Diamonds are the state gem in Arkansas, where we live, but students everywhere will enjoy learning more about them. Diamonds are made entirely of carbon — we humans are about 18% carbon ourselves, but diamonds are all carbon. They’re the hardest substance in the world, and they reflect light in a special way (basically, the light bounces around inside the diamond) that makes them super shiny.
How diamonds are formed
- Diamonds began with stardust. As far as we know, pretty much all the carbon in the world came to earth as dust from dying stars. The stardust that ended up deep within the earth was the starting point for diamonds.
- The carbon inside the earth’s layers, between the core and the crust, got cooked and squished — it takes a lot of heat and pressure to create diamonds.
- When magma comes up to the earth during volcanic action, diamonds can come along for the ride. The results is areas where diamonds can be mined, as in the book at the Volcano Lesson Plans link, and also diamonds moved around by erosion.
Have students conduct research on each of these steps and create an infographic showing how diamonds are formed.
Read about Crater of Diamonds State Park, where diamond hunters can keep any diamonds they find — and large diamonds have been found there, including the “Uncle Sam” diamond, which was over 40 carats. Crater of Diamonds is the only active diamond mine in the United States, but it is operated as a tourist attraction; it was found that it could not be operated profitably as a commercial diamond mine. Download the Teachers Guide for reproducibles (reading comprehension passage, maze, and word find).
Plan an imaginary class trip to the park, figure the costs, and determine what sort of diamond the class would have to find to make the trip pay for itself. This project will give practice with online research, math, and problem solving.
Share A Diamond’s Journey , an interactive digital presentation from NBC news, with older students. There they can follow the diamond from the mines in Africa through cutters in India to sales in Europe and the United States. Have students create a chart showing the cost of a diamond and how much of that price goes to the miners, traders, cutters, and dealers.
Compare the Crater of Diamonds park and the commercial diamond mines. Discuss why a diamond mine in the United States might be harder to pay for than a mine in Botswana. Will American workers accept jobs like those of the miners in the Congo or the cutters in India? Would it be legal to pay an American worker $65.oo per month, the wage diamond cutters earn in India, or to have them live in tents at a mine?
The value of diamonds
Gem-quality diamonds are the first ones we think of. Have students explore Blue Nile’s Diamond Education section to learn about diamond shapes and the “4 Cs” of diamond quality: color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.
Don’t miss the chance to work with ratios on the Diamond Shapes page and measurement on the Cut page!
Now learn about diamonds as they are used in jewelry:
- Read about the history of diamond cutting and add the times and places to your class timeline and map.
- Explore a Pinterest board on diamonds which shows many of the most famous examples of diamond jewelry in history.
- Have students design a piece of jewelry for diamonds, being sure to incorporate what they’ve learned about diamond quality and cutting.
Wait — diamonds aren’t just for pretty! Only a small percentage of diamonds are gem quality. Most are industrial quality, but they are still extremely useful. Diamonds have some special characteristics that have nothing to do with their beauty:
- Diamonds are the hardest substance known.
- They do not conduct electricity well (they are semiconductors), but they do conduct heat very well — in fact, diamonds are the best material for thermal conduction.
- They resist water, but accept oil.
Brainstorm with the class situations in which objects with these characteristics might be useful. Share with students (after brainstorming) that diamonds are mostly used for cutting and polishing. However, there are many other uses for diamonds. For example, diamonds are used in micro-electronics to carry heat away from delicate machinery. They are used as bearings (like a ball bearing) in watches, because they are so hard that they produce no friction in this use. They are used as semiconductors in electronics.
If the point has not yet come up in your discussion, point out that diamonds are small and rare. As long as industry needed big pieces, diamonds were not as useful as they might have been. Now that we make very small things for electronics, diamonds are very useful.
99% of the diamonds used in industrial applications are synthetic. See the links below to learn more about making diamonds.
- Nature has video clips and discussion questions about diamonds
- The Mystery of the Hope Diamond includes video clips.
- PBS lesson plan on conflict diamonds.
- Diamonds and Water is an economics lesson on value.
- Toads and Diamonds is a traditional story.
World War I can be confusing to modern students. Here are some lesson plans that help make sense of the events and the experience.
Virtual Field Trip
Visit the new online exhibit of the National World War I Museum.
- Begin with the Interactive Timeline. The events are listed and described, but in a format that encourages additional exploration. Turn students loose to figure out the best way to include these events on your classroom timeline.
- Add these events to your classroom map as well.
