For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 18, 2014

1. Oceans Awash with Plastic

New studies show that plastic debris pollutes 88 percent of the world’s oceans. That concerns scientists, but not for the reason you’d think. They’re concerned because it’s actually less than researchers had expected. Scientists believe a lot more plastic trash exists and they’re unsure where it is. Debris collected in nets in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans included pieces of such items as bags, food containers and toys, but more may have broken down into microscopic pieces that can’t be collected. Scientists fear that microscopic plastic bits could enter the food chain when eaten by fish or other marine life, and ultimately end up on human plates. Other plastics may have sunk to deeper, less explored waters. Pollution from plastics and other debris is a problem in all the world’s oceans, and in many land areas. Recycling reduces the amount of plastics pollution and the amount of plastic in landfills. In the newspaper or online, read about recycling programs for plastics. Use what you read to design a public service ad for the newspaper to persuade more people to recycle plastics.

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; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Thor Is Now a She

Attention, fans of the gods. Thor is now a she! At least in the world of Marvel Comics. The comic company is re-introducing the once-strapping and bearded thunder god as a blonde woman in a caped costume for future comic books. She’ll still be known as “Thor,” the writer promises, “not She-Thor [or] Lady Thor [or] Thorita.” Marvel says it hopes recasting Thor will attract more females to superhero comic books. Thor has appeared in Marvel adventures since 1962, and has been featured in two blockbuster movies. Women and girls are increasingly important as consumers in America, and companies are making decisions about products to attract more of their business. In the ads of the newspaper, find products you think are being marketed to female buyers and write a paragraph explaining how. Then find a product that seems to be marketed to male buyers. Write a paragraph describing how the product could be more effectively marketed to women or girls.

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. Draft Notice 102 Years Late

The long-dead father of a Pennsylvania woman recently got a letter in the mail — to register for the nation’s military draft! It was 102 years too late, since the father turned 18 in 1912 and died in 1992. Yet the Selective Service System notice listed 1994 as his date of birth and warned that failure to register is “punishable by fine and imprisonment.” The man’s daughter, who lives in Rockland Township in Pennsylvania’s Venango County, is in her 80s. The U.S. military has not drafted soldiers since the 1970s, but still requires 18-year-olds to register should a draft ever be needed to provide soldiers for U.S. military forces. The United States’ all-volunteer military is active in many parts of the world. In the newspaper, find a story about a military operation. Read it closely and write a paragraph or short essay detailing the goal of the operation, what is happening now and how long it is expected to last.

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. Be Lord of the Manor

If you buy a certain estate in the Lake District of England, you’ll been buying a title, too — Lord of the Manor of Threlkeld. Hugh Clayton Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale, has placed part of his family’s vast property (including the title) on the market for $3 million. The property in the European nation includes a mountain known as Blencathra, which is 2,848 feet high and towers over the village of Threlkeld. It has been called a “mountaineer’s mountain” because it has steep slopes that rise from lower reaches to a precipitous upper ridge. Special places draw a lot of attention from buyers when they are put up for sale. In the newspaper or online, find a real estate ad offering a special place for sale. With family or friends, read the ad and discuss the property. Then write a paragraph profiling the kind of person who would want this property, and why.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Capsized Ship Refloated

Thirty months after it capsized off the coast of Italy, the Costa Concordia cruise ship has been successfully refloated and towed to the city of Genoa to be scrapped. The operation to remove it from the reef it had struck, and float it to Genoa, will cost the equivalent of about $2 billion. The wreck of the Concordia killed 32 people, and the ship’s captain is being tried in Italy on charges of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and personally abandoning the ship before all passengers and crew were evacuated. Despite the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, cruise ships remain popular vacation activities for individuals and families. In the newspaper or online, find an ad for a cruise ship traveling to a place you would like to visit. Then draw a series of comic strips for the newspaper, showing you and your family or friends having fun on your chosen cruise.

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.

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