, week of
Sep. 15, 2014
1. Robots Replacing Sheep Dogs?
Sheep dogs, beware. You might be replaced by robots. Scientists have found that robots could be programmed to do what the border collie has done for years — force sheep into a tight group, herd them and move them forward. Researchers report in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface that using computer simulations and data from GPS locating devices, robots could herd livestock, including sheep, and even control crowds of people. Needless to say, the findings have been challenged by the International Sheep Dog Society. Every year, technology is used in new ways. With a partner, search the ads and stories of the newspaper to find a technology device that is doing something new for people. Talk about how the device works and write a paragraph describing how it is an improvement over how things were done before.
Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
2. Dinosaur Tracks on Display
A dry area loaded with 112-million-year-old dinosaur tracks will open to the public this fall near Moab, Utah. The more than 200 tracks were discovered by a local resident in 2009, and fossil experts have concluded they include footprints left by a Tyrannosaurus rex ancestor and a crocodile pushing off into water. Located in an area smaller than a football field, the fossil footprints have been studied by paleontologists for the last five years and prepared for display. Signs will explain to visitors what they are looking at and a boardwalk may be installed in the future. The display is due to open in October. The footprints of dinosaurs and other animals can reveal a lot about their behavior and movements. Find a story or photo involving an animal in the newspaper or online. Discuss what its footprints could tell you about how it lives. Then draw a series of comic strips, showing things the footprints could reveal about the animal’s behavior.
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.
3. Rocks that Move
A mystery that had baffled scientists in California’s Death Valley is a mystery no longer. For years, scientists have wondered why (and how) heavy rocks have moved across the dry ground of Death Valley, leaving tracks behind them. Now scientists studying their movements have concluded that wind and thin sheets of melting ice are the cause. After observing the rocks, the researchers found that wind pushes ice formed from rainwater across the desert and the ice drives the rocks “like a tugboat,” one researcher notes. Then the ice melts, leaving the rocks in a new place. Such icy conditions are “really, really rare,” the researcher says, especially “in the hottest, driest place on the planet.” Scientists are always studying the features of the Earth to learn new things. In the newspaper or online, find a photo of an outdoor scene, or a place with unusual natural features. Think like a scientist and write a paragraph describing something you could study in the scene, and what you could learn.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
4. Skeleton in Museum’s Closet
The Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania has discovered a 6,500-year-old skeleton that it didn’t know existed. And it was right inside the museum! Excavated in the Middle East nation of Iraq in 1929-1930, the skeleton had sat unnoticed in the museum’s storage room for about 85 years. Researchers came across the skeleton while digitally cataloging artifacts from a museum “dig” in the ancient Ur region. All identifying information had been lost on the skeleton, but museum officials are using a CT scanning machine and DNA data to learn more about the bones. Already they have learned the bones were from a middle-aged man who lived 6,500 years ago. The skeleton is now on display for the public. Museums exhibit different items to teach people about history, art, science or culture. In the stories and listings of the newspaper, find a description of a museum exhibit in your area. Read the description closely and write a paragraph describing what people could learn from it about history, art, science or culture.
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.
5. Lawns Sprayed Green
Front lawns have been turning brown during California’s record-breaking drought this summer, but local business people have come up with an unusual solution. They are offering to spray the lawns with a special green dye. Drew McClellan works most of the time as a hair stylist, but in his spare time he’s been spraying lawns in the Long Beach area with a dye that is similar to what he saw used by golf courses when he was a boy in Florida. Since he began his side business, other people have picked up the idea, and dozens of lawn paint choices have become available. Creative ideas often are turned into businesses. Find examples in the newspaper with a partner. Then brainstorm an idea for a business you might start that kids your age would like. Give your business a creative name, and design a newspaper ad announcing it to the public.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.