Times Union Classroom Enrichment
Community Classroom Projects

Welcome Back Teachers! This year we will be offering 3-5 strong Lesson Plans a week, finished on Friday of that week. Those lesson plans and guides will focus on topics of discussion and news-worthy stories in the Times Union for that given week. We will also be sending out a weekly newsletter which will contain those lesson plans and an additional 5 topics of focus for that coming week on Mondays.

Monday, January 6- Friday, January 10:

1. Economic Growth = Ecological Downfall?: Ecologists warn that economic growth is strangling the natural systems on which life depends, creating not just wealth, but filth on a planetary scale. Carbon pollution is changing the climate. Water shortages, deforestation, tens of millions of acres of land too polluted to plant and other global environmental ills are increasingly viewed as strategic risks by governments and corporations around the world. Click here for a lesson plan on ecology and the importance of protecting our natural environment for years to come.
2. Marijuana Laws:
A day after it was reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will try to make New York the latest state to ease its marijuana restrictions by allowing limited medicinal pot use, lawmakers and marijuana advocates reacted Sunday with a mix of surprise, elation, curiosity and trepidation. Click here for a lesson plan on marijuana.
3. Single Digits: The brutal polar air that has made the Midwest shiver over the past few days spread to the East and the Deep South on Tuesday, shattering records that in some cases had stood for more than a century. Click here for multiple lesson plans on polar weather.
Governor Cuomo Speech: The governor set an aggressive timeline to award the first four upstate casino licenses by fall, and called for universal pre-K throughout the state as well as a $2 billion bond issue to end technology inequality in schools. At perhaps his most animated point in the speech, Cuomo decried the fact that in some schools the most advanced technology in the buildings is the metal detectors students pass through to start their days. Click here for a lesson plan that incorporates modern day technology into the classroom. 

Monday, January 13- Friday, January 17:
1. Siena Basketball:
Approximately 1,500 grade school students enjoyed Kids Day as the Siena College women’s basketball team took on Monmouth Monday afternoon in Loudonville. The annual event was sponsored by BlueShield of Northeastern New York. Click here for a lesson plan on basketball for the classroom.
2. SAFE ACT: Wednesday marks the first anniversary of New York’s SAFE Act, a controversial gun law passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo a year ago in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. The day will come and go without a key component of the law going into effect. Wednesday was originally supposed to trigger a requirement that buyers of ammunition go through background checks before purchasing bullets or shells. Click here to learn all about New York's SAFE Act.
3. 2014 Olympics: Our strongest local tie to the Winter Olympics —Steve Conklin from Saratoga Springs — is coaching the Australians, a team that has heard “Cool Runnings” references one too many times but has also laid down solid performances among a competitive class even Conklin refers to as “B Team.” Everyone loves an underdog, and now they’re ours. Sort of. Through Conklin’s ties. Close enough. Go, Team Australia! Click here for a lesson plan on dog sledding.

Monday, January 20- Friday, January 24:
Martin Luther King Jr: An unknown 1962 audio recording of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 26-minute speech in New York City to celebrate the centennial of President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation    — a tape that was undetected for 35 years in a box at the State Museum following a 1979 donation — thrilled historians and reinforced the vital role played by an unpaid college intern. Click here for a classroom resource guide on Martin Luther King Jr.
2. Visual Eating: The Chinese proverb “You eat first with your eyes” is supported by science. “Visual stimuli have been shown to alter the perception of taste, smell and flavor,” writes Jeannine F. Delwiche, a professor in the department of food science at Ohio State University.    Sometimes the associations are learned: When we see something we’ve previously enjoyed, even if it’s not especially attractive, we anticipate future pleasure from eating it again. Click here for multiple lesson plans on food science.
3. Law School Graduates: About 750 law school graduates are sworn in Thursday as newly-admitted members of the New York State Bar by the court at an Empire State Convention Center ceremony in Albany. Below, state Presiding Justice Karen Peters of the Third Department, including Albany, offers introductory remarks. Click here for a lesson plan on law and civil rights.

