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THE SCIENCE OF HOLIDAYS
by Jeanine Nakakura

Kaimuki High School, Honolulu, HI


This is a compendium of lessons dealing with the science of holidays throughout the school year.

Note: These are ideas for activities which revolve around the holidays celebrated by many of the students in my school...you can use these ideas as a springboard to develop activities for the holidays that are celebrated by the students in your school. If you need more detail, e-mail me.


September--Labor Day
Work can sometimes be stressful. In this lesson, we examine the effects of stress on the body and ways to deal with the stress by giving students a "surprise" quiz with a time limit. You may also want to examine topics such as carpal tunnel syndrome or "sick" buildings. References: Mastering Assertiveness Skills by Elaine Zuker (1983) and The Joy of Stress by Peter G. Hanson, M.D. (1985).

October--Halloween or Discoverer's Day
For Discoverers' Day students can look at slides of diseases which caused many of our discoverers and their discoverees (Hawaiians, Native Americans) to get sick or die (diseases such as scurvy, bubonic plague, smallpox, etc. . .) For Halloween, students will examine the nutritional content of candy by looking at labels and also research the effect of candy on human behavior.

November--Thanksgiving
Students examine food poisoning since improperly prepared foods such as turkey can harbor harmful bacteria. Students also study the chemical effects of carbohydrates and proteins on the body. Reference: Managing Your Mind and Mood Through Food by Judith Wurtman (1986).

December--Christmas
Using a lesson from the American Biology Teacher (November/December 1987) called "Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of the Holiday Season", students examine plants found during the holidays such as pine trees, poinsettia, holly, mistletoe. Concepts to be studied include gymonosperms, poisonous plants, parasites.

January--New Year
Through labs, we look at the effect of smoke and noise from firecrackers on plants and humans. We also discuss types of burns (first, second, third degree) and the effect of alcohol on the body.

February--Valentine's Day
We examine the chemical ingredients in chocolate and their effects on the human body. We also examine the human heart and interpersonal relationships through lab activities and surveys to find out what attracts people to each other. References were various articles from newspapers, books and magazines.

March--St. Patrick 's Day
Green is the theme for this holiday. We examine plants and chlorophyll, herbs, green mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish. We look at the anti-cancer properties of cabbage and green tea and try to figure out whether a cucumber is a fruit or vegetable. Basically, I go to the supermarket, buy things that are green , and ask scientific questions about them.

April--Easter
Students will be shown a series of demos dealing with eggs. A good reference book: The Amazing Egg Book by Margaret Griffin and Deborah Seed. Students also use natural dyes (blueberries, beets, etc. . .) to color their eggs and then compare the results with commercial dyes.

May--Memorial Day and Birthdays For Memorial Day, we study the injuries from war. A good example would be of the illnesses which Desert Storm veteran are complaining of. To celebrate everyone's birthdays before school gets out, we examine aging and research what happens to a body from birth to death. A good reference book: Aging on Hold: Secrets of Living Longer by Ronald Kotulak and Peter Gorner (1992).


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