Celebrations of Light
Video Summary: Eileen Mesmer uses the theme of holidays to teach students about social studies. Throughout the year her class has read stories about different cultures' holiday celebrations, prepared foods traditionally eaten during those holidays, learned holiday greetings in other languages, and studied artifacts related to the various holidays. Shifting the emphasis from how holiday traditions differ from culture to culture, this lesson explores the question, What do all of these holidays have in common?
First, students listen to a story about the winter solstice. Then the class divides among four learning centers to compare the different holidays they have studied. When they reconvene as a class, the students determine that light is a common theme among the winter celebrations, noting that it symbolizes the hope people have as they wait for spring. To better understand what the winter solstice is and why there are seasons, students explore the relative position of the earth as it revolves around the sun. This seeming digression away from the holiday theme is actually a carefully planned lesson that brings science into the social studies class, creating an integrated curriculum. As a culminating activity, students return to the learning centers to create artwork about the celebrations they have studied, which will later be displayed in the school's hallways.