Yak’s Corner
A print and online children’s news magazine published once each month from September through May for Michigan kids ages 6-13. Each 12-page issue is filled with educational and entertaining stories about places, people and events in Michigan and around the world. The Yak’s Corner online page also includes “Yaktivities” for each issue, a Yak Art Gallery, student writing and more.

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Michigan K.I.D.S. is the Detroit Newspapers in Education (DNIE) non-profit for the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News that provides digital e-Editions of the Free Press and The News, related online and print teaching resources, and other services to schools across Michigan.

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for Grades 5-8

July 27, 2015
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Oct. 27, 2014
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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 27, 2015

1. Driverless Taxis

Driverless electric taxis not only would help reduce costs for taxi companies, but would greatly cut emissions of greenhouse gases, a recent study concludes. Per-mile greenhouse gas emissions of an electric vehicle operating without a driver would be 63 to 82 percent lower than operation of a gas-electric hybrid driven privately, and 90 percent less than a driven gasoline-powered vehicle. Reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers said a driverless taxi using today’s technology would be cheaper than an ordinary taxi because of its energy efficiency, as well as the lack of a driver. Driverless cars could be available in as soon as five years from Google and other tech companies that are working to develop them. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about the development of driverless cars. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing the benefits of driverless cars and the obstacles developers must overcome.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Pope Confronts Climate Change

Humans are destroying the Earth and threatening their future, Pope Francis has declared in a 38,000-word, 183-page papal letter. And the leader of the Catholic Church says the world’s poor are bearing the worst of it because corporations in rich countries pursue profit with little or no regard for people and the environment. The letter, known as an encyclical, has stirred worldwide discussion and inspired some protests. In it, the Pope says “climate change [is] one of the principal challenges facing humanity … [and] to blame population growth and not extreme consumerism is one way of refusing to face the issues. … Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility. …” Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels contribute to global warming and climate change because they trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about the Pope’s encyclical and climate change. Use what you read to write an editorial urging people to take steps to address global warming.

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.

3. Safe Selfies

A “Safe Selfie” campaign has been launched in the European nation of Russia after a series of accidents involving people photographing themselves led to injuries and even deaths. The campaign’s motto, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, is “Even a million ‘likes’ on social media are not worth your life and well-being.” This year alone at least 10 Russians have been killed and 100 injured taking selfies. The ministry has issued a pamphlet showing situations in which it’s unsafe to take a selfie, including posing on train tracks, holding a weapon and getting close to wild animals. Selfie safety is an issue that is getting greater attention as more people use cell phone and digital cameras. Disney World and other attractions have limited selfies and selfie sticks due to safety concerns. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about selfie safety or other selfie issues. With family or friends, discuss situations in which it would be unsafe or inappropriate to take selfie photos. Then brainstorm an idea for a TV ad calling attention to selfie safety. Write an outline for your ad, including images you would use. Then write the first scene and the message you would want it to convey.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; 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.

4. Surveillance Firm Hacked

Hacking Team, an Italian company that sells surveillance tools to governments and law enforcement agencies, has itself been hacked, exposing a wide array of sensitive data. Data stolen from its servers and uploaded to the Internet contains the names of many private companies and government agencies, including the United States’ FBI. According to reports, the data includes internal documents, email communications and client lists of past and present customers, including some government ministries and armed forces. The hacked data also confirms that Hacking Team does business with repressive regimes that violate human rights, though the company has said it does not. Internet security is a growing concern worldwide because hackers can access and release sensitive material, or contaminate computer systems with viruses. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about hacking or Internet security. Use what you read to summarize steps that companies or government agencies are taking to improve Internet security against hackers.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Texas Decriminalizes Truancy

Skipping school is no longer a crime in the state of Texas. A new law decriminalizes truancy and requires school districts to take preventive measures to reduce the causes that make students want to skip school. Under the old law, students as young as 12 with frequent unexcused absences could be ordered to court, fined or even imprisoned. Opponents of that law argued that the threat of a heavy fine, plus court costs and a criminal record, had not succeeded in keeping kids in school — and had unnecessarily placed kids in the criminal justice system. Many reasons contribute to students skipping school. Discuss some of those reasons with family or friends and read more in the newspaper or online. Then create a series of comic strips for the newspaper, suggesting ways students could be discouraged from skipping school.

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.