Start February off with a bang by being prepared to celebrate all of the special days that occur doing the month: Groundhog Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, St. Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, and the Chinese New Year. Make this month special by trying a few of the following classroom activities.
The celebration of Groundhog Day first begin in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. This time-honored tradition continues in schools across the nation. Groundhog Day is the perfect time to study the science of shadows. Have students partner up, hand out flashlights, pencils and paper, shut off the lights, and challenge students to create shadows with their hands. Students can even create a shadow puppet show to share with the class.
Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday
Abraham Lincoln is one of the most respected and admired presidents of the United States. On February 12, honor and celebrate our 16th president by having students participate in any or all of the classroom activities below.
- Read the story “Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln,” written by Doreen Rappaport (it’s an overview of Lincoln's life, for ages 8 and up). Discuss with students how he grew up in Kentucky and moved to Indiana. Talk about his marriage and his run as President of the United States. Then have students explore these important dates by creating a timeline of the important events in his life.
- Read the story "Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln" by Jean Fritz. Then discuss his famous Gettysburg address and the impact it had on the world. Next, ask students to think how they would run the nation if they were president. Challenge students to write their own speech addressing the nation just as President Lincoln did.
- Abraham Lincoln was known for his famous quotes, like "May our children and our children's children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers." Have students try and come up with a famous quote of their own.
St. Valentine’s Day, the holiday that celebrates love, is the perfect time to teach children how to be kind and accepting of others. Have students write a note of kindness to each other, pay it forward by handing out cards and food to those in need, or create friendship bracelets to show classmates kindness and acceptance of one another.
Explore the contributions of America’s most honored presidents by having students partake in the following activities.
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- Tour of the White House – Take a virtual field trip of the White House by going online to Whitehouse.gov. Students can explore every room and research specific information about each room in the White House. Encourage students to choose their favorite room and house and write a brief essay about the room as well as which President was their favorite and why.
- Presidential Scavenger Hunt – Assign groups of students a president to research and have them go on a virtual scavenger hunt to find out as much information as they can about their president. Scavenger hunt items may include the president’s birth year, date of death, political party, birthplace, family members, and so on.
- Who’s Who? – Divide students into two teams. Write a few facts about any of the presidents that you have studied, along with the names of the presidents in a word bank. The goal is for each group to determine who said what the fastest. For example, “I was a peanut farmer from Georgia” would be Jimmy Carter.
Chinese New Year
Celebrate Chinese New Year with your students by having them partake in traditional customs. Here are a few fun ideas.
- One tradition is out with the old and in with the new. Have students clean the classroom to get rid of the old, and get it ready for the new by organizing it and making it clean.
- Wear red! Another tradition is the color red. Have students decorate the classroom in red, wear red to school, and bring in red-colored treats like Swedish fish, strawberries, and apples.
- Have a class birthday party. During the Chinese New Year, it is tradition that everyone turns a year older even if it’s not their birthday. Have students refer to the Chinese Chart to look up their birth animal, then create a birthday card for a classmate using their animal.
February is a month to honor, love, and celebrate a new year. It is a time to get excited for spring and what lies ahead. Take this month to celebrate these important holidays and events in your classroom.
How do you celebrate these February holidays and events in your classroom? Do you have any activities or ideas that you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below, we would love to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.