Thirty days have September,
April, June, and November;
Thirty-one the others date,
Except in February, twenty-eight;
But in leap year we assign
February, twenty-nine. -unknown
Happy Leap Day! Every four years, a day is added to our calendar making the year 366 days instead of 365. But why does this need to happen?
In simplest terms, the calendar is supposed to match the solar year- the length of time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. The Earth’s orbit takes 365 days and about 6 hours. Those extra 6 hours gradually add up so that after four years the calendar is out of step by about one day. Adding an extra day every four years allows the calendar to match up to the solar year again.1
We started the leap day by talking about the calendar, months, and the seasons. This gave me a great opportunity to read one of my favorite books to the kids, The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. This book tells the story of the happenings on a farm over a one year time period. Month by month, the book walks the reader through the changing seasons and how those changes are experienced by the farm animals and the people living at Maple Hill Farm. The words and the illustrations are beautiful.
You can watch a video of the book being read here: http://www.watchknowlearn.org/Video.aspx?VideoID=35246&CategoryID=9477
After the book, I brought my children’s attention back to the date by using a wonderful freebie from Just Reed. You can find the Leap Year FREEBIE in her TPT Store. It includes a few great calendar/math activities and an easy to understand explanation of a leap year. My children found it fun to think about how old and what grade they will be in when future leap years come bounding by.
To wrap up our morning, I made up a game called “Hide and Go Leap.” A few years ago, I had purchased die-cut frogs from the dollar store and actually put them in a place where I could find them for future use. (Yeah, me!) I labeled 29 frogs with the numbers 1-29, hid the frogs throughout the house and then asked the kids to find them.
Once all the frogs were found, the kids had to “leap” them into ascending numerical order. This was a little too easy for my second grader, so I had her practice skip counting by 4’s while the younger two “leaped” the frogs into place. You do not have to wait every four years to pull out this game. It could be used any time of the year with any number of frogs.
A good lesson plan always includes reflection and evaluation. Before moving on to our other work, I had my girls tell their Daddy two things they had learned. I was impressed with what they could recall and I was glad that to have had a fun start to our day.