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For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 14, 2014

1. Da Vinci’s Diagrams

Artist, engineer and inventor Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1492. Da Vinci studied the world around him and came up with ideas for different types of machines, and even painted the famous picture known as the “Mona Lisa.” He kept extensive journals filled with thoughts, observations and diagrams showing how things work, or could work. Find a machine in the photos and ads of the newspaper. It can be an engine, an elevator, a toy or anything else. Draw and label a diagram showing how you think it works. Then do further research to see how accurate your explanation was.

Common Core State Standards: 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;.

2. Funny Frogs

Americans love goofy observances. Did you know, for example, that April is both National Frog Month and National Humor Month? Celebrate these oddball observances by picking a newsmaker from the newspaper. Then think up a humorous story line involving this person and a frog. Present your story as a comic strip, a short story or a scene from a movie or TV show. Give your story a humorous title.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

3. Goats Aren’t Dummies

Goats are far smarter than people believe, a new study concludes. Researchers find that goats can be trained to learn complex tasks, and remember them for a long time. It’s a “common misconception that goats aren’t intelligent,” the study’s co-author says in the journal Frontiers in Zoology. They have a remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, he adds, but “we would need to perform a similar study with wild goats to be sure.” The study was conducted by a team from Queen Mary University of London, England. Animals often are in the news. In the newspaper, find a story about animals or their behavior. Read the story closely. Then write a paragraph detailing key points, using material from what you read.

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.

4. Microbes = Mass Extinction?

The biggest mass extinction in Earth’s history was caused not by massive meteor impacts or drifting supercontinents, as previously theorized. The cause was a tiny, single-celled microbe organism. About 252 million years ago, more than 90 percent of ocean life and 70 percent of land-based life forms died. New research suggests the cause was microbes producing large quantities of methane gas, following the largest set of volcanic eruptions ever. The volcanoes spewed the element nickel into the oceans, which allowed the population of the methane-producing microbes to explode. Scientists today closely monitor conditions on Earth to spot changes that could affect people or the environment. Find an example of such research in the newspaper or online. Write a paragraph or short essay, summarizing the findings and their importance.

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. Few Female Film Roles

Women accounted for fewer than one-third of all speaking roles in last year’s 100 top-grossing domestic movies, reports the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. On top of that, just 15 percent of those films had women in leading roles. These statistics are essentially unchanged from 2002, when statistics were first collected on the percentage of female roles in movies. Lack of growth in the number of leading female characters has been attributed to the fact that so few women — about 17 percent — are among Hollywood’s writers, directors and producers. In the newspaper or online, find ads for the movies drawing biggest audiences this week. Count the number of women listed in ads as stars of the movies. Then count the number of men. Show the results as a bar graph and calculated the percentages.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.



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