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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 13, 2016

1. Robots to the Rescue!

Small batteries are dangerous if you’re a child. In the United States it’s estimated that a child swallows a battery every three hours — about 3,000 cases a year. Soon, robots will be available to deal with the problem. At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation this spring, a small robotic device was demonstrated that can retrieve swallowed objects such as button-cell batteries, which are frequently swallowed by small kids. Deaths from swallowing button-cell batteries are very rare, but serious complications can arise when a battery is caught in a child’s throat. The new robot couldn’t perform major throat or esophagus surgeries, but it might be able to patch smaller wounds in the stomach. The robot would be controlled magnetically by human operators. Robots that can retrieve swallowed objects are an example of technology being used in a new way. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of technology. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what the new use of technology achieves and how it is an improvement over ways things were done previously.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. No Olympics Delay

The Zika virus epidemic in Brazil is causing major concern among planners of this year’s Summer Olympics in the South American country. But the World Health Organization says it would not recommend cancellation, postponement or relocation of the Summer Olympics in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Instead, WHO has issued guidelines for athletes to guard against the mosquito-borne virus. For most of its victims, Zika causes only a mild illness, but it has been linked to brain damage in babies born to women infected during pregnancy, and also to a rare form of temporary paralysis. The Zika virus is causing concern in many countries because of the health risks it poses. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the Zika virus. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video telling the Zika story through the eyes of a family experiencing it. Write out questions you would like to ask the family for your film.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Hot, Hot ‘Hamilton’

The hip-hop musical “Hamilton” has been selling out shows on Broadway in New York City, and in this year’s Tony Awards it got many more honors. It was nominated for 16 Tony Awards for the June 12 awards show Sunday night — the most ever for a Broadway show. The nominations covered just about every category, including acting, writing, directing, dance, music and design. The show’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was nominated for three Tonys — for his book, his music and for his performance in the title role. “Hamilton” was also the overwhelming favorite to win the most coveted Tony, for best new musical. In the newspaper online, find and read stories about how many Tony Awards “Hamilton” won this year. Then discuss how the musical became so popular telling the story of Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the nation’s founders. Finish by finding and closely reading a story about a real event in the newspaper or online. Think creatively in the style of “Hamilton” and write a rap, rhyme or song to tell the details of the event and why they are important. Share raps with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Aid to Holocaust Victims

Resolutions introduced in the U.S. Congress are urging the European nation of Germany to step up its aid to victims of the Nazi Holocaust because survivors are now elderly and their “medical, mental health and long-term care needs” are increasing rapidly. The German Foreign Ministry and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany are meeting jointly, seeking a way to meet these needs for survivors, many of whom are now in their 80s. For about 60 years, the Claims Conference has been caring for some 55,000 survivors around the world through compensation and reparations programs financed by the German government. But as the survivors age, it is no longer enough in many cases. One of the co-sponsors of the U.S. House bill, a Florida Democrat with aged Holocaust victims among his constituents, acknowledges that “what is being done by the Germans is incredibly generous [but] survivors’ needs are not being met.” Meeting the needs of senior citizens is a concern for families, communities and the government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about programs designed to help senior citizens. Pick one you think people should know about. Design a public service ad for the newspaper, highlighting features of the program that most help seniors.

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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Sugary Drinks Can Make You Sick

A new study puts the blame for many diseases squarely on consumption of refined sugars, which are in most soft drinks and fruit juices. Reporting in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers say “public health strategies that reduce consumption of these drinks” should be adopted. Daily consumption of sugary drinks is a major culprit in the current obesity epidemic in the United States, the report says. It may also cause a host of illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks and many degenerative diseases. Health issues are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a health issue important to students your age or families. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper calling attention to this issue, and offering your views on what should be done to address it.

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.