Monday, January 27- Friday, January 31:
Orchestra: The Albany Symphony Orchestra picked up one of the most prestigious honors in music Sunday: a Grammy Award, the first such nomination and win in the orchestra’s 84-year history.    The ASO was awarded best classical instrumental solo for its recording of composer John Corigliano’s “Conjurer — Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra,” released on Naxos and recorded in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Click here for a lesson plan on the orchestra.
Albany Institute of History and Art: Plenty of big wheels were rolling around the Albany Institute of History & Art on Monday morning: U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, AIHA Executive Director Tammis    K. Groft. Each took a few minutes to speak, extolling the richness of the region, the importance of the institute, the power of art and technology. Click here for the Albany History and Art's teaching resources website.
3. Pete Seeger, folk singer: Following his death on Monday night at 94, global tributes and heartfelt testimonies have been pouring forth in honor of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who transformed 20th-century America with his songs of peace, protest and social justice and who imbued an epic life with a workingman’s sensibility, environmental activism and standing up for the underdog. Click here for a lesson plan on social justice in 20th century America.
4. Winter Olympics: I
f the U.S. luge team does well at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, there will be a lot of backslapping going on in Watervliet. That’s because employees at Saint-Gobain Abrasives in Watervliet have a special relationship with USA Luge that dates back to the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Click here for a lesson plan on the luge.

Monday, February 3-Friday, February 7:
1. Superbowl Sunday:
Members of the Seattle Seahawks hold the Vince Lombardi Trophy after they routed the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Thousands of fans descended on the New York City area to watch the Seahawks win 43-8. Click here for a history on the Superbowl.
Move South: Snowy owls are being spotted throughout the Capital Region, the result of the largest influx of the birds in decades. The birds have been seen in every county in the Capital Region and almost every one in New York state. In fact, this year, the Arctic natives have been seen as far south as Florida, and one brave bird even made it as far as Bermuda. Click here for a lesson plan on owls and their habitat.
Cigarettes: The Rhode Island-based drugstore chain said Wednesday that it will remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from its 7,600 stores by October as it emphasizes its role as a destination for consumers seeking better health. CVS expects the move to trim $2 billion off its annual revenue. Click here for a health lesson plan on cigarettes and tobacco use.

Winter Break!

Monday, February 17- Friday, February 21:
1. Storm Clouds:
Brian A. Colle woke up at 1 a.m. Thursday and headed out into the snow. Using plates of glass he had been storing in a freezer in his garage, he collected snowflakes for analysis with a powerful microscope. Back-to-back storms have made for long hours and a lot of night shifts this year, said Colle, a professor of atmospheric science at Stony Brook University. “We’re always looking for good data sets,” he said, “so we’ve been lucky.” Click here for an atmospheric science lesson plan.
2. Olympic Gold:
Davis-White first U.S. ice-dance team to win Olympic gold. While a number of favored Americans have not fulfilled their hopes in various sports at the Sochi Games, Davis and White performed with consistency and resourcefulness. They won the long program with a season best of 116.63 points and an overall score of 195.52. Click here for a lesson plan on ice-skating.
3. Butterflies:
The Butterfly House at miSci in Schenectady offers a welcome break from winter by giving a glimpse of summer and the winged creatures it brings. Jayden Matula, 3, of Delmar, right, uses her mother’s cellphone to take a photograph. Below left, adults and children hunt for butterflies. Click here for a lesson plan all about butterflies.
Killer Whales:
You might be surprised to learn that a 17-year-old contributed to a piece of legislation, recently introduced in the state Senate, that would ban killer whales from water parks and aquariums in the state. Click here for a lesson plan on Killer Whales.

Monday, February 24- Friday, February 28:
1. Reading Time:
School 14 fourth-graders listen Wednesday as school board member Anne Wager-Rounds reads “The Grinch meets his Max.” The event in Troy is part of National Read Across America, held annually around Dr. Seuss’ March 2 birthday. Click here for a teaching resource guide as part of the National Read Across America project.
2. Global Warming Worsening: Man-made global warming is worsening and will disrupt both the natural world and human society, warns a joint report of two of the world’s leading scientific organizations. Click here for some helpful lesson plans on the issue of global warming and environmental studies.
3. Nutrition Labels: Ice cream lovers beware: The government knows you’re unlikely to stop after half a cup.    New nutrition labels proposed Thursday for many popular foods, including ice cream, aim to more accurately reflect what people actually eat. And the proposal would make calorie counts on labels more prominent, too, reflecting that nutritionists now focus more on calories than fat. Click here for a health lesson plan on nutrition and calories.

Monday, March 3- Friday, March 7:
Power Confrontation: Ukrainian and Western leaders tried Sunday to dissuade President Vladimir Putin of Russia from overplaying his hand and ordering an invasion of eastern Ukraine, even as Russian forces and their sympathizers in the Crimean Peninsula worked to neutralize any Ukrainian resistance there. Click here for a lesson plan on the Cold War, which is eerily similar to what is happening in Russia.
12 Years a Slave: Local residents who for years told the tragic but triumphant tale of a Saratoga violinist sold into slavery swelled with pride Monday after the story won Hollywood’s top prize. Director Steven McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” which follows the adult life of African-American Solomon Northup, was named best picture at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday. Northup worked in Saratoga Springs’ large 19th-century hotels and lived downtown with his wife, Anne, and three children. In March 1841, two white men lured him off Broadway, drugged him and sold him as a slave. Click here for a lesson plan based on this story.
Charter Schools: Just after noon Tuesday, New York’s two most powerful Democrats were separated by three city blocks, the political desires of their respective audiences, and several dozen    As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stumped at the Washington Avenue Armory for his plan to fund universal prekindergarten education with a tax surcharge on the wealthy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed a chilly but enthusiastic outdoor crowd of charter school supporters in East Capitol Park. Click here for a lesson plan on pre-K education.

