Switzerland celebrates Confederation Day of 1291. Three cantons formed an alliance, and other cantons joined as years passed. The 1874 constitution changed the confederation into a country. The area of Switzerland is a bit less than twice the area of New Jersey, and the Alps dominate its geography. Almost eight million people live in Switzerland, and Bern is the capital. Parades, bonfires, and fireworks mark the day. Children can learn more at: Switzerland. They could also enjoy some Swiss cheese or some Swiss chocolate.
Benin celebrates National Day. The country announced its independence from France in 1960. Located on the western coast of Africa, Benin is about the size of the state of Pennsylvania. The geography is mostly flat with a few low mountains. Almost ten million people live in Benin, and Porto-Novo is the capital.
Colorado became the thirty-eighth state of the United States in 1876. Its nickname is the Centennial State, because it became a part of the country one hundred years after the revolution. Its name comes from a Spanish phrase meaning the color red. Early Spanish explorers in the area were impressed with the many red-colored canyons and thus called the area Colorado. People were living in the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, in the state’s southwestern corner, around 1200. When gold was discovered in 1858, the local phrase became “Pike’s Peak or Bust.” Denver is the state capital, and tourism is one of the most important economic factors. Children could visit an Internet site at: Colorado.
Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774. His experiments proved that air is a combination of gases and that oxygen is necessary for fire.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916. The area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes the active volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Children can visit the park’s website at: http://www.nps.gov/havo.
Haleakala National Park was created in 1961. Carved from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Maui, this park encompasses the vast, extinct volcano crater Haleakala and the Kipahula wilderness area. Children can visit the park’s website at: http://www.nps.gov/hale.
William Clark (born Caroline County, Virginia, 1770; died St. Louis, Missouri, September 1, 1838) was an explorer. He and Meriwether Lewis headed the Corps of Discovery into the Louisiana Purchase from 1804 to 1806. Later he fought in the War of 1812 and then became governor of the Missouri Territory. Children would learn a great deal from Lewis and Clark for Kids: Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert.
Gail Gibbons (born Oak Park, Illinois, 1944) is a children’s author and illustrator. She has written over 170 books, including Tell Me, Tree. Children can visit her website at: Gail Gibbons.
Francis Scott Key (born Frederick County, Maryland, 1779; died Baltimore, Maryland, January 11, 1843) was a lawyer and a poet. He wrote The Star-Spangled Banner in 1814 after watching the British bombard Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Children can find out more at: Francis Scott Key.
Herman Melville (born New York, New York, 1819; died New York, New York, September 28, 1891) was a novelist. One of his best known works is Moby Dick. Children can read many of his works, including Moby Dick, at: Project Gutenberg.
Maria Mitchell (born Nantucket, Massachusetts, 1818; died Lynn, Massachusetts, June 28, 1889) was the first woman professional astronomer. She discovered a comet in 1847, and she became a professor of astronomy at Vassar. Older children can learn more at: Maria Mitchell. They could also read books by her and about her at: Project Gutenberg.
Bill Wallace (born Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1947; died Chickasha, Oklahoma, January 30, 2012) wrote 31 books for children. His works include A Dog Named Kitty and The Legend of Thunderfoot.
Henry Hudson discovered Hudson Bay in 1610. Aboard the Discovery, he felt the bay might really be the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. In November his ship became icebound in the bay, and the men wintered on shore. The next year his crew mutinied, and he, his son, and some crew members were set adrift in a small boat. Children can learn more at: Henry Hudson.
Declaration of Independence was officially signed in 1776. Most people believe the Declaration was signed July 4, 1776. However, only John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed a draft on that day. Fifty delegates were at the official signing on August 2. Five more people signed the document before the end of the year. One more person signed it the next year.
Census was taken in the United States for the first time in 1790. Idea: Children could take a mock census in their classrooms. Children could also learn more at: https://www.census.gov/schools/.