Fractals are fun — and they team up perfectly with a study of snow. To do this activity with your students, you first need to explain what a fractal is:
A fractal is a a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation. – From Oxford Dictionaries
You can explain this definition to your students by asking them to look at a nearby body of water on a map. It probably looks pretty smooth. Ask them to imagine what the map of the body of water might look like if you only could measure with a yard stick. The edges would not be so smooth.What about a 12-inch ruler? The smaller the measuring tools, the more jagged the map would look. Since all the sides are the same length, this is a fractal.
Ask your students to draw an equilateral triangle on a piece of paper in pencil. Then ask them to divide each side of the triangle in to three equal parts and erase the middle section. Then ask them to draw two lines that are the same distance as the parts removed to create open triangles in the part that was removed. Ask them to do the same thing again. This is called a Koch snowflake.
Ask students what the shape is starting to look like. When they say it looks like a snowflake, share pictures of different snowflakes. You can use this Java applet to show students without asking them to draw the shapes themselves. Ask students to identify snowflakes as fractals or not so they understand what different fractal snowflakes might look like.
Show students different types of snowflakes and discuss whether they are fractals or not. Ask students whether the snowflakes are radially symmetrical or not and whether you can have a non-fractal be symmetrical. Are all fractals symmetrical?
Try these other fun, nerdy winter themed activities:
- Mystery of Christmas Cookies Science Experiment
- “Disaccharide J Tubes” or Candy Cane Experiment
- Chemistry of Cookies video
- Peanut Brittle Science
- Crystal Christmas Tree
- Microscopic Christmas Tree
- “Lather” printing wrapping paper and activity
- Silvered Ornaments Experiment
- Crystal Windows
Cherokee is one of the few Native American languages with its own writing system. Perhaps in part because of this, Cherokee is also one of the few Native American languages which has a growing — not a shrinking — number of speakers. Studying about the Cherokee writing system can not only help students understand an important part of American history, but also encourage them to think about language more deeply.
Understanding Written Cherokee
English uses an alphabet, with letters representing sounds. Cherokee is written using symbols to represent syllables. For instance, the Cherokee word for “you are going” is written “hega” phonetically in English. We need four symbols (letters) for the four sounds. In Cherokee, the same word is written with just two symbols: ᎮᎦ, one for each syllable.
The Cherokee syllabary was developed by a Cherokee man named Sequoyah, who was a silversmith. He wanted to write his name on his work as the English speaking silversmiths did. He began with logograms, symbols that represent whole words, but Sequoyah quickly decided that it would be impractical to make symbols for all the words he wanted to write. Instead, he started to develop a syllabary. There were first 115 characters but after revision, Sequoyah eliminated some and brought the number down to 85 when the syllabary was published. Another symbol was added shortly after to bring the total to 86.
The syllabary was developed in the beginning of the 19th century, and by 1830, it is said, an astonishing 90% of Cherokee were literate. Though the use of Cherokee and its syllabary decreased during the 20th century, courses are now being taught in Cherokee at the university level and there are efforts to teach the language and its writing system in schools, too.
- Hand out a copy of the Cherokee syllabary to each student accompanied by the worksheet.
- Review the concept of syllables. Compare the Cherokee syllabary and the English alphabet.
- Explain to students the history of the Cherokee syllabary written above.
- Play audio clips for students and have them listen to basic words in Cherokee.
- Using the syllabary, ask students to write out some of the words they hear and fill in the worksheet.
- Find Cherokee words for animals at Native-Languages.org. These have transliterations, or phonetic spelling of Cherokee words with the English alphabet. Have students work to write the words with the Cherokee syllabary.
- Have students choose a color word (from the worksheet) and an animal name and create an illustration of the animal they have imagined. Have them write the animal’s name and color on their illustration.
- Cherokee Language Worksheet
- The Cherokee Language and audio clips for worksheet
- Videos from a Eastern Cherokee speaker
- Cherokee Syllabary
Are your students clear about the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans? Understanding the differences between the two is important because they form the foundations of New England—without the differences between Pilgrims and Puritans, today’s northeastern states wouldn’t look the way they do. In fact, county lines in Massachusetts are drawn from the original border between territories of Pilgrims and Puritans.