Monday, March 10- Friday, March 14:
Spiderman: Two years after launching its Infinite line of digital comics, Marvel Entertainment said it intends to expand the line’s offerings with its first all-ages titles as it moves to attract younger readers familiar with characters like Spider-Man from animated television shows. Click here for a fun lesson plan using superhero's.
2. Oil Refinery: A team of longtime oil company executives, several with ties to two prominent conservative oil billionaires from Kansas, is considering the state Thruway as a possible route for a crude oil pipeline connecting the Port of Albany to a coastal refinery in New Jersey. Click here for a lesson plan on natural resources and oil.
3. Stair Climb:
Jenny Ingarra of Clifton Park, takes the final flight during the individual climb Thursday at the Corning Tower in Albany. The race was part of the 26th Annual Stair Climb to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northeastern New York. Competitors raced up 42 flights of stairs — 809 steps — in the tower. Race divisions included relay teams, individuals and firefighters. Click here for a health lesson plan on Cystic Fibrosis.

Monday, March 17-Friday, March 21:
1. Mystery Plane: 
Officials revealed a new timeline Monday suggesting the final voice transmission from the cockpit of the missing Malaysian plane may have occurred before any of its communications systems were disabled, adding more uncertainty about who aboard might have been to blame. Click here for a lesson plan on missing plans/ boats in the Bermuda Triangle.
2. Electric Car:
Tesla Motors, which makes a $70,000 all-electric car, is about to collide head-on with a big chunk of New York’s automotive establishment. The conflict won’t be on the roads, but in the state Legislature.The battle, which accelerated last year near the end of the legislative session, focuses on whether the company should be able to sell vehicles directly to consumers, similar to the way Apple computer does with its Apple Stores, or whether it must use franchised dealerships, the way other cars are sold. Click here for a lesson plan on electric powered vehicles.
3. Spring is here: Spring begins Thursday, and tiny buds on a tree in Lions Park along the Mohawk River in Niskayuna show just how tough a winter it was in the region. Growth is behind last year at the park; in 2012, the buds were in bloom after a mild winter. Click here for some spring activities you can use in the classroom.

Monday, March 24- Friday, March 28:
1. Nuclear Weapons: Japan will announce Monday that it will turn over to Washington more than 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium and a large quantity of highly enriched uranium, a decades-old research stockpile that is large enough to build dozens of nuclear weapons, according to U.S. and Japanese officials. Click here for a lesson plan on plutonium and uranium and what these elements can do.
2. NASA Robots: Schenectady High School students are constructing for competition in the NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge. The robot will be tasked to pick up an item and place it in a container. The robot’s camera scans the QR code, and if it can’t read the code it means there is an object in the box. The school’s team is competing for a $1.5 million prize along with teams from Canada, California and Estonia. Click here for a lesson plan all about robots and the new era of droids.
Insomnia Research: A flashing mask that looks like it belongs at a techno-rave party might hold the key to a better night’s sleep for elderly people who wake up in pre-dawn hours and have difficulty falling back to sleep.    Called “early awakening” insomnia, this form of sleeplessness can become more common with age, and lead to people waking up as early as 4 a.m. or even earlier, said Mariana Figueiro, director of the light and health program at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Click here for a lesson plan on sleep patterns.

Monday, March 31- Friday, April 4:
Budget Passed: The state Legislature spent Monday debating — and eventually passing — the 10 pieces of legislation laying out the $138 billion budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts Tuesday.    The package reflects marginally better economic times in New York, as well as the state political calendar: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are all up for re-election in the fall, making it an opportune time to craft a package that includes tax breaks. Click here for a lesson plan on economics.
The Carl Paladino-Donald Trump show was in town Tuesday and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino may have been caught in the verbal crossfire. Astorino came to the Capitol on Tuesday to blast Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget and to court a potential voting bloc    — people who are angry over the governor’s year-old NY SAFE Act gun control law.
Plant Pollution: An aging coal-fired power plant in the Hudson Valley that appeared headed for the scrap heap may survive under plans filed this week with the state by a Texas-based company and a Swiss global energy conglomerate. The new owners want to rebuild the 80-year-old Danskammer plant, which was shut down in 2012 after being damaged during Superstorm Sandy. That has led environmental groups to warn that resurrection of the plant, which is on the Hudson River, could expose the region to increased air pollution. Click here for a lesson plan on air pollution.

