Film Festivals & Culture

Grade 9-12 Activity: Each May, one of the largest film festivals in the world is held in Cannes, France. Filmmakers, actors, and audiences from all over the world come together to present and view films.

The 64th annual Cannes Film Festival will be held from May 11 to May 22, 2011. American actor Robert De Niro will be the president of the jury for the main competition, and French filmmaker Michel Gondry will head the jury for the short film competition.

South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho has been announced as the head of the jury for the Camera d’Or prize, which is awarded to the best first-time filmmaker.

The opening film will be “Midnight in Paris,” written and directed by Woody Allen. Melanie Laurent will be the hostess of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Cultural Learning Activity
Create a classroom film festival in which your students present and discuss short film clips from the CultureGrams Video Gallery.

Divide students into groups of three or four and assign them the task of planning an international short-film festival. After screening several of the videos in the CultureGrams Video Gallery, each group should select four “short films” (video clips) for inclusion in their program. They should be able to justify the connections between the films—whether regional, thematic, or otherwise—and the order in which they have chosen to present them.

Students should then read the CultureGrams reports associated with their chosen films and, using that information as background, write paragraph-long introductions for each of their films that take into account the cultures they portray. Once finished, combine these pages into a comprehensive program and distribute it to the class. Have each group do further research as needed on the specific topics of their chosen films so that they will be prepared for a question-and-answer session at the end of their program.

Allow some time in class each day for a week to have students present their films and field questions from the class. At the conclusion of the film festival week, hold an awards ceremony where you—as the keynote speaker—discuss the ways in which film (or video) can influence the way we experience culture.

Make a Meal – Lesson Plan

Make a Meal

March is National Nutrition Month. But food is more than just a way to satisfy our nutritional needs.

The food we eat can say a lot about our culture—it can tell us what foods are available, what we prefer to eat, and what types of food we can afford.

Grades 6-8 Cultural Learning Activity

Start by having all the students read the Diet section under Life Style of the Venezuela CultureGrams report, and discuss the different meals Venezuelans eat.

Show the class the two presentations from CultureGrams Slideshows under Venezuela that show how to make meals: “Making Arepas” and “Making Empanadas.”

Divide the class into six groups, one for each CultureGrams region grouping: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Assign the students one country to research from their region grouping. Assign the students to read through the Eating and Diet sections of their country’s report and discuss within their groups the food available in that country.

Assign the students one of the CultureGrams Recipes from their country. Have students meet outside of class to make the recipe. Instruct students to take pictures (with a digital camera) of the progress of the recipe in steps, similar to those in the Venezuelan slideshows. Then have students compile their pictures and create a slideshow in Microsoft PowerPoint to show to the class.

As part of the presentation, have students explain what the difficult parts of making their recipe were. Was it hard to work with unfamiliar ingredients? Did the meal taste good? Why or why not?

In conclusion, discuss the findings with students. How is food an important part of culture? Does the region people live in influence what they will eat? What makes something tasty to one group of people and not to another?

Antarctica—Mysterious Continent

This year (2011) marks the 110th anniversary of the start of the major exploration of Antarctica (1901-04) by the British Naval Commander, Robert Falcon Scott.

Known as the Discovery Expedition, it was the first official British exploration of the Antarctic regions since James Clark Ross’s voyage sixty years earlier. Organized on a large scale under a joint committee of the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), the new expedition aimed to carry out scientific research and geographical exploration in what was then largely an untouched continent. It launched the Antarctic careers of many who would become leading figures in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, including Robert Falcon Scott who led this expedition, and Ernest Shackleton, who would lead future expeditions.

Its scientific results covered extensive ground in biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. There were important geological and zoological discoveries, including those of the snow-free McMurdo Dry Valleys, and the Cape Crozier Emperor Penguin colony. In the field of geographical exploration, achievements included the discoveries of King Edward VII Land, and the Polar Plateau via the western mountains route. Despite all these accomplishments, the expedition failed to reach the South Pole.

As a trailbreaker for later ventures, the Discovery Expedition was a landmark in British Antarctic exploration history. After its return to England, the Discovery Expedition was celebrated as a success, despite having needed an expensive relief mission to free Discovery and its crew from the ice, and later disputes about the quality of some of its scientific records. It has been asserted that the expedition’s main failure was its inability to master the techniques of efficient polar travel using skis and dogs, a legacy that persisted in British Antarctic expeditions throughout the Heroic Age.

