Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's Special About This Week--March 30- April 3

March 30--No Homework Day I will pass the word on to your teachers but I can't guarantee that they will be willing to celebrate with you. There are lots of good discussions waiting here. Do you think that homework is useful to your learning? What is or should be the purpose of homework? Is homework ever harmful to your learning? There are huge educational debates about this. I would love to know what students and parents and teachers think on this one.

March 30, 1964--First Jeopardy show on Television My family and I have long been fans of this classic game show for the truly brainy so I should not have been surprised when my daughter Jaya, an Emerson alumnus, got a chance to appear on the show a few years ago. She did not win big money but she surely did us all proud. You can learn a little more about the game show by going to the official Jeopardy website but you will learn more by watching the show and playing along.

March 31, 1889--The Eiffel Tower completed On March 31, 1889, Gustav Eiffel proudly walked up the 1,710 steps to the top of the tower he had designed for the Universal Exhibition of 1889. There he placed the French flag on what would be the world's tallest structure until 1929 when the Chrysler Building in New York City opened. The Eiffel Tower was a part of the celebration of the centenary of the French Revolution and the main attraction at the Exhibition. The tower weighs 10,100 tons and stands 324 meters high, including the antenna at the top. It is held together with 2,500,000 rivets. It is repainted every seven years, using 60 tons of paint. To learn more about this architectural and engineering marvel, visit the Eiffel Tower's official site. Alas, I found the children's section of this site to be less than wonderful. There are many other interesting things though, like a virtual tour of the tower.

March 31, 1943--"Oklahoma!" opens in New York City Rogers and Hammerstein made history with this musical as it was the first musical to tell a story with music, dance, and lyrics. (Click here to read a synopsis of the story.) Until this show, no play had ever managed more than 500 performances on Broadway. "Oklahoma!" lasted at the St. James Theatre for 2,212 performances. I used to be able to sing every one of the major songs from "Oklahoma!". That was not because I particularly liked the story but because my high school choir sang a medley of the hit songs and it stuck with me. In fact, it stuck with me so much that when my daughter sang the same medley in her high school choir so many years later I could still sing along. (Of course, I did not sing out loud or my daughter and the people sitting around me would never forgive such a breach of etiquette.)

April 1--April Fool's Day There is a long history to this often hysterical holiday. It can be traced back as far as 1528 when the calendar moved New Year's Day to January 1. New Year had previously been celebrated for eight days from March 25 to April 1. People who did not get word of the change or refused to change were teased and tricked for celebrating the new year on the wrong day. Learn more of the history of this day here. Then take a look at the top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes.

April 1, 1999--Nunavat becomes Canada's third independent territory If you travel north and then further north you will get to the territory of Nunavut which is the largest territory of Canada. It is nearly one fifth of the total land of Canada but has a population of only about 30,000 people. Most of these people are Inuit people who speak Inuktitut. The majority of this territory lies within the Arctic Circle which means that the nights are long in the winter--some areas get 24 straight hours of darkness for much of December. In return they get 24 hours of daylight in June. June usually finds snow waiting to be melted by that sunshine. The people can not enjoy too much summer since winter will begin again by September. Read more about Nunavat here. This site even has a basic lesson in Inuktitut.

April 2--National Ferret Day My neighbors used to have two very cute ferrets that loved to curl around necks and frolic inside a pant leg or shirt sleeve. I bet my neighbors did not know that ferrets, a relative of the weasel, were first domesticated by the Egyptians around 1300 B. C. and used to hunt for mice and other small rodents. The Egyptians soon replaced ferrets with cats as helpful and friendly house pets but many people today prefer ferrets. The female ferret weighs only 1.5 to 2.5 pounds while the male weighs in at three to five pounds. They are friendly, frisky, curious, and fun. Since they are a relative of the skunk, ferrets who have not been de-scented have a distinctive and not-so-pleasant scent. Read more about ferrets here. There are old stories about a practice called "ferret legging" during which people supposedly put a ferret down a man's pants after tying the pant legs closed. Men would complete to see who could stand having a ferret in his pants the longest. According to Snopes, the urban myth debunking site, the facts are questionable. However, there are those who will declare that ferret legging was common in parts of the British Isles until very recently. It sounds to me like a sport that would be cruel to both the man and the ferret.

April 2, 1878--First White House Easter Egg Roll Although rolling Easter eggs had been popular for years, it was not until 1878 that the president invited children onto the White House lawn on Easter Monday for an egg roll. Previously, children had celebrated on the lawn of the Capitol building. The number and enthusiasm of their playing had done such damage to the lawns that Congress passed a law in 1876 prohibiting egg rolling at the Capitol. Rain prevented any egg rolling in 1877. It is said that a young boy approached President Hayes just before Easter in 1878 asking if the president would open the White House to egg rollers. While no formal invitation was issued, the boys were not chased away when they appeared on Easter Monday. Thus a tradition was born. There were no egg rolls during the two world wars, but Mamie Eisenhower re-established the tradition in 1953. This year tickets to the egg roll were offered on-line only. They are all gone now so if you did not get them weeks ago you will not be rolling eggs with Sasha and Malia Obama this year.

April 3--American Circus Day It is estimated that there have been more than 2000 circuses that have operated in the United States, however it was a British equestrian named Bill Ricketts who opened the first circus on April 3, 1793. Between 1770 and 1780 several states had passed anti-circus laws and the Continental Congress 1774 officially discouraged people from attending traveling shows. Once Ricketts had some success with his first circus, he traveled around the major cities of that time--Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. Circus in America has more information about the history of circuses in America than I ever imagined possible. April 3, 1940--Isle Royale National Park established Isle Royale is Michigan's National Park. This wilderness area of 571,790 acres of land and water is located in Lake Superior. The park can only be reached by boat. No cars are allowed on the island but there are plenty of bugs if you believe the entry on the website that lists all of the bugs you are apt to meet. But skip the bugs and view this virtual tour. Just put your cursor on the picture you choose and move it around to see the view from all angles. Then you can start planning your summer vacation camping trip.

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