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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Lessons for

Grades 1-4
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for Grades 9-12

Oct. 20, 2014
Oct. 13, 2014
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For Grades 9-12 , week of Oct. 20, 2014

1. ‘Tools of Torture’

Chinese companies, some of them state-owned, are producing and exporting law enforcement equipment that can be used in torture, two international human rights groups have reported. The items produced by the Asian superpower include electric shock wands, spiked batons and weighted leg cuffs, according to Amnesty International and the Omega Foundation. The report called for a ban on the manufacture, sale and export of such “inherently cruel and inhumane” items. More than 130 companies are involved in the lucrative trade, the report states, up from 28 a decade ago. When a nation does something that other nations disapprove of, leaders of the other nations often look for ways to apply pressure to change things. Measures can range from canceling treaties, to restricting travel between the nations, to applying economic restrictions called sanctions. As a class, discuss ways that the United States and other nations might pressure China to stop producing items that can be used for torture. Then write a short editorial outlining what you think would be the most effective way to apply pressure on the issue.

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.

2. Distracting Phone Systems

In many cars, making a hands-free phone call can be more distracting than picking up a phone, a new study concludes. The reasons for that are that in-dash phone systems are as complicated and error-prone as the functions for music and navigation can be. Researchers from the AAA travel group and the University of Utah also contend that drivers trying to use Siri — the voice control on Apple phones — are often dangerously distracted. The studies focused on cognitive distraction — the mental workload required of a task — rather than visual distraction (taking your eyes off the road) or physical distraction (reaching for a cell phone). Automakers note that the research does not document that cognitive distraction leads to crashes. Safety issues involving cell phone use are getting more attention as use increases. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about safety issues involving cell and smart phones. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay explaining top risks associated with cell phone use.

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. Poaching Imperils Elephants

Poachers killed about 100,000 elephants across Africa from 2010 to 2012, according to a study published in the journal known as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The killing of elephants has been driven by the increased demand for ivory from their tusks in China and other Asian nations. The study found that the proportion of illegally killed elephants had climbed in a decade from 25 percent of all elephant deaths to about 65 percent, a trend that could lead to extinction, the researchers warned. The study was carried out by experts from Save the Elephants, the Kenya Wildlife Service, two universities and an international group set up for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE). The protection of elephants and other endangered species is an issue important to people all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find stories, photos or ads involving an endangered animal you like. Use what you find to brainstorm an idea for a public service TV ad urging people to protect this animal. Write an outline of your ad, including visuals you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Grid Blackout Ended

For nearly 40 years, cable and satellite TV systems have been prevented from televising some National Football League games because of the Federal Communications Commission’s blackout rule. That’s about to change because the FCC has decided to eliminate the rule. The league can still black out games on local broadcast channels when tickets are not sold out, but because of the sport’s soaring popularity, only two games were blacked out locally last season. The NFL opposed the FCC action because it wants to sell out games, but an FCC commissioner said, “It is not the place of the federal government to intervene in the private marketplace. … [Our] job is to serve the public interest, not the private interests of team owners.” The popularity of NFL football has grown tremendously over the years, and not just in the number of games shown on TV. Scan the newspaper and browse the Internet and make a list of things that demonstrate the popularity of the NFL. Then write the word POPULARITY down the side of a sheet of paper. Use each letter of the word to begin a sentence explaining the NFL’s popularity. If you like, you can turn your lines into a poem.

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.

5. Ancient Cave Art

The famous cave paintings in the European nation of Spain may not be, as believed, the oldest examples of human art. Archaeologists believe that paintings of hands and animals found on the walls of caves in the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia are just as old, or older. In both cases, the work is believed to be between 30,000 and 40,000 years old. The painting of a “pig deer” found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been determined to be at least 35,400 years old. Scientists involved in the Indonesian discovery say it is too soon to assess “whether rock art was an integral part of the cultural repertoire” of early humans, or “whether such practices developed independently in various regions.” Works of art can reveal a lot about how people view the world, and the things they feel are important. In the newspaper or online, find a photo of a work of art such as a painting, sculpture or statue. Study the photo carefully. Then write an art review of the artwork, discussing what it tells about how the artist viewed the world, why you think the artist chose the subject and how the artist used art to make a memorable statement about what was important to him/her.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a written or visual text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.