For Grades K-4 , week of Mar. 23, 2015

1. Baby Orca Spotted

A baby orca has been spotted in the Pacific Ocean off the Washington State coast — the third birth in the wild that has been recorded this winter for the endangered species. That is an encouraging sign for the area’s population of orcas, which also are known as “killer whales.” Yet the orca population is still dangerously low, with only about 80 orcas known to be living in the Puget Sound region. Pollution, lack of food and other causes are endangering the orcas, which are known for their black and white markings. They’ve been having babies, a Center for Whale Research scientist noted, but the offspring “just haven’t survived.” Efforts to study or protect endangered species often are in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about an endangered species. Use your imagination and brainstorm an idea for a cartoon or short movie featuring the endangered species. Have a member of species talk about dangers or problems it faces, and how people could help.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

2. A Slide to Safety

Passengers on an American Airlines plane landing in Denver, Colorado, had an arrival they won’t soon forget not long ago. They were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes after smoke was reported on board. The plane, operated by U.S. Airways, was taxiing toward the terminal when the smoke was reported, and the captain ordered the emergency chutes activated. A total of 158 passengers and six crew members slid to safety from the plane from Charlotte, North Carolina. Fortunately, officials found no sign of fire, and only one minor injury was reported. When emergencies occur, people have to make fast decisions. In the newspaper, find a story about an emergency in which someone had to make a fast decision. Read it closely and use what you read to describe the decision, and why it was important.

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.

3. Climate Change Affects Mummies

Global warming may be a modern problem, but it’s influencing ancient relics, too. Climate change has been causing some of the world’s oldest mummies to turn into black ooze, researchers have reported. The Chinchorro mummies in the South American nation of Chile have survived for more than 7,000 years, thanks to the dry conditions of the Atacama Desert, but rapidly increasing humidity in the air is causing them to decay. The rise in humidity is connected to warming of the atmosphere and an increase in moisture in the air. The Chinchorro people were hunter-gatherers who were the first known group to mummify their dead. They began the practice at least a thousand years before the Egyptians began creating mummies in the area of the pyramids in Northern Africa. Climate change and global warming are having effects in many ways all over the Earth. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to find and read a story about one effect of climate change or warming. Write a letter to the editor detailing the most important points of the story.

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.

4. Astronauts Are Back

Two Russians and an American who spent nearly six months together as astronauts in space are back on Earth. Russians Alexander Samokutayev and Elena Serova and Barry Wilmore of America’s NASA space agency had served half a year on the International Space Station orbiting more than 200 miles above the Earth. Their space capsule landed in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, and they were immediately taken to recliner-style chairs nearby to begin readjusting to gravity and to undergo medical tests. Three other astronauts remain on board the Space Station, and two of them — American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko — plan to spend a full year there. The International Space Station has been orbiting in space for 17 years and has been staffed by astronauts for more than 14. In the newspaper or online, find a story about the Space Station and research that is being conducted there. Write an outline showing what you learned from the story and present it to the class as a short oral report. Discuss your report with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. March Madness

The NCAA college basketball tournaments are in full swing. Men’s and women’s teams are working together to reach the Elite Eight, Final Four and, of course, the National Championship game. Look through the newspaper and find an example of a group of people working together as a team to achieve a common goal. Write a short summary of the article, including what the team did that was successful and ways that their methods could be improved. Then think about a time you worked as a team in class, playing a sport or anything else. Write a paragraph analyzing that situation: Did everyone work together well? What could people have done differently?

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

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