Understanding the difference between Pilgrims and Puritans also help us understand other historical events. For instance, there’s the famous Puritan Cotton Mather, who wrote a number of influential books and treatises at the beginning of American history. His religious views impacted his writing and the predominate theories of his time, including views of witchcraft. Without Cotton Mather’s writings, the Salem Witch Trials might have taken a different turn.
The Pilgrims and the Puritans were both religious and political groups. Depending on your curriculum, you may want to go more deeply into these and related issues. If you’re taking advantage of a new slant on Thanksgiving, the background information below may be sufficient.
A good starting point is the lesson plan The Voyage of the Mayflower, which is designed to teach students about Pilgrims. Explain to students that during the 1500s, Henry VIII of England broke from the Roman Catholic Church and created a new church called the Church of England, today often called the Anglican Church. Since the head of the church was the king, everyone in England was required to belong to the Church of England. It was a hard time for Catholics in England, but it was also a hard time for some Protestants. Some groups didn’t believe that the king should be the head of a church and didn’t like the ways in which it resembled the Catholic Church.
One group was called the Separatists, and this group included the people whom we call the Pilgrims today. Under the leadership of William Bradford, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in September 1620 towards Virginia but ended up in Massachusetts and formed Plymouth Colony. Pilgrims believed that anyone could commune with God on their own terms by reading the Bible and they did not want to belong to the Church of England.
Another group was known as Puritans. The Puritans did not want to separate entirely from the Church of England; they wanted to make reforms or changes. King Charles I threatened the Puritans with harsh punishments if they did not conform to the views of the Church of England; therefore, they sought freedom in America. The Puritans received a charter from the Massachusetts Bay Company to settle land in New England. John Winthrop led approximately 1,000 Puritans to America and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colonists wanted to base the colony on the laws of God. They believed that God would protect them if they obeyed his laws. Winthrop wanted to make this colony a model for all other colonies to follow. Like the other colonies, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a government. All men who were church members were able to vote for governor and for representatives to the General Court. The General Court would then make laws for the good of the colony.
Tape large sheets of paper on two different walls. Label one “Puritans” and one “Pilgrims.” Pass out markers of one color and ask students to write as many facts as they can on the two sheets before beginning any research.
Watch this video and have students complete this worksheet. The resources below will help students fully understand the two groups.
Once students have completed the exercise, revisit the sheets of paper. Give out a different color of markers and have students cross out false information and add new information.
- US History Scene: The Puritans V. The Pilgrims
- Context and Developments, University of Virginia
- Full Video of How the States Got Their Shapes, Episode One
- Comparing two speeches, Stanford University
- 6th Grade Lesson Plan with worksheets
- Thanksgiving Day in Leiden KMZ to view in Google Earth
- Quizlet Pilgrims vs. Puritans flashcards
One of the things that changed when the Old World of Europe and Asia met the New World of the Americas was what the people ate. Peppers, corn (though the English used the word for something else before importing our corn to their country), potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, peanuts, pineapple, cranberries, sweet potatoes, vanilla, and zucchini were all New World foods. Old World foods included apples, cucumbers, onions, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, wheat, sugar cane, lettuce, almonds, cinnamon, carrots, and grapes.
Here we share a few of our favorite lesson plans and classroom activities for grasping this important concept.
For the youngest students, prepare a table with a map of the Americas at one end and a map of Europe on the other. If you have projects on the Pilgrims and Native Americans or on explorers, group the projects at either end of the table.
Bring foods or pictures of foods representing both the New and Old Worlds and have students sort them into stacks on the New World and Old World maps. If you use pictures, you can create either an interactive bulletin board or a center once you’ve presented the lesson. Of course, if you bring foods, you’re ready for snack time!
Ask students to think about where tomato sauce might have come from. If they think of Italy, they’re right — except that while the tomato sauce we’re most familiar with was an Italian invention of the 1700s, tomatoes are a New World food. Pizza, which is an Italian invention from the late 18th century, could never have existed without the tomatoes of South America.
Have students choose some favorite foods and use the Food Timeline to identify when and where they originated. Then use one of these options to map the foods, making sure to distinguish between Old World and New World foods:
- Add pictures of the foods to the classroom wall map.
