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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 06, 2017

Middle school

1. African American Influence

February is Black History Month, and communities across the nation are celebrating the achievements of African Americans. Look through the newspaper this month and find three black leaders who are making a positive difference in their communities, or in the world. Write a short profile of each. Compare the people you picked with those picked by your classmates. Discuss what qualities and tactics the people chosen by the class share, and what each is doing differently.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. IBM Granted Most Patents

For the 24th straight year, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) was granted the most United States patents for innovations and inventions in the year 2016. The company was granted a record 8,088 U.S. patents for the year, thanks in part to the company's research into artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. Samsung Electronics Co. and Canon Inc. were second and third for patents, respectively, Qualcomm Inc. was fourth and Google was fifth. Microsoft finished in eighth place and Sony Corp. and Apple were 10th and 11th. The number of patents granted companies is considered a measure of innovation. New business inventions and innovations are often in the news. In the newspaper or online find and closely read about an invention or innovation by a business. Use what you read to write a consumer column, detailing how this innovation or invention will affect the public, and how.

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

3. Methane on Sea Floor

Scientists have discovered methane gas bubbling from the sea floor at more than 570 locations off the East Coast of the United States. In a report published in the journal Nature Geoscience, they cite evidence that the seepage has been going on for at least 1,000 years in an area ranging from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in the south to Nantucket, Massachusetts in the north. They believe the gas is not reaching the atmosphere, but is dissolving in the ocean, where it affects the water’s acidity. Scientists studying climate change are concerned about the effect the seepage may have on the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Global warming and climate change are having impact all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme detailing how this change will affect people or wildlife in the years ahead.

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. Hotels Going Keyless

Starwood Hotels and Resorts is expanding its use of technology so that guests will be able to open their hotel doors with smart phones instead of room keys. It first tested the technology at 10 hotels in 2014, and now has expanded it to more than 130 hotels and resorts in 30 countries. To use the technology, a guest must be enrolled in the Starwood loyalty program and download the Starwood Preferred Guest app. In just months, Starwood reported, 350,000 loyalty reward members registered to use the keyless feature at Starwood’s Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton and Four Points properties. Smart phone apps are changing the way people gather information, do business or make transactions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an app that is gaining popularity. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining its appeal and how it is changing the way people do things.

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.

5. Low Vitamin D

If kids don’t get enough Vitamin D when growing up, they may be at increased risk of heart trouble when they’re older. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has discovered that people with the lowest Vitamin D levels in childhood had significantly higher prevalence of artery thickness as adults. Thickness in the walls of arteries can restrict blood flow and increase the risk of heart issues. People can increase Vitamin D in their bodies through exposure to sunlight and by eating dairy products, eggs, fortified cereals and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about vitamins and minerals that are important to good health. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation highlighting and explaining the health benefits of one vitamin or mineral.

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.