Archive for February, 2007

George Washington


When we think of George Washington, we think of a very successful military man and leader. He was not always successful. In some cases he was just lucky. After being appointed to lead the Grand American Army by the Second Continental Congress, Washington headed for Boston. It was there that the first shots had been fired. It was there that the British troops were gathering. The British generals were often heard saying that it would take very little effort on their part to put an end to the foolishness of the colonists. How could a man like George Washington think he could take a bunch of untrained, raggedy farmers and tradesmen and make them into an army good enough to defeat the British?

Though he was born into a wealthy family in 1732, young George did not look forward to being a rich man. His mother was his father’s second wife, and George was the third son. His oldest half brother Lawrence would inherit everything. Even George’s formal schooling was not considered important. When he became President, he had the worst education of any President since. When he was sixteen, he was taught to be a surveyor. Surveying is a method of measuring land in order to establish boundaries and property lines, as well as measuring the height of mountains.

3 You might think that George would envy his oldest brother, but he didn’t. He admired him and wanted to be like him. Lawrence was Adjutant General of Virginia, and his younger brother became a soldier because of his example. When Lawrence died in 1752, George was grief stricken.

4 In 1754 Washington fought the first skirmishes in what would become the French and Indian war. He was not a very good commander at the time, but he wanted to learn. After three years he left the military and retired. He leased the family plantation, Mount Vernon, from his brother’s widow and became a planter, or farmer, just as his family had always done. He finally found something he really loved doing. Sixteen years later, he inherited the estate himself and owned it outright.

5 George tried to get elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses but was soundly defeated. Rather than being discouraged over the loss, he worked to become a better man. The next time, he was elected and over the next sixteen years won the respect of everyone. He married Martha Dandridge Custis, a rich widow, in 1759. They were very happy together. Unfortunately he, like the other planters, soon became frustrated with the restrictions put upon them from England.

6 During the second Continental Congress in 1775, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. It was to be the start of six long years of war when he longed to be home. His army was often without food or clothing, as they were at Valley Forge, but they overcame many hardships and won the Revolutionary war.

7 Washington took the oath of office to be President in the city of New York in 1789. As the first President, he knew that everything he did set a precedent and would affect future office holders. He chose people from every state and walk of life to be in his government. He wanted everyone to be represented. He was willing to overlook the faults of some great men, because their virtues were needed to help him run the country.

8 When his second term ended, Washington was glad to step down. He longed to be away from the stress of government and be back at Mount Vernon. His retirement there lasted only three years. He died of a throat infection on December 14, 1799.

George Washington did not chop down the cherry tree but he did wear false teeth carved from the tusk of a hippopotamus. He was not a great man because he had no faults, he was a great man because he strove to overcome them. As part of that struggle he helped forge a nation, and he became known as the Father of his country.

Write 4 sentences about George Washington. Tell what you learned about him from the reading and the movie.

Here is the link to Brainpop movie on Washinton Watch Movie ( you will need to be logged in)

After you right you can visit these links and have some President’s day fun!

Virtual tour of Mount Vernon

Fun Facts about the President

Mount Rushmore Jigsaw puzzle

Washington Crossing the Delaware Puzzle

Online Chapter Book about George Washington

George Washington Word Search

Dollar-bill puzzle

Abraham Lincoln Born today 1809



On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky.
Lincoln, one of America’s most admired presidents, grew up a member of a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana. He attended school for only one year, but thereafter read on his own in a continual effort to improve his mind. As an adult, he lived in Illinois and performed a variety of jobs including stints as a postmaster, surveyor and shopkeeper, before entering politics. He served in the Illinois legislature from 1834 to 1836, and then became an attorney. In 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd; together, the pair raised four sons.

Lincoln returned to politics during the 1850s, a time when the nation’s long-standing division over slavery was flaring up, particularly in new territories being added to the Union. As leader of the new Republican Party, Lincoln was considered politically moderate, even on the issue of slavery. He wanted to restrict slavery to the states in which it already existed and described the practice in a letter as a “minor issue” as late as 1854. In an 1858 senatorial race,the south started to talk of leaving the union. He did not win the Senate seat but earned national recognition as a strong political force. Lincoln was an inspiring speaker who could move audiences with his speeches.

As a presidential candidate in the election of 1860, Lincoln tried to reassure slaveholding interests that although he favored abolition, he had no intention of ending the practice in states where it already existed. When he won the presidency by approximately 400,000 popular votes and carried the Electoral College, he was in effect handed a ticking time bomb. His concessions to slaveholders failed to prevent South Carolina from leading other states in an exodus from the Union that began shortly after his election. By February 1, 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas had also seceded. Soon after, the Civil War began. As the war progressed, Lincoln moved closer to committing himself and the nation to the abolitionist movement and, in 1863, finally signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The document freed slaves in the Confederate states, but did not address the legality of slavery in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska or Arkansas.

