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For Grades K-4 , week of Jan. 02, 2017

1. Elephants Have a Lawyer!

In the South American nation of Argentina, a lawyer recently got three very large clients. Gil Dominguez has been authorized to represent three elephants in captivity in a zoo in Argentina’s capital city of Buenos Aires. And what do the elephants need? A better life, according to Dominguez. He’s demanding that the elephants Mara, Kuki and Pupi be transferred to a reserve in another country where they would get better treatment and living conditions. Locking up elephants “violates their rights and constitutes abuse punishable by law,” Dominguez says. The lawyer’s effort to protect the elephants’ rights was set up by a 2014 Argentina court ruling that stated an orangutan had some of the same rights as humans. Animal rights and the fair treatment of animals are issues that are getting more and more attention. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read a story about the rights or treatment of animals. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your views on what rights the animals in the story should have, or how they should be treated.

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

2. A Citizen at 99

America Maria Hernandez has more than the perfect name for a new U.S. citizen. She also has the distinction of earning her citizenship at age 99! Hernandez has been living in the United States since 1988 when a daughter brought her from the South American nation of Colombia to take care of the daughter’s child. Her daughter, now 69, arranged to get a green card for her, which allowed her to live and work in the U.S. legally. The green card has been renewed regularly, but this time Hernandez said she wanted to go through the citizenship process. After completing it, she signed her naturalization certificate and took the nation’s oath of allegiance in her New York City living room. Born in 1917 in Colombia, Hernandez is the mother of 12 children, grandmother of 22 and great-grandmother of 12. People from all over the world want to become citizens of the United States. As a class, discuss reasons people want to be U.S. citizens and things the U.S. offers that make it a place people want to live. Then use images from the newspaper and Internet to design a poster showing the advantages of “Being a Citizen.” Share posters and explain how your images connect with being a citizen.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; 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.

3. Pistons Moving Downtown

The Detroit Pistons are coming in out of the suburbs. Since 1978, the National Basketball Association team has been playing home games at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan, but next season, they will move into the new 20,000-seat Little Caesars Arena downtown. The arena is the centerpiece of the $1.2 billion sports and entertainment development known as The District Detroit. The new arena will also be the home of the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings, for whom it was built. Cities all over the country are looking to improve their downtown areas and make people want to live and work in the center of the city. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a city in your state or the nation. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing the benefits of living or working in the downtown section of the city. Or draw a series showing changes that would make downtown areas more attractive to people. Discuss ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Prince Opposes Wildlife Trade

Britain’s Prince William is president of a group called United for Wildlife, and this fall he urged the world’s leaders to step up the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. The illegal wildlife trade affects many species of endangered animals, including elephants, which are hunted and killed for the ivory in their tusks. Prince William made his announcement while he was in the Asian nation of Vietnam for a two-day conference on illegal wildlife trade. Protecting wildlife and endangered species is a top concern for people in many different countries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people trying to protect wildlife or endangered animals. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what is being done to protect one species you read about — and why it is necessary.

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.

5. Cassini’s Last Days

America’s Cassini spacecraft is nearing the end of a spectacular 12 years exploring the planet Saturn. But before it ends its mission, it will make 20 dives inside the outer edge of Saturn’s main ring system, sample ring particles and gases, then, next fall, crash into the planet’s clouds and burn up, according to America’s NASA space agency. Cassini has made many discoveries while exploring Saturn, its rings and its moons. As a result of the craft’s efforts, scientists now know that methane lakes exist on the moon Titan, jets of water shoot from the moon Enceladus and the rings have warps, ripples, hills, twists and braids within them. The Cassini mission has been one of the most successful for NASA scientists. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read more stories about things Cassini has achieved. Write the word “Cassini” down the side of a sheet of paper. Then use each letter to start a sentence or phrase describing something Cassini has achieved.

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; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.