For Grades K-4 , week of Aug. 25, 2014

1. Dinosaurs with Feathers?

Feathers may have been more widespread among dinosaurs than previously believed, new fossil research suggests. Paleontologists report in the journal Science that a new plant-eating species discovered in Russia had feathers. Until now, the only known feathered dinosaurs were theropods, the suborder that includes the meat-eating Tyrannosaurus rex. The new one, a beaked plant-eater, is “the first … outside the theropod” line, the study’s first author notes. That means feathers “probably existed in the common ancestors of both … and all the descendants … as well.” The study of fossils helps scientists understand how wildlife species changed over time, as conditions on Earth changed. How might today’s wildlife change in the future? In the newspaper or online, read about a wildlife species. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing how this species might change in the future — and why.

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.

2. Earth Escaped Damage

Most people were unaware of it, but on July 23, 2012, the planet Earth nearly got hit by a powerful solar flare from the sun. Had it happened a week earlier, high-speed charged particles colliding with the Earth’s magnetic field could have knocked out power grids and communications, leaving millions without electricity for months. In addition, America’s NASA space agency has revealed that one of its spacecraft was hit in the unpublicized event. If the flare had hit Earth, experts say, damages might have cost more than $2-trillion, and repair could have taken years. Scientists are always studying events in space to see how they could affect Earth or the solar system. With family or friends, use the newspaper or the website to read about a mission studying space activity. Write the word SPACE down the side of a piece of paper. Then use each letter of the word to start a complete sentence describing something the mission is doing.

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.

3. Mite Named for J.Lo

What an honor! A species of ocean bug has been named in honor of singer and movie star Jennifer Lopez. The bug, an eight-legged acquatic mite related to spiders, was discovered in a coral reef off Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea south of the U.S. state of Florida. J.Lo, as she is known to her fans, is the daughter of a couple born in Puerto Rico and was honored by the naming because her songs and videos “kept the team in a continuous good mood,” according to the lead researcher. Scientists often look for interesting names for things when they are discovered or studied in new ways. In the newspaper or online, find a wildlife species that interests you. Pretend you are a nature scientist who has just discovered it. Pick a celebrity or famous person who would be a good choice to name it for. Write a letter to the editor, explaining why your choice is a good one for this species.

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.

4. Trees Save Lives

It’s true. Trees do save lives, according to the United States Forest Service. A recent Forest Service study concludes that trees save 870 lives a year and prevent 670,000 cases of acute breathing problems by removing pollution from the air. “We found that in general the greater the tree cover, the greater the pollution removal and … the greater the human health benefits,” the study co-leader reports. Every year, trees remove an estimated 1 percent of air pollution from the environment, the study found. Air, water or land pollution are problems in many communities. With family or friends, use the newspaper to find photos of outdoor scenes that could be affected by pollution. Pick one and design a public service ad for the newspaper explaining why people should protect the area from pollution. Be sure to give your ad an eye-catching headline!

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Old Ship Discovered

A 32-foot piece of a sailing ship built in the 1770s has been found about 20 feet under the street at the World Trade Center site in New York City. The ship, which was built before the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed, had been weighed down and sunk to the bottom of the Hudson River as landfill when Lower Manhattan was extended. Scientists report in the journal Tree Ring Research that the ship was a Philadelphia-built sloop made to navigate shallow, rocky water and was sunk after sailing 20 to 30 years. It was discovered during construction of a complex being built on the site of the 2001 attacks against America that caused the collapse of the twin towers of the original World Trade Center. Scientists study things from the past to learn how earlier people lived and worked. In the ads of the newspaper, find three items that people use a lot today. Think like a scientist and write a paragraph or short essay explaining what these items could teach future scientists about the way people live and work today.

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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