In the fifth grade Open Court curriculum, there is a dreadfully dull story called "Circles, Squares, and Daggers." I taught it a few weeks ago and it was a complete failure on my part. I made a miscalculation as to what the students could comprehend.
The story itself is incredibly technical (hence, boring). I wish we could have just skipped it altogether, even before I realized my miscalculation. This story is one of the many reason why I hate Open Court. I would rather choose literature, magazines, and newspapers to teach language arts, even if it meant having to spend all that energy and time creating my own stuff.
Anyway, what does my little rant have to do with the longest night of the year? "Circles, Squares, and Daggers" is all about how Native Americans tracked the passing of the sun and moon using ancient observatories. They put great importance on the solstices and the equinoxes.
It would be interesting to have the class track these things too, not from observatories (too complicated, too time intensive) but just from tracking the sunset and sunrise times that all weather reports have. Then, they can figure out which exact day is the solstice themselves.
It's one of those maintenance activities though, which I'm not particularly gifted at. But I might be able to manage it if I keep the end goal and overall purpose in mind: namely, practicing observing the natural world.