Research/Learning Activity
Assign students to write a report of at least 100 words (or a presentation of at least five slides) that cites at least three resources from the Pathfinder listed below.

Students should address the following essential questions for critical thinking in their reports:

  • What are the most unique geographic characteristics of the continent of Antarctica?
  • What are the most unique species of wildlife in Antarctica?
  • What are two practical benefits of Antarctic exploration for the countries of world?
  • Would you like to go on an Antarctic exploration today—why or why not?

Student-Ready Content Pathfinder

Have Students use online resources on the Virtual Library’s Databases A-Z page to answer the above questions.

Suggested resources:


SIRS Knowledge Source

Select the Subject Heading search option > Type “Antarctica” in the Search box > Click links that provide information that addresses the essential questions above.

Your students can use our custom ProQuest models for written and PowerPoint-style reports.

Teachers may be interested in a ProQuest flexible rubrics model for evaluating inquiry-based learning activities.

Educators may also wish to employ the Quizinator Web tool (free, but registration required) for creating a variety of printed resources, including short assessments.

CultureGrams has New Content!

CultureGrams Updates:
Country Reports, Photos, Conflicts & More

Check out the new content inside CultureGrams!

First, explore the newly updated World Edition reports for current statistics, government leaders, and recent historical events. They expanded select World Edition texts based on contributions from in-country experts.

For instance, take a look at the reports on the United Kingdom, Egypt, and China to read new information in many of the countries’ categories.

The Kids Edition also has updated and expanded county reports, as well as brand-new reports for Denmark, Mali, Nepal, Somalia, and Tunisia.

Also, they have  just added hundreds of new photos to the existing photo galleries, as well as brand-new photo galleries for Brunei, Guam, Iraq, Laos, Lesotho, Monaco, Togo, and Vatican City! Don’t forget to check out the dozens of new slideshows or the 37 new video clips.

Now includes new video clips from Egypt, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, and more. Plus, don’t miss the interviews page to read new Q&A discussions with people from Somalia, Zimbabwe, and Congo-Kinshasa.

Understanding Election Results


United States Presidential Election 2008.

Image via Wikipedia


Grade level K–5


Students will learn about the Electoral College while understanding the numerical basis for election results and practicing various computations.

National curriculum standard(s)

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

• Data Analysis and Probability Standard: Instructional programs from prekindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them.

o [Grade 3–5]: All students should design investigations to address a question and consider how data-collection methods affect the nature of the data set.

• Number and Operations Standard: Instructional programs from prekindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.

o [Grade 3–5]: All students should develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results

• Connections Standard [Grade 3–5]: instructional programs from prekindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.

Developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Time requirement

Preparation: 40 minutes

In-class: 2 hours, two different days; less, if some is done as homework.


CultureGrams States Edition


1.     Begin by handing out a printout of the PDF outline map of the U.S. to each student, along with coloring utensils. Give the students a list of which states voted for George W. Bush (color red) in the 2004 presidential election and which states voted for John Kerry (color blue) and have them color in the map accordingly.

2.     When the students are done, tell them that the country was split fairly evenly in this election, with 51% of the nation voting for Bush and 48% voting for Kerry. Yet, from looking at the amount of red on the election map, they might think that far more people voted for Bush. Talk about how the Electoral College works, explaining that each state gets a number of electoral votes based on its total number of senators and representatives, the latter of which is based on population.

3.     Using this formula (senators + representatives = electoral votes), have the students use the information in the Government section of the CultureGrams States Edition to fill in their map with the numbers of electoral votes each state has. Compare the sum of the blue states’ electoral votes and those of the red states. Are they closer than the map makes them appear?

4.     Explain to students that, typically, it is thought that states that are home to large urban populations (and are therefore more densely populated) tend to be democrat, while those home to rural populations (and therefore more sparsely populated) tend to be republican. Have students test this assumption using the Create-Your-Own-Table function in the States Edition. Have students create tables that display the population densities (population per sq. mi.) for both red and blue states. Using this data, have them create and compare averages for each group. What do their findings prove?

Questions for further discussion

1.     Why might more densely populated states vote democratic, while more sparsely populated ones vote republican?

2.     The Electoral College has come under fire as being out of date and unfair. Do the students agree? Why or why not?

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Extension activity

Provide electoral maps for several past presidential elections. As they compare the maps, they should note which states should be classified as “swing states”; that is, which states alternate between voting for republican and democratic candidates. Then, have the students make a chart that visually displays red, blue, and swing states. The students bring their charts to class and compare them. If there are any differences, allow students to defend their classifications.