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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 09, 2017

1. Tracking Force Used by Police

The U.S. Justice Department will start collecting data on police shootings and other violent encounters with the public, the department has announced. Reacting to protests and investigations of deadly local episodes, the department will gather more data on the use of force by federal agents and help local police report a wide range of information. In a series of fatal encounters across the nation — many involving black men and caught on video — officials have struggled to gather basic information. Civil libertarians are critical of the new program, saying it does not make clear how it will impose penalties set by Congress regarding the reporting of police shootings. The actions of police have drawn increased attention this year as members of the public use cell phones to record police behavior. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a situation in which the actions of police are getting attention. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing why police action is getting attention and whether you think police activities were justified or not.

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.

2. Warming Threatens Arctic

For a wide range of wildlife, the area of the Arctic Circle around the Earth’s North Pole is “a great place to get food in the summertime,” scientists say. But because of climate change, the menu is changing. That could have a profound impact on whales, polar bears, seals, birds and other creatures that migrate to the Arctic in the summer months. Warming already has caused a big jump in production of algae, and with increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more algae will be produced, scientists say. That will have “an impact on the whole food web” because algae are at the bottom of the food chain. “Unless we turn things around,” a researcher predicted, “it’s going to be a different Arctic.” Global warming and climate change are having an impact on habitats and wildlife all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about the effect of warming on a habitat or wildlife species. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video calling attention to the situation. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene in the style of a movie screenplay.

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. Flu Costs Billions

Flu among American adults cost the U.S. economy about $5.8 billion last year in medical visits, medications and lost productivity, a report in Health Affairs magazine has concluded. All told, adults’ diseases that can be prevented by vaccines cost the economy about $9 billion. About $7.1 billion of the $9 billion was caused by skipping vaccines for flu or other diseases, the researchers report. Flu season is starting and people all over the country are looking for ways to stay healthy. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about steps people can take to avoid the flu, or what health experts expect this year’s strain of flu to be like. Use what you read to write a blog for a website or social media site, detailing things people should know or do to stay healthy this winter.

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.

4. Sendak Museum Coming

Author Maurice Sendak created some of the world’s most popular children’s books, including the famous fantasy “Where the Wild Things Are.” But since his death in 2012, there has been an ongoing dispute over where his book collection should be housed. On opposite sides of the dispute have been the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, which had been a repository of thousands of his drawings and books before his death in 2012, and the author’s estate, which wants to create “a museum or similar facility” in his hometown of Ridgefield, Connecticut. Sendak had called for a museum in his will, and now a court ruling and a negotiated settlement have opened the door for that to happen. A probate court awarded a large portion of his book collection to his estate and the settlement divided other books between the estate and the museum. Sendak had urged that the items “be used by scholars, students, artists, illustrators and writers, and to be opened to the general public.” When writers, artists or other famous people die, their admirers often discuss honoring them by establishing a museum or historic site. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person you admire. Use what you read to write a proposal for establishing a museum to honor this person in the future. Include why you think the person deserves to be honored, what would be included in a museum and why people would want to visit and see the museum collection.

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.

5. Heart Rates & Mental Illness

Extremely high or extremely low resting heart rates can predict later psychiatric illness in young men, a new study has found. The study, reported in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, links the highest heart rates to increased risks of obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia, while the lowest rates are linked to higher risk of substance abuse and violent criminality. Researchers from the University of Helsinki have not determined why the correlations seem to occur, and caution against overreacting. “This is just a tiny piece of the puzzle,” one notes. Health and medicine studies often are in the news because people are eager to learn about new developments. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a health or medical study. Use what you read to design a poster or informational ad for the newspaper, showcasing key points people should know about the study.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.