- Visit Harmonies of the Homefront and listen to the WWI-era songs there. Five songs are available for listening and there are six more sheet music covers to view. Depending on the grade level of the students, choose a selection of the songs and have students conduct a survey to find out how many people remember these songs. Again depending on the age of your students, they might ask their parents and grandparents, survey friends and neighbors, ask their Facebook or Twitter contacts, arrange to visit a local nursing home to survey the residents, or prepare an online survey with a tool like Survey Monkey. Create graphs and charts to show the results of the survey.
- Visit Man and Machine, an online exhibition with quotations and photos showing the German soldier’s experience. Challenge students to write about the effects of technology on the war, as reflected in these materials.
- Download the Family Guide and print it out for some fun worksheet activities.
- Teachers can also request lesson plans called Lessons of Liberty.
If you’re near Kansas City, be sure to visit the Museum in person!
One of the online exhibitions of the WWI Museum is a collection of Canadian propaganda posters. FirstWorldWar.com has an international collection of posters (plus lots of other resources). Learn NC has American propaganda posters, with interesting commentary on each.
Use these resources to study propaganda posters from World War I. Here are some questions to discuss:
- What did these posters ask people to do? (knit, enlist, give money, grow vegetables, etc.)
- Why were people asked to do these things?
- What emotions did they appeal to?
- Which groups did they reach out to? (women, immigrants, young men, students, etc.)
- Did they show bias against any groups of people?
- What colors did the posters use?
- What styles of art did they use?
- What kinds of lettering did the posters use?
Compare WWI propaganda posters with modern Homeland Security documents. We found the “If You See Something Say Something” campaign, but you may have other examples. Although the United States has been at war during our students’ lifetimes, the American people are not asked to make sacrifices, to enlist, or even to plant vegetables. Have students research or discuss why those requests were made in the past, and why they are not made now. This will help students to understand the way that World War II affected the people “on the home front.”
Challenge students to create a modern propaganda poster, either using the “If You See Something, Say Something” slogan or encouraging people to take some other action.
Those of us who teach Shakespeare can easily be overwhelmed by the — literally — millions of online resources on Shakespeare. You don’t have to spend hours clicking around looking for the best ones, because we already did it for you.
First, the plays:
- The Complete Works: all the words
- No Fear Shakespeare is a parallel translation of Shakespeare into modern English.
Now the background information to help place Shakespeare in time and space:
- Shakespeare Online: a retro site that requires some persistent browsing, but totally worth it
- Shakespeare Research Guide
- An interactive timeline of Shakespeare’s life
- A Shakespeare Google Earth Tour inspired by that timeline, written up as an assignment
- Macbeth: A Google Lit Trip
- A Shakespeare Atlas for Google Earth
Some things people think about Shakespeare:
- Lectures on specific critical questions about various plays, from Oxford
- Shawn and Shakespeare: an interesting collection of personal essays on Shakespeare’s plays, plus reviews of movies.
- The New York Times on Shakespeare
When it comes to video, you can probably find a film of any scene you might want to show in class. Go to YouTube and search for the specific scene, or for conversations between characters (“Othello and Iago” for example) to avoid having to wade through too many options.
We also want to point out a couple of general introductory videos about Shakespeare that should pique students’ interest at the beginning of the study:
This is a wonderful time to be studying Shakespeare!
Jeff Rivera’s books about Yuck Kingdom, Um, Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet and Um, Mommy, I Think I Flushed My Brother Down the Toilet Again paint a picture of what happens when things go down the toilet that can make a fun introduction to the idea of wastewater treatment.
Real and Imaginary
Can people really get flushed down a toilet? Is there really a Yuck Kingdom? Certainky not. But there are things about the stories that ring true: older siblings can love their younger siblings and also find them maddening, kids can try to manipulate parents, and people can band together to stand up to something scary.
Have students list the real and imaginary things in the story.
Then study wastewater treatment and compare the reality with the imaginary Yuck Kingdom:
- Wastewater treatment information from USGS
- interactive water treatment tour
- GBRA interactive tour
- interactive map
Have students look at these interactive resources and identify the things that are the same in all of them and the things that are different. Are there any parts of Yuck Kingdom that are like real sewage treatment?
Have students draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper or poster board. Have them draw a scene from Yuck Kingdom on one side and from a real wastewater treatment plant on the other. Label them “Real” and “Imaginary.”
The book has lots of groups of rhyming words. Have students write the words on word cards and sort them into rhyming groups. Have students find the parts of each group that are the same and the parts that are different. Find the groups where the same sound is spelled in different ways and those where the rhyming sound is spelled in the same way each time.
Some of the groups of rhyming words include made-up words. Find groups of words like these and have students divide the real words from the imaginary ones:
At one point, the young heroine of the story says this about her little brother: “He was a pain, but he was my pain.” Author Jeff Rivera has 12 neices and nephews, so he knows what it’s like to have little brothers and sisters. Ask how many students have younger siblings. Create a list of the things they do that make them a “pain.” Then discuss what’s great about having brothers and sisters.
