Category Archives: Social Studies Enrichment

Social Studies Enrichment #31: Jack-O’-Lanterns! Did you know the tradition came from Ireland?

I’ll bet many of you out there carved into a pumpkin this week!  I just learned today that the tradition of carving Jack-O’-Lanterns comes from Ireland! (Should’ve guessed that – O’-Lantern!)

Did you know that they didn’t use pumpkins? When the tradition first originated, in the 1400s, they used turnips or potatoes!

The name jack-o’-lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack.

According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

Did you carve a jack-o’-lantern this year? If you did, share a picture of it in the comments section!

Source: https://www.history.com/news/history-of-the-jack-o-lantern-irish-origins

 

 

Social Studies Enrichment #30: Fifty Stars!

We’ve all heard the legend of Betsy Ross. But, who created and designed our current American flag?

Believe it or not, the designer was a 17-year-old boy from Lancaster, Ohio, who did it for a school assignment!

Yep, the year was 1958, and at that time, there were only 48 states. Robert G. Heft was riding the bus home from school one day that year. He was thinking about the assignment his history teacher, Mr. Pratt, had given the class—a project that demonstrated their interest in history. Something visual. Something original. By Monday.

As Robert rode through downtown Lancaster, he saw the flag on top of Lancaster city hall. “That’s what convinced me,” he said. “I would design a new flag.”

Robert was interested in politics. He knew that Alaska was likely to soon become the 49th state. “But I knew that Alaska was heavily Democrat,” he says. “The Senate would have to approve the addition, and it was dominated by Republicans at the time. Everyone was saying that they would be adding another state to balance it out.” He had a hunch that then-Republican Hawaii would soon become the 50th state.

At home that night he sketched out a grid for 50 stars. “I couldn’t just throw them in anywhere.” So he came up with a design. Five rows of six stars with four alternating rows of five stars. He even went so far as to sew a flag with the new design!

You would think he earned an “A”!  “Not on your life,” he said. “My teacher, Mr. Pratt, was a taskmaster. He looked at what I’d done and said it wasn’t the real flag. Not with 50 stars. I explained my reasoning, and he still just barely gave me a passing grade, so for the first time I really spoke out. I told him I deserved better. I had a friend who’d done a collage of leaves and got an A. What I’d done showed a lot more imagination. Mr. Pratt looked at me coolly and declared, ‘If you don’t like the grade, go get the flag accepted in Washington!'”

And that’s exactly what Robert Heft set out to do. He biked over to the home of his congressman, Walter Moeller, knocked on the door, gave him the flag and explained what it was for.

“I asked him if he would take my flag to Washington, and if there were ever a contest to determine the design for a 50-star flag, would he present mine? He was so bowled over that he agreed, probably just to get rid of me.”

Two years went by. In January 1959 President Eisenhower signed a proclamation announcing the admission of Alaska as the 49th state. As with all new states, the star would be added on the following July 4th.

That 49-star flag—seven rows of seven stars—was almost immediately obsolete. Because in August 1959, just as Robert had expected, Hawaii became the 50th state.

He’d already graduated from high school by then, the woeful grade still in Mr. Pratt’s book. Robert was working as a draftsman for an industrial firm and going to college at night. Whatever happened to my flag design? he wondered.

He’d heard that thousands of new designs had been submitted. A special commission of congressmen was screening them and choosing five for submission to President Eisenhower.

In early June, Congressman Moeller called Robert and said,  “Son, I’m proud to tell you that President Eisenhower has selected your design for our nation’s new flag. Congratulations.”

Robert flew to Washington to see his flag flown over the Capitol for the first time. Thousands of others had submitted the same design, but Robert Heft’s had been the first. Moreover it wasn’t just a sketch. It was an actual flag. That was a big plus.

What did his high school teacher, Mr. Pratt, think? “The day I returned from Washington, Mr. Pratt changed my grade. But you know,” Robert mused, “if I hadn’t gotten that bad grade in the first place I wouldn’t have given the flag to Congressman Moeller. And if I hadn’t done that, I never would have gone to Washington….”

For more than 40 years, longer than any other, his design has been the one we know. “But I’ve got a good design for fifty-one,” he said, “in case we add another.”

It’s good to be reminded that Old Glory is a work-in-progress. Always has been, I guess. From the 13 original Stars and Stripes to the star-spangled banner of today, long may it wave.

Your task: There has long been talk of adding another state – Puerto Rico.

