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For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 21, 2014

1. White Boys Color-Blind

Color-blindness affects boys way more than girls, but it does not affect all boys equally, according to a new study. It is more common in white boys than in other ethnicities, and least common among African-American boys, according to a report in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The study found that one in 20 Caucasian preschool boys have tested color-blind (not actually blind, but unable to accurately detect specific colors). Among girls of all ethnicities, color-blindness appears to be almost non-existent. Testing preschoolers, researchers note, can prevent unfair categorization of children who perform poorly later in school on assignments involving color coding. Vision is one health issue that is important to children and families. In the newspaper, find another health issue that would be important to families or students your age. Write a paragraph summarizing the most important things families should know about the issue.

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.

2. Funny People

In 1976, Larry Wilde, author and director of the Carmel Institute of Humor, designated April as National Humor Month. Wilde advocated using humor and laughter to relieve unhappiness or stress. Relieve a little stress of your own by creating a humorous editorial cartoon that comments on something important to you in the news. Share cartoons and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standard: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

3. Flies More Agile Than Jets

Tactics similar to those of a fighter pilot under attack are employed by the common fruit fly when trying to evade a predator. Recent research shows that the flies alter their yaw and pitch motions much like a high-performance pilot. What’s more, they do it at full speed, faster than humans can comprehend. Fruit flies flap their wings at an incredible 200 beats per second, the researchers note, roll their bodies like an aircraft making a banked turn, can alter course 50 times faster than we can blink and have even been observed flying upside down. Scientists are baffled at how such a tiny brain can process such astoundingly complex calculations. Insects and other wildlife have developed talents and abilities that help them survive. In the newspaper, find a story about species of wildlife with a special talent. Use what you read and additional research to design an informational poster highlighting the talent.

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. Women Earn Less

In the United States women, on average, earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, President Obama has pointed out, which he says is an “embarrassment” to the country. A Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate, would add new regulations on how private companies pay employees, but faces stiff Republican opposition. Critics of the Obama administration say the statistics are misleading, and by the same criteria, White House female employees earn just 88 cents for every dollar males earn. Most of the high level officials appointed by Obama to his administration are men, but the overall White House staff is about evenly divided between the sexes. As a class, discuss pay inequality and what steps should be taken to address it. Then write a short editorial for the newspaper, outlining one idea and why it should be tried.

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.

5. Robot Plays Pac-Man

Robots that teach other robots are being developed at Washington State University. So far, they’ve created one that teaches other robots to play the video game Pac-Man, eventually racking up points faster than the “teacher.” “Even a mediocre teacher can increase the speed at which the student learns,” one of the computer scientists reports in the journal Connection Science. The model has many applications, he noted. One example could be a house-cleaning robot that could train its replacement. Technology has changed a great many things in American jobs and lifestyles. In the newspaper, find an example of technology that has changed the way things are done. Think creatively and write a poem, rap or rhyme detailing how your chosen technology has changed things.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.



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