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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 13, 2023

1. 12 Feet of Snow!

Heat, drought and lack of rain have taken a huge toll on the state of California in recent years. This winter, however, record snowfalls and rain have refilled lakes and rivers and given Californians hope that their days of drought may be over. In the Sierra Nevada mountains, more than 12 FEET of snow has fallen in some areas, following a series of torrential rainstorms that caused flooding in neighborhoods and whole communities. The depth of “snowpack” from storms and blizzards this month is nearly twice as thick as the average for the start of March, and when all that snow starts melting, lakes and reservoirs will reach capacity again. Scientists are also hopeful the slowly melting snow will replenish the underground water “aquifers” that naturally store water and supply the state. The Federal Drought Monitor last week reported that the percentage of California regions experiencing at least moderate drought conditions had fallen from 84.6 percent to 49.1 percent in one week’s time. Droughts and lack of rain cause huge problems all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how drought is affecting a country other than the United States. Use what you read to write an editorial suggesting ways the U.S. and other nations could assist the affected nation now and in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. ‘Ketchup Boat Guy’

People love ketchup on burgers and fries. But few people love ketchup as much as a man from the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean Sea. Ketchup helped save his life. Elvis Francois found himself adrift for 24 days, after ocean currents swept a boat he was repairing out into the Caribbean. He had no signal to call for help and lacked the boating skills to sail back to shore, officials said. So he drifted and drifted hoping someone would see the “Help” message he had written on the hull of his boat. He survived by eating ketchup, garlic and spicy seasoning cubes that he dissolved in rainwater. When the Heinz ketchup company heard of Francois’s ordeal, it wanted to reward the 47-year-old sailor for his courage by giving him a new boat. The problem was, they couldn’t find him after he was rescued by a navy ship from the nation of Colombia, the Today TV show reported. With the help of the Internet, Heinz finally found Francois on the island of Dominica after asking for help to #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy. The company said it would give Francois a “state of the art boat … equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future.” The experiences people have sometimes have unexpected outcomes. That means the ending to their experience was a surprise. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who had an experience with an unexpected outcome. Write a summary of the outcome, telling why it was unexpected, and how that made the person feel, for better or worse.

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. ‘March Madness’

This week the “March Madness” of college basketball begins, and fans all over the country are trying to predict which teams will win the NCAA basketball championships for men and women. The NCAA basketball tournaments are among the most exciting in sports, because if a team loses one game, it is out. Because of this, every game is hard fought and hotly contested. And there are always upsets, in which a lower ranked team defeats a higher ranked team. This year, the top Division I teams for men are Houston, UCLA, Kansas, Alabama and Purdue. The top women’s teams are South Carolina, Iowa, Indiana, Virginia Tech and Stanford. Last year’s champions were Kansas for the men and South Carolina for the women. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about NCAA tournament games this week. Were there upset winners in any of the games? Did any players have spectacular performances or make unusual plays? Use what you read to write a sports column highlighting two or three performances that were unusual, unexpected or especially exciting. Try to capture the excitement in your writing by using active verbs and colorful adjectives. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. Early Horseback Riders

When humans first learned to ride horses, it changed the way they could live, travel, explore and go to war. But when did that happen? Scientists have long been looking for clues, and they now have found some that may force them to re-think the history of horseback riding. Skeletons unearthed from graves in the southeastern part of the continent of Europe indicate that people may have been riding horses as far back as 4,500 to 5,000 years ago, CNN News reports. The skeletons found in burial mounds in what are now the nations of Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary had patterns of wear that suggest that people regularly rode horses, according to a new study. The skeletons had signs of wear on spinal bones, thigh bones and pelvises from bouncing up and down on horses without saddles or stirrups. Most of the skeletons belonged to a group of people known as the Yamnaya, who were cattle and sheep herders who moved around the region. Modern-day horse riders, such as cowboys, have shown similar patterns of skeleton wear and tear, the researchers said. Discoveries about ancient people give scientists new information about how humans lived or changed in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a discovery involving ancient people or communities. Use what you read to prepare a two-minute TV news report on the discovery, how it was made and why it was important. Read your report aloud to make sure it does not run longer than two minutes. Present your report to the class.

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

5. Bullfrogs for Dinner?

Invasive species create problems in many places, because they invade waterways and natural areas and threaten native plants and animals. Invasive fish and amphibians are especially damaging, because they upset the balance of nature in lakes and rivers. In the state of Utah, wildlife officials are trying a new approach in their battle against invasive bullfrogs. They are urging hunters to catch and eat them! Bullfrogs became a problem in Utah when they migrated from their native habitats in the Eastern and Central United States. They are “explosive breeders,” wildlife officials said, and can quickly establish large populations in new places, the Washington Post newspaper reported. They are ferocious eaters and compete for food with native species. This month Utah wildlife officials sent out a reminder that hunters can catch as many bullfrogs as they want this spring, and noted that “they’re tasty” when prepared as frog’s legs. Utah’s bullfrog campaign is part of a trend in which conservationists urge people to eat invasive species such as lionfish and Asian carp. Invasive species cause problems that are difficult to solve. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effort to deal with an invasive species. Use what you read to write an analysis of how effective you think the effort will be, and why.

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