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Yak’s Corner
A print and online children’s news magazine published on 30 Thursdays from September through May for Michigan kids ages 6-13. Each eight-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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for Grades 5-8

Jan. 26, 2015
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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 26, 2015

1. Wanted: Healthy Pizza

On days you eat pizza, you probably take in more calories, fat and sodium (salt) than on other days, a new study reports. Since on any given day in North America, one in five young children and nearly one in four teens eat pizza, “we need to make healthy pizza the norm,” the lead author advises in the medical journal Pediatrics. Poor eating habits — too many calories, too much salt and fat — raise the risk for nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, the researchers warn. Fast foods and snack foods contain a lot of calories, fat and salt, compared to other foods. Eating fewer foods with these ingredients can make both kids and adults healthier. With a partner, plan to start a restaurant that would serve healthy foods that would still be fun. Do some research in the newspaper and online about foods that would be healthier choices for snacks or meals. Then brainstorm ways these foods could be made interesting or fun. Design a menu for your restaurant and write descriptions for some food items you would serve. Give you restaurant a fun name.

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. Suntans Can Be Risky

Tanning may be bad for your health, the former U.S. surgeon general has warned. Skin cancer is a “major public health problem,” Boris Lushniak said before stepping down as acting surgeon general at the end of December. Skin cancers are increasing in the U.S., according to a new report, and many can be directly tied to indoor tanning. Lushniak urged more states to ban indoor tanning for teens and younger children and to educate everyone about the risks. For outdoor tanning, he urges using sunscreen, wearing a hat and seeking shade. Health tips for teens and preteens are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find a story about a health issue. Read the story closely and write a paragraph offering advice in your own words. Then sketch an idea for a poster to showcase your advice.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

3. Saudis Flog a Blogger

In many nations around the world, citizens do not have the rights Americans take for granted. In many Muslim nations, for example, citizens who criticize the authorities can be violently punished. In Saudi Arabia a blogger has been sentenced to public flogging for a website challenging that country’s religious establishment. He is to undergo 1,000 canings over a period of months, 10 years in prison and heavy fines on a variety of charges, including cybercrime and parental disobedience (his father has publicly denounced the blogger). In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about a government cracking down on free speech in another country. Read the story closely and write a short editorial describing why freedom of speech is an important right for citizens to have. Consult the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution if necessary.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; 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.

4. Students ‘Armed’ … with Canned Food

Pupils have been asked to bring canned food to W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama — not to distribute to the poor, but to hurl at possible intruders. In a letter to parents, Principal Priscilla Holley said the cans “could stun the intruder or even knock him out until police arrive.” The cans, stockpiled in classrooms, “will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves,” she noted, “and will make them feel secure.” The request has generated much comment, but few complaints, the superintendent of schools has observed. As a class, divide into two teams and debate the idea of arming students with canned food. Have one side research and argue in favor of the policy and the other against. Be sure to take into account risks to students, especially if an intruder were armed. Take a vote at the end.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. A Whale That Ages Gracefully

For the secret of aging gracefully, people should check out the bowhead whale. This resident of Arctic waters can live more than 200 years, and scientists studying its genetic blueprint have discovered clues to its longevity and remarkable resistance to disease. It’s “the biggest animal whose genome has been sequenced thus far,” the study’s leader notes in the scientific journal Cell Reports, and from what has been learned about its genes “we hope to learn … the secret for living long term healthier [human] lives.” Genes and DNA, which are contained in every living cell, determine the characteristics of all living things. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about genetics or DNA testing being used to answer medical or scientific questions. Write a summary of the key points and how the use of genetics or DNA is an advance over how things were done previously.

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.