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For Grades K-4 , week of Apr 21, 2014

1. Growing Their Own

The number of American households in which residents are growing their own food — either in their yards or in community gardens — has increased 17 percent in the last five years, to 43 million people. The National Gardening Association, which announced this statistic, says one of the factors in the rise has been the home-gardening push by First Lady Michelle Obama. The First Lady hailed the announcement in an e-mail, expressing the “hope that interest in gardening and healthy eating continues to grow.” As First Lady, Michelle Obama has worked “to inspire a national conversation about food and nutrition.” In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about food, nutrition and the importance of healthy eating. Use what you read to design a poster that spotlights something people should know about food and nutrition.

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

2. A Different Kind of Garden

Educator Friedrich Froebel was born April 21, 1782. Froebel, a German, is credited with setting up the first kindergarten. “Kindergarten” means “children’s garden” in German, and many of Froebel’s ideas about how kids learn and grow are still fundamental to kindergarten programs today. In groups, pick a news article from the newspaper and come up with a creative way to teach the information in the article to young children. Teach your lesson to the class and ask for feedback: Did your group present the information in a way little kids could understand?

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Why Zebras Have Stripes

Scientists believe they may have solved the mystery of why zebras have stripes. Since the geographic area where zebras live overlaps with the geographic range of blood-sucking flies, the stripes may be a bug repellent, according to a theory currently gaining support in scientific circles. Such patterns as the zebra’s striped coats confuse the navigational sense of tsetse flies and similar species, so those bugs avoid striped creatures, the scientists report in the journal Nature Communications. This allows zebras to avoid many of the diseases blood-sucking flies inflict on other animals. Wild animals change over time and develop features that help them live more effectively. In the newspaper, find a wild animal that has a feature that helps it live. Write a paragraph describing how the feature helps.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. 1,000-Year-Old Remains

A 14-year-old boy who was digging a trout pond in his father’s Utah back yard discovered human remains dating back about 1,000 years. Medical examiners confirmed the age of the remains, and a forensic anthropologist is analyzing them to determine the sex, perhaps ethnicity and more about the person. Utah experts believe the remains are of a Native American, and the site is being combed for more archaeological clues. “Humans have occupied this valley for up to 10,000 years,” one scientist noted. Remains and artifacts from the past can help scientists learn how people lived in earlier times. As a class, talk about things you could learn from an ancient Native American campsite if you discovered it. Draw a series of comic strips for the newspaper, showing different things you could learn.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Space Seeds Bloom Early

Four cherry tree saplings planted after their seeds had orbited the Earth in the International Space Station have sprouted flowers in Japan— a full six years ahead of schedule. They were among 14 saplings that had been expected to take 10 years to bloom in the Asian nation. Astronauts took a handful of cherry tree seeds into space for eight months in 2008 as part of an educational project aimed at Japanese children. The early blossoming has stunned scientists. Some believe it was due to exposure to stronger cosmic rays in space, while others feel the cause was cross-pollination. Experiments in space help scientists learn about space travel and also about life on Earth. With a partner, brainstorm an experiment you would like to try in space. Then write a letter to the editor of the newspaper explaining why it would be worthwhile.

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.

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