Some students may not have siblings. Ask whether they have similar experiences with a pet, friend, or relative.
Falisha doesn’t want her mommy to tell her daddy what she has done. She’s able to make things right, and we don’t see her getting in trouble with her dad, or having more than a scolding from her mom. Why do kids get in trouble with their parents? Is it important to make things right when we’ve done something we shouldn’t?
How does Falisha make things right with her brother? How does she make things right with her mother?
Ask students whether they think Falisha and Jesse will get into trouble again in the future. Have them write a story of their own starring themselves and their sibling, pet, or friend.
Find more ideas for studying about families at our Families theme page.
What’s a rain garden? It’s a lowered garden bed planted with deep-rooted plants which will enjoy being watered by the standing water that pools when it rains hard. They can be planted in areas that already form puddles, or rain that collects on a roof or a paved area can be directed toward an area where a new lowered bed will be dug. Rain gardens help with storm water runoff and erosion, while adding to the beauty of a landscape.
Plan one for your school to get a lesson that combines math, art, ecology, and general earth science to create a terrific learning experience. Take it a step further and plant the garden you plan for a fine service learning project!
Creating a rain garden isn’t much more difficult than making a traditional garden.
- Observe During the next rainstorm, have the class watch through a window or step into a sheltered area and see where rainwater pools. Use class cameras to capture the location, or use stakes to mark the locations physically. Be sure to locate your rain garden at least 10 feet away from the building so you don’t get a water-logged building.
- Have students draw maps or use Google Earth to create a map of the school. Mark the locations of potential rain gardens.
- Decide which location will make the best rain garden. If you intend to follow up by planting the garden, invite school officials to join this discussion so you can get permission.
- Is there a depression in the ground already? If not, do the math and determine how large a space to dig. As a rule, your rain garden should be at least 20% as big as the area you hope to drain. So, if rain running off the roof is to be the source of the water for the garden, you’ll need a garden 20% as big as your roof. In fact, a smaller rain garden can help and there’s no such thing as too big a garden, but this step is good real-life math practice.
- Decide which plants to use. Rain gardens usually use native plants. Our local water district provides a PDF guide to native plants appropriate for our region; your local experts can help you identify good choices. You certainly need plants that don’t mind getting their feet wet, and deep roots are best.
- Measure the space. Learn how big the plants you’ve chosen will be, and plot the place and number of plants you’ll need. Draw plants into your garden maps with circles showing the mature size of the plants. More great math opportunities here!
- Contact a local nursery to determine the price of the plants and calculate a budget for your garden.
Actually planting the garden is a wonderful way to follow up.
Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens may be the perfect introduction to classical music for children, and the Maestro Classics edition is specifically intended for that purpose. The CD and the accompanying booklet have lots of background information about Saint-Saens, who was a musical child prodigy. Kids will enjoy hearing about his public performances of Beethoven at age 6.
They’ll also enjoy the Carnival of the Animals, a collection of pieces of music referencing various animals. The links in the list below go to lesson plans and resources for learning more about the animals in question:
- wild donkeys
- the swan
Each selection is quite different from the others, from the lovely cello piece “The Swan,” a popular ballet solo, to the clattering bones of “The Fossils.”
The Carnival was composed in February 1886 for a chamber group of flute, clarinet, two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass. The recording reference here is played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with a glockenspiel instead of a glass harmonica.
The glass harmonic or armonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin. It works by the same principle that lets people play tunes by rubbing their fingers around the edge of a glass. Explore this safely in the classroom with a glass xylophone.
Here are some discussion questions and activities to use with this piece:
- Write up each of the Ogden Nash verses (in the booklet that comes with the recording) and analyze them at the appropriate level for your class, identifying rhymes, memorizing them, or looking up unfamiliar words.
- What makes the lion’s music sound like a lion? What’s elephantine about The Elephant? Challenge students to get specific about the characteristics of each piece that remind them of the animals.
- Listen for specific instruments, such as the cello in The Swan or the piano in Kangaroos.
- Listen and read about Saint-Saens and add events from his life to your classroom timeline.
- Have students learn and sing “Clair de la Lune” with the singalong. Then have them listen for the tune in Kangaroos. They can also hear “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and the can-can in other parts.
- Have students draw the animals as they listen.
- The Boston Philharmonic has a resource guide with masks of the animals and pictures of the instruments as well as some fun activities.
- L.A.’s Music Center has a resource guide with extensive lesson plans.
- SmartBoard lessons
- A coloring book in PDF form from Music Matters Blog