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

Nov. 24, 2014
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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 24, 2014

1. Bats Jam Rivals’ Signals

Scientists have long known that bats send out sounds to find food in a method known as biological sonar, or echo-location. Now research has found that when bats compete for the same food, they use echo-location to jam rivals’ sonar systems. A high-pitched “feeding buzz” blocks other bats that are targeting the same food, scientists report in the journal Science. Echo-location allows bats to find and track prey even in complete darkness by bouncing sounds off insects and responding to the “echo.” The new findings “change our understanding of … ways animals compete … for food,” a researcher observes, noting that this also may apply to other creatures that echo-locate, including moths and dolphins. Scientific research that helps people better understand wildlife or nature often makes news. In the newspaper or online, find a story about such research. Read the story closely and write a summary of what the research has found, how it was conducted and how it helps people better understand the natural world.

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.

2. A Satanic Coloring Book

In Orange County, Florida, the school board allows distribution of religious materials on tables inside its high schools, but the practice has been stopped, at least temporarily. That’s because a group called the Satanic Temple submitted a coloring book and two “fact sheets” it wanted to give to students. In the coloring books, cartoon children perform Satanic rituals, draw pentagrams in class, wear Satanic symbols and present anti-bullying and religious tolerance messages. The school board is reviewing the coloring book to determine if its distribution should be allowed with other religious materials. A series of lawsuits has been filed by an atheist group to stop the distribution practice, which they contend violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the concept that there should be “separation of church and state.” As a class, look up the First Amendment to the Constitution and discuss how it applies in the Orange County case. Then write an editorial for the newspaper, giving your view on how the school board should deal with the Satanic request and/or the question of distributing religious materials.

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

3. The Next Attorney General

The next attorney general of the United States, pending Senate confirmation, which is expected, will be Loretta E. Lynch, the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York. She will replace Eric H. Holder Jr., who is stepping down after six years in the office. Lynch, 55, has been nominated for the job by President Obama, who praised her for her work to curb “terrorism, financial fraud, cybercrime — all while vigorously defending civil rights.” If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will be the first African American woman to hold the post. Holder was the first African American attorney general. The attorney general is the nation’s leading law enforcement official, and determines what cases are pursued by federal prosecutors. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about a legal case. Write a summary of the case, and why it is important to the nation or a community.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Pot Use May Alter Brain

MRI scans have revealed that long-term marijuana use alters the brain, causing shrinkage in a region involved in decision-making and judgment. The brain rewires itself, a new study reports, but must work overtime to compensate for the shrinkage. This may explain “why chronic users appear to be doing fine, even though an important region of their brain is smaller,” the author of the study writes in the scientific journal known as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Supporters of legalized marijuana note that the brain changes have not been linked to any differences in day-to-day activity. Opponents of pot use contend the shrinkage is another reason not to use marijuana because long-term effects are not known. Medical research seeks to determine the effects of drugs or other substances on the human body. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about medical research. Use what you learn to draw an editorial cartoon offering a view on the importance of the research.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. Belated Medal of Honor

It took more than 150 years, but 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing finally received the honor due him for his heroism as a Union officer in the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. Although wounded, the 23-year-old Wisconsin soldier refused to move to the rear and insisted on leading his troops in resisting Pickett’s Charge on Cemetery Ridge during the battle believed to have been the turning point in the war. Descendants and others have been working for 25 years to get him a posthumous Medal of Honor. “It’s never too late to do the right thing,” President Obama said at the White House ceremony at which he presented the medal to a distant cousin, Helen Loring Ensign. In every war, soldiers are honored for bravery, valor and heroism. In the newspaper or online, find a story about a U.S. soldier of today who is being honored for his or her actions. Write a letter to the editor describing how this soldier’s actions could inspire other people.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.