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Monday Morning Ready02.28.2020
Jumpstart Your Week!

Every four years, February 29 appears on the calendar like a distant relative dropping in for a visit: it's regular enough to be expected, but just infrequently enough that it's often a surprise. However, leap days play an important role in keeping our calendars on track, and it's all thanks to Julius Caesar.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

What do you plan to do on Leap Day this year?

Grade 5-6

Do you think adding an extra day to the calendar was the best solution for keeping the Julian Calendar on track? Why or why not?

Grade 7-8

Did you realize that figuring out how to make the calendar accurate was so complicated? What surprised you most about the idea to add a leap day?

Grade 9-10

If you had the power to get everyone in the world to focus on one global issue on Leap Day, what would it be? Why? And what would you have people do about the issue on that day to bring about a positive and lasting change?

LESSON PLAN
Write a Letter to Yourself on Leap Day

PROCESS:

  1. Remind students that Leap Day only comes once every four years. As a class, identify some of the biggest changes that have taken place in the world over the past four years.
  2. Then point out that each student in the room has changed, too. This is inevitable because they can't stop growing and they can't stop experiencing life. Every time they go somewhere or learn something new, they change. Sometimes the change is good-sometimes it could be better. But each change has an impact on their lives.
  3. Encourage students to think about what they were like four years ago. Where did they live? What were their favorite things? What did they like to do? Is there one thing they wish they could go back and change? Or have they overcome something and wish they could go back and tell their younger selves that everything will be OK?
  4. For older students, encourage them to think about what their lives will be like four years into the future. Where do they want to be? What do they need to do to get there?
  5. As a class, review how to write a friendly letter. Make sure students know how to incorporate the six parts: heading, greeting, body, closing, signature and postscript.
  6. Encourage students to think about what they'd most like to say to their younger or future selves. Then give them time to write a friendly letter. Instruct students to be honest and stay focused as they write their letters.

ASSESSMENT:

Writing letters of this sort is a very personal experience. Because of that, students should not be required to share their letters with the class. Instead, guide students as they discuss what they learned from the experience, both about writing personal letters andif they wish to shareabout themselves.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Have each student compose a brief letter to their past self. As they write, encourage them to pay particular attention to grammar and composition in their letters.
Grades 5-6:
Have each student compose a brief letter to their past self. As they write, encourage students to focus on something they're good at. Tell them to give advice to their younger selves about how they got to be good at this particular thing and what they could do to be even better.
Grades 7-8:
Have each student write a letter to their future self. Point out that in four years they will be in high school. Encourage students to delve into their hopes and dreams, fears and expectations for their high school experience.
Grades 9-10:
Have each student write two letters: one to their past self and one to themselves in the future. In the letter to their past self, encourage students to focus on a problem they've overcome and advice they would give to their younger selves to make the experience go more smoothly. In the letters to their future selves, point out that in four years they will have already graduated from high school. Encourage students to write about where they want to be and what they want to be doing at this important time in their lives.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
The Science of Leap Year
Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of leap year, but the reasoning behind it is a little complicated. Discover the science behind this extra day on the calendar with this article from the National Air & Space Museum.

Time for a Change
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to find out why one Johns Hopkins University professor of physics and astronomy insists that the most widely used calendar in the world—instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582—needs to go.

Leaping Frogs on Leap Day
In honor of Leap Day, read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn a bit about how frogs leap.

Excelsior! Super Superheroes
Like mythological Greek gods of old, superheroes captivate the imaginations of people of all ages. And it all started with Superman, whose fictional birthday—according to some accounts—happens to be February 29, 1938. Explore this site to see items in the Smithsonian’s collections related to superheroes, including comic books, original comic art, movie and television costumes and props and memorabilia.

Magic in Your Mailbox: Learning from Letters and Other Mail
Today, most people communicate with each other through email or online apps. But that wasn’t always the case. Not so long ago, letters ruled the day. Use these lesson plans, presented by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, to teach students how to evaluate and analyze letters, as well as write their own.

What Makes a Letter? Not Necessarily Paper
When most people think of a letter, they picture handwriting on a piece of paper. But according to experts, a “letter” can take many forms: voicemails, emails, audio recordings and even a carved coconut. Read this Smithsonian Insider article to learn more.
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