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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 21, 2016

1. Toxic Air Threatens Kids

About 300 million children are breathing highly toxic air every day, most of them in South Asia in places where air pollution is at least six times the level the World Health Organization considers safe. About 220 million South Asia children are affected, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (known as UNICEF). Children exposed to toxic levels of air pollution face serious health risks and are “uniquely vulnerable because their lungs are still developing,” UNICEF declares. Developing clean-air technology to deal with pollution may really be a matter of life or death for millions of young people, UNICEF says. Dealing with air, water, waste and trash pollution is a problem all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one case of such pollution, what is being done about it or what needs to be done about it. Use what you read to write a short editorial for the newspaper outlining the most important lessons about dealing with pollution that other communities could learn from the story.

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.

2. Tracking Space Junk

A Space Surveillance Telescope has been developed that can follow objects as small as a softball flying through space in the area around the Earth. The new telescope is being added to a global network designed to keep track of space junk, such as dead rocket parts, foreign satellites and uncharted asteroids. Unveiled at the White Sands Missile Range in the state of New Mexico, the Space Surveillance Telescope weighs 90 tons, is powered by a 38,000-horsepower engine and is able to swivel swiftly and almost silently. It will be installed next year on the continent of Australia, filling a gap in surveillance of the Earth’s southern sky. The Space Surveillance Telescope is an example of new technology being developed to gather information or solve a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use for technology. Use what you read to write a consumer review of the new technology, detailing what it does, how that helps people or businesses and why it is better than previous devices or technology.

Common Core State Standards: 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. Sharpshooters at Battlefields

Sharpshooters retained by the U.S. Agriculture Department will be stalking two Civil War battlefields this December in search of white-tailed deer blamed for damage to national forests and plants. The National Park Service will close the Antietam and Monocacy battlefields in Maryland while the deer herds are thinned. Two-hundred-forty-three deer are being targeted at Antietam and 278 at Monocacy. At both battlefields, the density of deer is more than 10 times greater than the optimum density of 15 to 20 per square mile. All suitable deer meat will be donated to food banks feeding the poor. When wildlife populations grow too large, communities and governments often look for ways to reduce them. This can sometimes be controversial, because some people feel it is wrong to kill wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a situation in which a wildlife population has grown too large. Use what you read to design a chart, poster or graphic organizer to represent the situation visually, including the effects of the situation and proposals to deal with it. Discuss as a class.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Lobsters at Risk

Lobsters are one of the world’s great food delicacies, but there may be fewer of them in the future. If the oceans continue to warm at the expected rate due to climate change, baby lobsters might not be able to survive, scientists from the state of Maine warn in the ICES Journal of Marine Science. Lobster larvae struggle to survive when reared in water 5 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than current Gulf of Maine temperatures, the scientists wrote. And that is exactly how much the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects the gulf to warm by the year 2100. Climate change and global warming are having impact on wildlife and habitats all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one example. Then use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme detailing the impact of warming on wildlife or the habitat in your case. Share poems with the class.

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.

5. Opioid Poisonings Rise

The number of children hospitalized because of poisoning by prescription opioid drugs is rising year by year, a study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics reports. The poisonings are affecting children as young as 1 and as old as teenagers. Most children ages 1 to 4 are hospitalized for accidentally ingesting opioids, the report observes, while most of those over 15 are taking the drugs for recreational purposes or attempting suicide. Researchers suggest that “the medical community … develop a safety plan for parents to store their pills and make their homes safer for their children.” They also urge that pills be more securely packaged and labeled. When people want information about a problem like opioid poisonings, they often turn to Internet websites. In teams or alone, use the newspaper and Internet to read stories about the rise in opioid poisonings and abuse. Use what you read and additional resources to design a website showing key information about opioid use and abuse and the dangers of opioid poisoning. Design the home page to show categories of information you want to highlight. Pick an image to illustrate each category. Then write headlines and text blocks to briefly explain each category.

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; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.