns for holiday sales, the term became popularized and largely accepted.

The idea behind the name was to create a holiday that did not recognize a specific president, but rather celebrated the office of the presidency. This joint recognition would also celebrate President Lincoln’s February 12th birthday within the same period. Both great men, both important to our country.


Social Studies Enrichment #26: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world in February. Learn about the history of this famous day, and discover some interesting facts!.

The Famous Holiday of Love

A few weeks before February 14th rolls around, what types of commercials do you see on TV more often? If you guessed ones about flowers, rings, and chocolates, you’re exactly right! These are gifts that are commonly given on the holiday that celebrates love: Valentine’s Day.

However, in the beginning, this holiday did not celebrate love. It was actually a Christian feast celebration. In the 14th century, the idea of love became a part of this holiday. It’s widely thought that Valentine’s Day was declared an official holiday in England in the 1500s by King Henry VIII.

Nowadays, it’s a major holiday around the world. People in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe celebrate this holiday of romance and love. Billions of dollars are spent each year on chocolates, cards, and flowers.

Watch the video below to learn more Valentine’s Day facts!


Social Studies Enrichment #25: Winter Solstice

What is the Winter Solstice?

According to the Winter Solstice lasts for just one moment. It occurs exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun. This usually happens around December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere or June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, during the solstice the sun will be at its southernmost point in the sky. The higher in latitude you are, the more you’ll notice that the solstice has the shortest day and longest night of the year.

In ancient cultures around the globe, the winter solstice was marked with ceremonies and celebrations. For example, in the days of the Inca Empire the winter solstice was honored with Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun. It involved a ceremony in which an Inca priest would “tie” the sun to a column stone in a symbolic effort to keep it from escaping.

Halfway around the world, indigenous people in Finland, Sweden, and Norway participated in the Beiwe Festival. On the winter solstice, worshippers honored the goddess Beiwe by sacrificing white female animals and covering their doorposts with butter for Beiwe to eat on her travels.

Want to learn about how some other cultures celebrate the Winter Solstice? Check out this post from! Click on the picture below to access the article.  When you’re done with the article, comment below with how you’d like to celebrate the Winter Solstice, which occurs this year on December 21st!

Social Studies Enrichment #24: Thanksgiving – The Origin of an American Holiday

As a nation, we’re about to celebrate Thanksgiving this week! Ever wonder how Thanksgiving became a national holiday?

In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789, as the first nationwide “Day of Public Thanksgiving”. In the years that followed, however, the holiday often changed days of the week and even months of the year.

In the mid-19th century, author Sarah Josepha Buell Hale began a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the final Thursday of November should be set aside by all states – both North and South – as a day of Thanksgiving.

But this year, it’s the second-to-last Thursday in November.  Why did it change?

The last Thursday of November was the standard for about 80 years. In the 1930s, though, store owners began to complain when Novembers with five Thursdays rolled around. They claimed that celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November in these months didn’t leave enough time for Christmas shopping.

FInally, on December 26th, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress that officially changed Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the 4th Thursday in November.

Above, we mentioned that Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was an author. Just what did she write that you could recite from memory right now?

Click on the film below to find out how Thanksgiving became a national holiday and to find out the answer to that question.

After watching, comment below with the answer and with what you’re most thankful for.



Social Studies Enrichment #23: Do Other Countries Celebrate Halloween?


Halloween is right around the corner and many elementary schools around the United States are planning class parties around this fall holiday.

I wonder – do other countries celebrate Halloween?

What do I do when I wonder something? I head over to Wonderopolis to see if there’s an answer for my wonder.

Click on the Wonderopolis icon above to find out if other countries celebrate Halloween!

In the comments below, post what you learned and what you scored on the quiz!

What else is coming up? The Geography Bee!  Time to practice!

Click on the World Map link to print off a copy of the world map. Label the countries you learned about in the Wonderopolis activity!

Happy Halloween!!


Social Studies Enrichment #22: On This Day In HISTORY!

September 20th: On this day in history, a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan set off on the 1st successful circumnavigation of the earth, proving that yes, it is in fact, round.

The voyage took almost three years and claimed 18 out of the original 270 sailors’ lives along the way, including Magellan himself.

Watch the video below to learn all about this famous voyage and respond in the comments section with the fact that you liked the most.

Social Studies Enrichment #21: Rotterdam’s Picturesque Floating Park Is Built Entirely From Recycled Plastic Waste

Problems with plastic in our oceans are increasing. With an estimated 100,000 marine animals being choked, suffocated, or injured by plastic every year, the danger posed by the trillions of pieces of polymer floating in our oceans is well-known.  Go to this link to read an article about how one city is dealing with that problem in a unique way.

After you’ve read, or listened to, that article, go to this link to find out about “22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It).

In the comments below, please respond with a way YOU can help guard against plastic pollution!