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For Grades K-4 , week of June 13, 2016

1. Plants Face Extinction

One of every five existing plant species faces the risk of going extinct, according to a new study called the “State of the World’s Plants.” If that happens it would have a terrible impact on people, since “plants provide us with everything — food, fuel, medicines, timber — and they are incredibly important for our climate,” researchers say. Noting that “without plants, we would not be here,” the researchers say human activities are the main cause of the threats of plants becoming extinct. As humans chop down forests to clear space for agriculture and cities in places like South America and Africa, great numbers of plant species will be lost. There currently are 380,900 plant species on Earth that are known to scientists (not including algae and moss). Plants provide many things to people. They provide food in the form of vegetables and fruits. They provide flowers that people plant in gardens. They provide grass for lawns and trees used for building. Search the ads and photos in the newspaper or online and make a list of 10 plants you see pictured. Next to each write something the plant provides people and how that makes people’s lives better.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Hello, Greeters!

Greeters who say hello to customers are back at the front of Walmart stores. The nation’s largest store chain is moving about 9,000 employees — many of them new hires — to the entrances of its stores to greet customers as they arrive, answer questions and check shoppers’ checkout slips. Visitors to the stores will be able to spot them by the yellow vests they wear. The company has moved greeters back to the entrances as it studies ways to improve safety, customer service and security and to reduce shoplifting losses. Greeters provide customer service at Walmart stores. Employees at other stores and businesses also provide services to customers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a business or store in your community. Write a paragraph explaining what services employees of this business or store provide customers. Stretch your thinking: different employees at a business could provide different services.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Lots of Octopuses

Scientists are unsure why, but octopuses are multiplying in the world’s oceans — even as coral reefs die and fish populations collapse. An analysis published in the science journal Current Biology reports that oceans are experiencing big increases in cephalopods — octopuses, squids and cuttlefish. And this is occurring just a few years after some species experienced a sudden crash (the Australian cuttlefish almost disappeared). Cephalopods are called “the weeds of the sea” because they grow so fast, and a number of factors have led to the rise in their numbers, scientists say. First, global warming has created conditions that help cephalopods multiply. Second, humans have boosted the prospects for cephalopods by catching predatory fish that feed on them or compete for resources. Wildlife are successful in the wild when they have a habitat that provides for their needs. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species. Pay close attention to details about the habitat of the species in the story. Then do research online to learn more about the species’ habitat. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining how the habitat provides what the species needs to succeed.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Return Military ‘Stuff’

Each year in the Middle East nation of Israel, observant Jews engage in a spring cleaning ritual in the weeks before Passover holiday. This year, the Israeli government gave the ritual a new twist. It asked that military veterans use the occasion to return military equipment they had kept as souvenirs after leaving the Israel Defense Corps. Since almost everyone is required to serve in the Israeli military at one time or another, the appeal to return equipment to the government affected just about every family. “It’s not safe to keep this stuff around,” a military official said, noting that weapons or other gear could fall into the wrong hands of children, criminals or terrorists. He said the equipment could be returned “no questions asked.” Israel has had many military conflicts with neighboring nations since it was founded in 1948. Israel has asked people to return military equipment because it could be a safety risk for families and communities. As a class, talk about other things that could be safety risks for families. Use points from the discussion to write a letter to the editor giving your opinion about one safety risk people should be aware of — and how they should respond.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Too Many Tourists

In the Southeast Asia nation of Thailand, tourism has gotten so popular on the island of Koh Tahvai that the government is closing it to visitors. Marine parks like Koh Tahvai ordinarily are closed during the rainy monsoon season each year, but Koh Tahvai will not reopen when the others do. “Thanks to its beauty,” a government official explained, it has become “overcrowded” with Thai and foreign tourists, putting its natural resources and environment at risk. On one beach that can comfortably hold 70 people, there often have often been as many as 1,000 trying to squeeze in, according to one official. “If the island is not closed now, we’ll lose [it] permanently,” the official said. Natural attractions are often popular places to visit for tourists and families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a natural attraction in your state or community. Use what you read to design a tourist poster, showing reasons people should visit, and things they should do to preserve the natural beauty and environment. Give your poster an eye-catching title.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.