Draw a design for an American flag that would include Puerto Rico with 51 stars.

Take a picture of your design and email it, or turn it into your EY teacher.

Source: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/positive-living/inspired-to-create-a-grand-new-flag

 

Social Studies Enrichment #29: The NEW Seven Wonders of the World

NEW Wonders of the World? Does that mean they were built in the last few years? NO! It just means they’re different from the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. The new Wonders could be anything built before the year 2000!

So, what ARE the NEW Wonders of the World? WONDEROPOLIS knows!

Read the article (click on the Wonderopolis link above) and then test your knowledge by taking Wonderopolis’s quiz – report your score down below in the comments section, along with the most interesting thing you learned from the article!

 

Social Studies Enrichment #28: School Now vs. School in the 1800s

Source:  http://mentalfloss.com/article/58705/11-ways-school-was-different-1800s

Summer break is coming up for most students in the United States, but did you ever wonder what summer break looked like for kids in the 1800s?  There are so many differences between school now and school in the 1800s! This blog post will explore those differences, and it may just convince you how much tougher it could be – and just how good you’ve got it!

  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, one room schoolhouses were the norm in rural areas. A single teacher taught grades one through eight together. The youngest students—called Abecedarians, because they would learn their ABCs—sat in the front, while the oldest sat in the back. The room was heated by a single wood stove.
  • Most of the time, there was no transportation to get to school. Most schoolhouses were built to serve students living within 4 or 5 miles, which was considered close enough for them to walk. So when your Grandpa says, “I used to walk 5 miles to school”, he might not be exaggerating.
  • The school year was much shorter back then! When the Department of Education first began gathering data on the subject in the 1869-70 school year, students attended school for about 132 days (the standard school year these days is 180) depending on when they were needed to help their families harvest crops. Attendance was just 59 percent. School days typically started at 9am and wrapped up at 2pm or 4pm, depending on the area; there was one hour for recess and lunch, which was called“nooning.”
  • Forget iPads and gel pens—there were no fancy school supplies in the 19th and early-20th centuries. Students made do with just a slate and some chalk.
  • Lessons were quite different than they are today. Teachers taught subjects including reading, writing, arithmetic, history, grammar, rhetoric, and geography. Students would memorize their lessons, and the teacher would bring them to the front of the room as a class to recite what they’d learned—so the teacher could correct them on things like pronunciation on the spot—while the other students continued to work behind them.
  • Teachers sometimes lived with their students’ families. According to Michael Day at the Country School Association of America, this practice was called “boarding round,” and it often involved the teacher moving from one students’ house to the next as often as every week. One Wisconsin teacher wrote of boarding with families in 1851, “I found it very unpleasant, especially during the winter and spring terms, for one week I would board where I would have a comfortable room; the next week my room would be so open that the snow would blow in, and sometimes I would find it on my bed, and also in it. A part of the places where I boarded I had flannel sheets to sleep in; and the others cotton. But the most unpleasant part was being obliged to walk through the snow and water. I suffered much from colds and a cough.”
  • Discipline was very strict. Sure, stepping out of line in the 1800s and early 1900s could result in detention, suspension, or expulsion, but it could also result in a lashing. According to a document outlining student and teacher rules created by the Board of Education in Franklin, Ohio, from 1883, “Pupils may be detained at any recess or not exceeding fifteen minutes after the hour for closing the afternoon session, when the teacher deems such detention necessary, for the commitment of lessons or for the enforcement of discipline. … Whenever it shall become necessary for teachers to resort to corporal punishment, the same shall not be inflicted upon head or hands of the pupil.” Not all places had such a rule, though; in other areas, teachers could use a ruler or pointer to lash a student’s knuckles or palms. Other punishments included holding a heavy book for more than an hour and writing “I will not…” do a certain activity on the blackboard 100 times.
  • No lunch was provided by the school, even if families had the money for it; kids brought their lunches to school in metal pails. Every student drank water from a bucket filled by the older boys using the same tin cup.  GROSS!!
  • For many, education ended after just eighth grade; in order to graduate, students would have to pass a final exam. You can see a sample of a typical 8th grade exam in Nebraska circa 1895 in this PDF. It includes questions like “Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications,” “A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?,” and “What are elementary sounds? How classified?”

Try the test yourself and let us know how you did in the comments!

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 mountvernon.org, 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.

Source: mountvernon.org

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 Dictionary.com 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 History.com! 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.