Lincoln was the tallest president at 6’ 4.” As a young man, he impressed others with his sheer physical strength–he was a legendary wrestler in Illinois–and entertained friends and strangers alike with his dry, folksy wit, which was still in evidence years later. Exasperated by one Civil War military defeat after another, Lincoln wrote to a lethargic general “if you are not using the army I should like to borrow it for awhile.” An animal lover, Lincoln once declared, “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.” Fittingly, a variety of pets took up residence at the Lincoln White House, including a pet turkey named Jack and a goat called Nanko. Lincoln’s son Tad frequently hitched Nanko to a small wagon and drove around the White House grounds.

Lincoln’s sense of humor may have helped him to hide recurring bouts of depression. He admitted to friends and colleagues that he suffered from “intense melancholia” and hypochondria most of his adult life. Perhaps in order to cope with it, Lincoln engaged in self-effacing humor, even chiding himself about his famously homely looks. When an opponent in an 1858 Senate race debate called him “two-faced,” he replied, “If I had another face do you think I would wear this one?”

Lincoln is remembered as “The Great Emancipator.” Although he waffled on the subject of slavery in the early years of his presidency, his greatest legacy was his work to preserve the Union and his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. To Confederate sympathizers, however, Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation reinforced his image as a hated despot and ultimately led John Wilkes Booth to assassinate him on April 14, 1865. His favorite horse, Old Bob, pulled his funeral hearse.


At the beginning of the story Brian was trying to cope with the stress and sadness of his parent’s divorce. Now at the end of the book, after having surivived various animal attacks, tornadoes, exposure to the elements, hunger and many other hardships, how has he changed? Is he smarter, braver? Does he see himself and the world differently? If so how? Does he see his parent’s divorce in a new light? What has Brian learned about himself and  the hardships of life?

Ruby Bridges


In the Movie Ruby Bridges, many of the protestors outside her school were hateful, what was Ruby’s reaction to their hate?

Describe your reactions toward people who are hateful.  Evaluate your reactions in your writing.  If your reactions need improvement, tell how you could change.  Discuss the end results of making wise choices.

Hatchet – Moose and Tornadoes


What does a moose sound like?



Moose have evolved defenses to keep them from becoming easy prey. Unfortunately for humans, moose sometimes perceive us as threats. When a moose feels threatened it has only two choices, either to flee or attack. Normally it will flee, and we can feel glad or apologetic, but when a moose decides to be aggressive, we can find ourselves in a dangerous situation.

Moose can become aggressive in winter when they are hungry, tired of walking in deep snow, and being harassed by dogs and people. During mating season bull moose may be aggressive towards other bulls and humans.

Each year in Alaska more people are injured by moose than by bears. In the past ten years two people have died from moose attacks in the Anchorage area. Each year there are at least 5-1O moose-related injuries in the Anchorage area alone, with many reports of charging moose in neighborhoods or on ski trails.


First and most important to avoiding confrontations is to give moose plenty of room. DO NOT APPROACH THEM. Moose, like other animals, have a distance around them, that if entered by another animal–wolf, dog, bear, or human–causes them to react. Biologists call this area “personal space” or “critical distance.”


Click on the picture to read about Tornadoes

Ruby Bridges


We watched the movie “Ruby Bridges” last week. Write a short review of this movie. Tell what the story was about. When and where it took place. Tell what you find important about the movie. Did you like the acting? Who was your favorite character. Do you think Ruby was brave? What do you think got her through her trouble? If you need help you can go to the Ruby Bridges site to refresh you memory. Here is the Link

February 5: 1994 Beckwith Convicted of the 1963 Killing of Medgar Evers

February 5: General Interest
1994 : Beckwith convicted of killing Medgar Evers


(click on the picture to read about Medgar Evers)

On this day in 1994, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith is
convicted in the murder of African-American civil rights leader Medgar
Evers, over 30 years after the crime occurred. Evers was gunned down
in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home on June 12, 1963,
while his wife, Myrlie, and the couple’s three small children were

Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Decatur, Mississippi,
and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After fighting for
his country, he returned home to experience discrimination in the
racially divided South, with its separate public facilities and
services for blacks and whites. Evers graduated from Alcorn College in
1952 and began organizing local chapters of the NAACP (National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People). In 1954, after
being rejected for admission to then-segregated University of
Mississippi Law School, he became part of an NAACP campaign to
desegregate the school. Later that year, Evers was named the NAACP’s
first field secretary in Mississippi. He moved with his family to
Jackson and worked to dismantle segregation, leading peaceful rallies,
economic boycotts and voter registration drives around the state. In
1962, he helped James Meredith become the first African American to
attend the University of Mississippi, a watershed event in the civil
rights movement. As a result of his work, Evers received numerous
threats and several attempts were made on his life before he was
murdered in 1963 at the age of 37.

Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and Ku Klux Klan member widely
believed to be the killer, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However,
two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict
him. A second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The
matter was dropped when it appeared that a conviction would be
impossible. Myrlie Evers, who later became the first woman to chair
the NAACP, refused to give up, pressing authorities to re-open the
case. In 1989, documents came to light showing that jurors in the case
were illegally screened.

Prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter worked with Myrlie Evers to force another
prosecution of Beckwith. After four years of legal maneuvering, they
were finally successful. At the third trial they produced a riflescope
from the murder weapon with Beckwith’s fingerprints, as well as new
witnesses who testified that Beckwith had bragged about committing the
crime. Justice was finally achieved when Beckwith was convicted and
given a life sentence by a racially diverse jury in 1994. He died in
prison in 2001 at the age of 80.

Ground Hogs and Global Warming

Below is a reprint of the New York Times Article on Ground Hog’s day and Global Warming , featuring our own Staten Island Chuck. After we read the article click on the picture to hear a podcast on global warming. ( takes time to download)03ground6001.jpg

The New York Times


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February 3, 2007

The Ground Hog emerged and Sounded a lot like Al Gore.

Groundhog Day has been part of the Western calendar since around the fifth century, which means it has survived centuries of Catholicism, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the advent of the agriculture of cloned sheep.

But whether it will survive in an age of global warming was one question — albeit not the biggest one — raised by the awkward coincidence yesterday of Groundhog Day 2007 falling on the same day a report was released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations.

The report said that global warming was an unequivocal fact likely to make summers hotter and winters warmer for the next few centuries, with potentially dire consequences for the ecosystem. Groundhogs around the country, including the legendary Pennsylvania groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil, basically concurred yesterday, shunning their shadows to predict an early spring.

But in this winter that almost wasn’t, that hardly seemed an accomplishment in prognostication — an untrained house cat could most likely have said the same.

“It is pretty clear that the groundhog is at some level being influenced by news coverage” of the whole global warming phenomenon, said Fred Gadomski, a meteorologist at Pennsylvania State University. “I have been noticing little contemporary phrases like ‘El Niño’ creeping into their little proclamations.”

In fact, both “El Niño” and “global warming” appeared in the official forecast read on Phil’s behalf at 7:28 a.m. yesterday by a spokesman for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, an organization loosely affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce of Punxsutawney, Pa., whose usual population of 6,000 swells to around 20,000 for the annual announcement.

“El Niño has caused high winds, heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures in the West,” the four-legged forecaster began his four-couplet decree. “Here in the East with much mild winter weather we have been blessed.

“Global warming has caused a great debate; this mild winter makes it seem just great,” he continued. “On this Groundhog Day we think of one thing. Will we have winter or will we have spring? On Gobbler’s Knob I see no shadow today. I predict that early spring is on the way.”

Tom Chapin, editor of the local newspaper, The Punxsutawney Spirit, said the Punxsutawney groundhog’s use of such climate-change buzzwords was evidence of the extraordinary powers extant in certain members of the species, noting that “Phil, as far as I know, cannot read.”

In its earliest incarnation, Groundhog Day or something like it was a pagan observance, marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, according to historians.

Burrowing animals like the groundhog were said to have the supernatural ability to foretell an early spring. The observance merged at some point with the Christian holiday of Candlemas, and the tradition embodied in this proverb: “If Candlemas be fair and bright, winter will have another fight. If Candlemas brings cloud and rain, winter won’t come again.”

Mike Halpert, chief forecaster for the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that groundhog prognostication — while never used by the government, and “never very good” — was likely to remain for the foreseeable future as good as the average citizen’s guesswork, regardless of climate changes predicted in the United Nations panel’s report. “Just because we have global warming doesn’t mean that winter won’t still occur, and that there won’t still be variations in its duration,” Mr. Halpert noted.

New York-area groundhogs known as Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal, both searching for their shadows on Long Island, attesting perhaps to the unreliability of marmot, house cat or other forms of inspirational climatology, issued split predictions. Mel foresaw an early spring, and Hal a long winter.

But Roberta Dinsmore, the librarian at Punxsutawney Memorial Library, where Punxsutawney Phil lives on the other side of a picture window on the ground floor (his burrow, complete with underground stream, was built in a mound of dirt there) said her town’s groundhog should never be compared to others.

“Oh, you know, he’s been very good,” Mrs. Dinsmore said in a telephone interview. “He will never be obsolete.” She had heard about the United Nations panel’s report, and called it “very important,” but said it would in no way make Phil moot.

“He has been right so often,” she said. “Anyway, I am pretty sure of that. You can check for yourself.”

The groundhog club claims that since 1886, Phil — there have been several — has seen his shadow 96 times, has not seen it 15 times and there are no records for nine years. Whether he has been “right” depends on when spring began in each of those years, a subjective question; but in this age of warming, he has seen his shadow — foretelling a longer winter — each of the past six years, until yesterday.

Mrs. Dinsmore was asked to describe Phil’s personality.

“Well, he loves bananas,” she said. “He lives with two little cousins. He’s very social. He’s quite fat.

“He was on ‘Oprah,’ you know,” she added. “He liked that very much.”

Announcing our new blog, Kidnews!

captioner1396946.jpgP.S. 373R is launching another blog. But this one is different. Here our students choose what they write about. They post I do not. We only have one article completed so far,  The Superbowl, by Giovanni Ortiz.

Check it out and leave a comment if you like. More articles are in the works.