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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 23, 2017

1. A New President

With the election of Donald Trump as president, Republicans now control the presidency, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. That could bring big changes to the way the government is run, and new approaches to issues addressed by laws passed and enacted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about laws President Trump or the Republican Congress want passed. Pick one issue and do additional research on it. Then write a letter to the editor expressing your views on the proposal. Discuss issues as a class.

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. A Warning to Weathermen

Weather forecasting can be risky, but in the Asian nation of North Korea, it may even be dangerous. That country’s all-powerful leader, Kim Jong Un, has warned meteorologists against the “many incorrect forecasts” caused by old observation systems. Frequent natural disasters such as droughts and floods are believed to have worsened constant food shortages in the country, and Kim has toured weather forecasting and satellite rooms to learn more. It remains to be seen whether his warning about “incorrect forecasts” will lead to more accurate weather predictions. Still, it was rare to hear a top official admit North Korea has struggled to keep up to date with technology. Great advances have been made in weather forecasting around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about weather advances using technology. Use what you read to write an analysis of two advances you think have brought the greatest benefits to people.

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.

3. How Tibetans Survive

Most of us could not function at the high altitudes in which people in the Asian region of Tibet live. Scientists now think they have pinpointed the Tibetans’ secret for success. According to a new study, it’s due to a gene they picked up when their ancestors mated with a species of human they helped push to extinction. The gene regulates the body’s production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. The now-extinct humans were known as Denisovans, and they became extinct 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. They possessed a gene variant that enabled them to adapt to low-oxygen levels at very high elevations. Researchers have found that when present-day Tibetans moved into the high-altitude plateau where Tibet is located they adapted to their new environment by interbreeding with the Denisovans and “getting their genes from another species.” Like humans in Tibet, other species adapt over time to survive or succeed. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a wildlife species that has adapted over time to survive. Use what you read and other resources to write a paragraph explaining how the species has changed, how long it took and how it has benefited by the change.

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.

4. 20 Corals ‘Threatened’

The federal government is protecting 20 types of colorful coral by adding them to its list of threatened species. Five are off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; the others are in the Pacific Ocean, near the islands of Guam and Samoa. Coral reefs are important fish habitats that are in trouble worldwide. Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change have caused corals to “bleach” and die out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has listed global warming and human fishing practices as two of the biggest threats to coral reefs. Global warming and climate change are affecting wildlife habitats all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effect 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 video, including images you would use. Give it an eye-catching title. Then write the first scene.

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.

5. Healthier Dish Washing

Doing dishes the old-fashioned way — by hand — might help curb the rising rate of childhood allergies. Researchers in the European nation of Sweden have concluded that children in families that don’t use a dishwasher are about 40 percent less likely to develop allergies. Reporting in the journal Pediatrics, they speculate that washing by hand doesn’t get dishes as clean as a dishwasher does, which is actually a good thing. When the dishes aren’t as clean they expose children to more types of bacteria, which can help protect against allergies. According to this “hygiene hypothesis” from the scientists who conducted the study, increased exposure to microbes in early life may stimulate a child’s immune system. Health and medicine studies often are in the news because they interest many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a health or medicine study. Use what you read to design a poster highlighting the most important things families should know, and explain why. Use images clipped or printed from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your poster.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.