Monday, April 7- Friday, April 13:
Priest Dress Up: Edward and Elaine Scharfenberger had a strong inkling of the future vocation of their eldest child, Edward, after his grandfather, who owned a Manhattan church goods business that made bishops’ accoutrements, fashioned a small chalice for the 7-year-old altar boy who loved to “play priest.”    “He’d come over to the shop and play around with bishops’ crosiers, crosses and miters,” recalled his father, a 94-year-old World War II veteran. “We made
him the chalice so he could play priest and pretend to
say Mass.” Click here for a lesson plan on the pope and religion.
Russian Pressure: Russian President Vladimir Putin turned up the heat on Ukraine on Wednesday by threatening to demand advance payment for gas supplies, a move designed to exert economic pressure as Ukraine confronts possible bankruptcy, a mutiny by pro-Russian separatists in the east and a Russian military buildup across the border. Click here for a lesson plan on Russia.
3. Roman Catholic Ceremony:
From a kid in Queens who recited the rosary almost every day to a priest and leader in New York City, the next chapter in the devout life of Edward Scharfenberger    — and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany — began with pageantry Thursday as the 65-year-old was ordained as Albany’s 10th bishop in a triumphant ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Click here for a lesson plan on the Roman Catholic Diocese.

Happy Easter Vacation!

Monday, April 22- Friday, April 25:
Union Hockey: Like many of Union College’s 2,220 students, Ben Schroeder isn’t from the Capital Region. His friends back home in Massachusetts couldn’t find Schenectady on a map, and most didn’t know Union existed until he told them it was where he’d be heading after high school.    Until around 10:30 Saturday night, when the Dutchmen clinched their first Division I NCAA hockey championship — the Capital Region’s first Division I title of the modern era — even some of Schroeder’s relatives were at best only vaguely familiar with where Union’s campus was. Click here for a sports lesson plan on Ice Hockey.
Gun Law: This year, April 15 isn’t just Tax Day. It also is the deadline for owners of newly defined assault weapons to register their guns with the state.    Tuesday’s deadline applies to previously owned weapons that are now banned for sale or purchase under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 SAFE Act gun control law. The registration of these grandfathered weapons is a key provision of the law, and it has triggered a steady volley of protests, lawsuits and complaints from gun enthusiasts in the 15 months since the SAFE Act was signed into law. Click here to learn all about the SAFE Act.
Natural Gas Emissions: Researchers found higher-than-expected emissions of a potent greenhouse gas emanating from Pennsylvania wells, according to a study published Monday that adds to concerns about the environmental footprint of natural gas. The study, conducted by Purdue and Cornell universities and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the latest to scrutinize methane emissions associated with natural gas development, with implications from New York to Texas. Using a specially equipped airplane to identify plumes of methane gas, the researchers tracked large emissions to seven wells being drilled in southwestern Pennsylvania. Click here for a lesson plan on natural gas emissions.

Monday, April 29- Friday, May 2:
Treasures Unearthed: An archaeology professor at SUNY Adirondack is hoping a dig at Lake George Battlefield Park this summer will help determine which parts of the site were used during the French and Indian War and which were utilized during the American Revolutionary War.    David Starbuck, an adjunct professor and head of the SUNY Adirondack archaeology field school, already held digs in 2000 and 2001 at the 35-acre park on the lake’s southern shore that unearthed an intact bayonet and a compass. His team of students and volunteers also found regimental buttons, but none contained numbers — which would indicate they were used by Revolutionary-era soldiers. Click here for a lesson plan on the French and Indian War.
2. Earth Day:
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, and a nation weary of polluted air, dirty water and thoughtless handling of trash united to seek a cleaner, healthier future for all Americans. One Capital Region resident celebrated the 44th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement by adorning his safety helmet with flowers during a bike parade Tuesday on the Corning Preserve trail. Brandon Murphy, right, of the Patroon Land Farm, loads buckets of field rocks into a pickup truck to prepare a 14-acre farm site for planting. SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is joining the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and the Patroon Land Foundation to ready the land to grow food for the needy. Click here for some great lesson plans and learning tools to help teach all about this special day!
3. E-Cigarettes:
Hoping for legislative momentum from news Thursday that the FDA is proposing long-awaited regulations on e-cigarettes, health advocates in New York want to take the discussion further to impose a ban on such devices in indoor workplaces. Click here for a lesson plan on the Clean Air Act.