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For Grades K-4 , week of Nov. 21, 2016

1. Backaches and Astronauts

Long space missions can be risky for astronauts’ bodies. Some astronauts serving on the International Space Station have gained up to two inches in height during six-month stays — and have experienced serious back pain. Officials for America’s NASA space agency say the increase in height is due to a weakening of the muscles supporting the spine during extended periods of weightlessness. More than half of the American astronauts who have served on the space station orbiting the Earth have reported back pain, especially in the lower back. Up to 28 percent indicate the pain is moderate to severe, sometimes lasting as long as the mission did. Researchers in a NASA study have suggested adding yoga to the astronauts’ daily workouts to reduce the problem. Many experiments and activities on the International Space Station are designed to see how extended stays in space affect the health and fitness of astronauts. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to closely read about activities on the space station connected to the health or fitness of the crew. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining what the activities can teach NASA and why that is important for future astronaut missions.

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. Wonder Mascot

The United Nations has a new mascot and spokeswoman — and she’s straight out of the comic books. Wonder Woman was named honorary ambassador for “the empowerment of women and girls” at a ceremony October 21, and will be used in social media to promote messages about women’s empowerment, violence against women and encouragement for women to get involved in public life. The U.N. is a multi-nation group that seeks to solve problems around the world peacefully. In her U.N. role, Wonder Woman will call attention to achievements of girls and women and problems they face. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue or achievement important to girls and women. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video in which Wonder Woman calls attention to the issue or achievement and explains why it is important.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Son Buys Princess’s Home

Prince Albert II of Monaco has purchased a house in the United States — and not just any house. It’s the one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his mother Grace Kelly grew up before becoming a movie star and then wife of European Prince Rainier of Monaco. The house — built in 1935 — recently went on the market, and Prince Albert bought it for $754,000 (his mother died in a car crash in 1982). The prince is still considering ideas on what to do with the building. It won’t be a museum (“the neighbors wouldn’t like us very much”). But it could house the U.S. office of the prince’s charity foundation, which focuses on environmental issues. The homes of famous people often are preserved by family or historic groups as a way to honor them. As a class, talk about homes of famous people that have been preserved in your community. Then find and closely read a story in the newspaper about a famous person who interests you. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short essay suggesting why this person’s home should be preserved, and why people would be interested. Share with the class.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions..

4. Thumb Knocked Off Statue

There’s a reason people say “don’t touch the artworks” when you visit a museum. At the British Museum in London, England, a thumb was knocked off a 2,000-year-old statue when it was accidentally bumped during the setup for an event. The Roman marble statue known as the Townley Venus was damaged by a staff member of a catering company setting up food and facilities at the museum for a corporate event last year. The damage was repaired when the museum was closed and the statue stayed on display. In ancient Rome, Venus was the goddess of love. Artworks displayed in museums or in public places are an attraction for visitors or residents of a community. As a class, discuss artworks such as statues, murals, paintings or interesting buildings in your community or state. What do they add that makes the community more interesting? Do they call attention to historic people or traditions? Think like an artist and design a statue or public artwork that would call attention to someone or something you like about your community. Draw a picture of your artwork and discuss it with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

5. Shooting Star Retires

NBA star Ray Allen, who made more three-pointers than any player in league history, has announced he is retiring after 18 seasons in pro basketball. Allen, who is 41 and hasn’t played for two seasons, said he had considered coming back but decided to end his career instead. He averaged 18.9 points in 1,300 regular-season games with the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. He appeared in 10 All-Star Games and helped both the Celtics and the Heat win league titles. Ray Allen’s career is an example of someone being successful over a long period of time. In teams or pairs, find and closely read a story in the newspaper or online about someone else who has been successful for a long time. Use what you read to prepare an oral report for the class explaining the qualities, skills and personal character the person needed to be successful over a long time. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your talk.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; 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.