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Six unique events in 2024 for classroom discussion

Now that we’re no longer mistakenly writing “2023” on everything, it’s time to look ahead at the unique events in 2024 perfect for classroom discussion and exploration. This year is full of things that only happen every four years or even less frequently! Go beyond celebrating the typical annual holidays and events with your students and dig into one or more of these notable upcoming happenings.

The future’s so bright

Every year may feature some type of eclipse, but 2024 stands out with a total solar eclipse. During this celestial event on April 8, the eclipse’s path will sweep across North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. In the U.S. the 115-mile-wide path of totality—the area where the moon will completely block the sun—will stretch from Texas to Maine. But don’t worry; even if you’re not within this zone, you’ll still witness a partial solar eclipse throughout the contiguous U.S.

Check out NASA’s FAQ for safety tips, what to expect, and additional information to share with your students about this fascinating event. 

A once-in-a-lifetime cicada event

With over 3,000 documented species of cicadas, it seems like we hear about a massive emergence every spring and summer, but this time, we mean it:

This summer, several U.S. regions are expected to witness the emergence of billions of cicadas. These unique and slightly horrifying insects spend 13 or 17 years underground as nymphs before surfacing when temperatures rise. Remarkably, the simultaneous emergence of both the 13-year and 17-year cicada broods has not occurred since 1803. This natural phenomenon presents an excellent opportunity for educational exploration and engagement with the wonders of the natural world. 

Talk with your students about the cicada’s exoskeleton, their distinctive songs, and the difference between annual and periodical cicadas. Encourage students to learn and ask questions about cicadas and their life cycles to foster a deeper understanding of the environment around them. 

Why do we have leap years?

Question: Donald will have his sixteenth birthday this Thursday. Teddy will celebrate his nineteenth birthday. Yet both are grandfathers and will be the same age as their grandchildren. How is this possible?

Answer: Both Donald and Teddy were born in a leap year. Though they may have been alive for 64 and 76 years, respectively, they only have an actual birthday every 4 years. 

Every four years, February gains an additional day to balance our calendar with Earth’s orbit. Our calendars are usually 365 days, but Earth’s orbit takes 365.2422 days to complete a revolution around the sun. Established in the 16th century with the Gregorian calendar, leap days ensure the seasons remain consistent with the months. Keeping up with this system for over four centuries has helped prevent seasonal drift, but no calendar is perfect. Even with a leap day, we still experience a minor annual drift of thirty seconds. 

This quirk of timekeeping is the perfect moment to delve into the variation between different calendars in use today and explore the complexities of time and astronomy with your students. You can use the concept of leap years to talk with your students about math, history, and science. 

The 2024 presidential election

Just like leap years, the U.S. presidential election happens every four years. The 2024 election is set for November 5, following the tradition of voting on the first Tuesday after November 1. The journey to election day is already in motion, marked by primaries and caucuses across the country, leading up to the national conventions where parties will nominate their candidates, setting the stage for the final months of campaigning.

This event offers an opportune moment to invite students to dive into the mechanics and significance of the U.S. electoral process. Encouraging questions about the election can help cultivate a deeper curiosity about the civic processes that shape our community.

The Olympics are here again

The Tokyo Summer Olympics experienced an unprecedented delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, moving from 2020 to 2021, leading to the rare occurrence of hosting two Olympics within months. Mirroring the cycle of leap years and U.S. presidential elections, we usually experience the Olympics every two years, alternating between summer and winter games, each occurring every four years. Now returning to their regularly scheduled programming, the 2024 Summer Olympics are almost here, beginning on July 26 in Paris, France.

This global event presents a unique opportunity to engage students with the international spirit and values of the Olympic Games. Guiding exploration into the history, significance, and cultural impact of the Olympics can inspire a deeper understanding of global connection and athletic excellence in our global community.

We’re going back to the moon!

We are on the brink of a monumental return to the moon with NASA’s Artemis campaign. The Artemis II mission, initially slated for late 2024 and rescheduled to 2025, will mark the first crewed lunar voyage in over half a century. This will be the maiden voyage for NASA’s powerful Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. They are taking a cautious approach to ensure all technical aspects are perfected and safe for the crew. In the meantime, support missions for Artemis will continue in 2024 as scheduled. NASA’s VIPER, Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, is set to land on the moon in late 2024 to search for ice and other resources. 

Engage your students in the pioneering spirit of space exploration. Discover together the technological, scientific, and historical significance of returning to the moon. Discuss the impact this may have on our global community.

We hope the noteworthy events in 2024 inspire learning and action for you and your students! If you delve deeper into any of them, we’d love to hear about it. Tag us on social media, and use the hashtag #UnitingOurWorld.

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