- Use Google Maps to create individual or group maps showing where specific foods originated.
- Have student create reports on their foods, post them on a bulletin board, and use yarn and pushpins to link the reports to their locations on a world map.
The Ngram Viewer is a wonderful tool at Google Books which searches out the frequency of words at time depths from 1500 to 2008. In the screenshot at the top of this post you can see how Old World foods were most popular in books in English at the beginning of this time, how New World foods began to be mentioned in the 1500s, and how they gradually increased in popularity.
The Ngram Viewer is very easy to use. Have students type a term into the search box. By default, the viewer is case sensitive, but you can deselect that as shown above. We can see in this screen that chocolate was being written about shortly after it was taken to Europe by explorers, but that it became much more popular after English speakers began to live in the Americas, with a big jump during the 20th century. Try the same search within the corpus of Spanish (that is, the books in Spanish) and you will see a very different pattern.
The Ngram Viewer is a fun tool to use and it allows students to create charts in moments. Use it to practice the use of charts and to work on technology skills and visual learning.
Have students explore the use of the names of various Old and New World foods and look for patterns. Ask them to think about what they already know about the use of these foods and to conduct research on them. Then ask each student to choose one food to report on or two foods to compare.
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table for most families. This gives us a great opportunity to teach our students about turkeys, both domestic and wild, and to have some fun while we’re at it. This activity is great for younger children.
Thanksgiving Hand Turkey Art Lesson Objectives
- Develop fine motor skills
- Investigate animal facts
- Build color recognition skills
- Explore shape, texture, and pattern
- Distinguish between reality and fiction
- Read a Thanksgiving themed turkey story with your students. We have plenty of recommendations below.
- Show your students pictures of wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys. Discuss with students the difference between the two types of turkeys and the turkeys in the story you read. Students should look at colors, feather texture, size, and patterns on turkeys.
- Ask students to compare the real world turkeys in the pictures to the turkeys in the stories. Discuss with students how the turkeys in the stories behave and how they think real turkeys behave. Compare holiday themes to real-life animals by asking students to talk about turkeys they see for Thanksgiving and turkeys in the books and photos.
- Using paper and coloring supplies, ask students to trace one hand on three sheets of white paper. Then ask them to decorate one hand like a turkey in a story that represents Thanksgiving, one hand like a wild turkey, and one hand like a domestic turkey.
Still excited about turkeys? Check out our Turkey Lesson Plans for more ideas.
When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts and settled Pilmoth, they entered the territory of the indigenous peoples who had lived there for centuries, the Wampanoag. Although their relationship with the Pilgrims wasn’t always amicable, the Wampanoag people taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate three important New World plants: corn, beans, and squash. Learning about the relationship among these different plants can help students understand agriculture and nutrition.
Many Native American tribes used companion planting techniques to raise these three crops together. Although each crop could grow on its own, growing them together provides better results.
Corn needs a lot of nitrogen to grow tall, strong stalks and produce large ears of corn. Often there isn’t enough nitrogen in the soil to provide the necessary nutrients for the plants. Corn also loves the sun and provides shade.
Legumes put a lot of nitrogen into the soil while they’re growing but they need something to grow up on. Often, farmers use bean poles to train beans on to grow.
Squash plants have very deep roots and can access water further down than other plants. With their wide leaves, they shade the ground and prevent sun-loving weeds from growing. Their stalks also have hairy spines that insects avoid. They are designed to protect the plant.
- Show pictures of the different features of the three plants to students and explain the special characteristics of each type of plant.
- Explain what a symbiotic relationship is to students.
- Ask students how they think the plants can benefit one another. Guide students towards ideas of a companionship planting of the three plants.
- Tell students the myth of the three sisters. Explain to students that this is a myth and ask questions about reality and imaginary.
- PBS lesson plan using videos on symbiotic relationships
- Types of symbiosis lesson plan
- Investigative Reporter lesson plan
- Symbiosis in the Ocean
- Symbiosis matching game
- Three Sisters: Comparing Native Americans to Colonists Activity
- The “How” of the Three Sisters: The Origins of Agriculture in MesoAmerica and the Human Niche