For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 20, 2023

1. New National Monument

Their name sounds like a statue, but national monuments in the United States are actually areas of land set aside to protect natural and historic resources. They are designated by the president on lands owned or controlled by the federal government. Presidents have declared 129 national monuments in the past, and this month President Biden declared the largest of his presidency. The President designated a sacred Native American site in southern Nevada as a national monument, protecting nearly 450,000 of acres around Spirit Mountain from development. The area in the Mojave Desert is central to the creation story of Native American tribes and features some of the oldest and largest Joshua trees in the American West. It also is home to bighorn sheep, mule deer, desert tortoises, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, western screech owls and Gila monsters. Spirit Mountain, which is known as Avi Kwa Ame in the Mojave language, is sacred to the Mojave, Cocopah, Quechan and Hopi tribes because they believe it is the place where their ancestors first emerged in the world. “I’m committed to protecting this sacred place that’s central to the creation story of so many tribes here today,” President Biden told a gathering of Native leaders at the White House late last year. National monuments are chosen because they have special features worth protecting. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of America’s national monuments. Use what you read to create a TV, Internet or newspaper ad calling attention to the significance and attractions of this national monument and why it was protected.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. No Solo Mountain Climbing

Nepal is a small nation, but it has some of the largest natural attractions in the world. The Asian country is home to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, and also seven of the next nine tallest peaks. Mountain climbers from all over come to Nepal to climb those mountains and sometimes take great risks to reach their summits. To reduce the risks of injury and death, Nepal has now taken the bold move to ban solo or unguided climbs by visitors from other countries. Under a new policy, foreigners traveling alone or in groups, regardless of experience, will have to hire a licensed guide and obtain a permit from a tour operator, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Nepal previously had banned solo hiking on Mount Everest but decided to expand the ban to other areas to prevent tourists without sufficient experience from getting into accidents or going missing. The ban goes into effect next month. Parks, communities or governments often pass rules to ensure public safety. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new safety rule that has been passed in the United States or another country. Use what you read to write a short editorial analyzing the rule, why it was adopted and whether you think it will be effective. Share and discuss as a class.

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

3. Humpback Whale Songs

Humpback whales are famous for their sad, spooky songs that sound like ghosts talking to each other. Now scientists may have discovered why they have sounded so sad. They may have been lonely. New research has found that the number of humpback “singers” has decreased as populations have grown after bans on commercial whaling. Only male whales sing, and the tunes are thought to play a role in attracting mates (to listen click here). “When there were fewer of them, there was a lot of singing,” said one expert who has studied humpback populations in the waters off Australia in the southern Pacific Ocean. “Now that there are lots of them, [there’s] no need to be singing so much.” Humpback whales were once considered endangered, but last year they were removed from the Endangered Species List. Humpbacks can grow up to 50 feet long and weigh 35 tons, with males slightly smaller than females. Whales and other wild animals use their voices in many different ways in the wild. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the voices and “calls” of a wild animal species. Write a letter to a friend or classmate describing the different voices of one wild animal species and what they mean or are used for. For fun, use the Internet to look up what the calls sound like and re-create them for the class. Don’t be shy — wild animals aren’t!

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.

4. Emperor in a Sewer

Being a sewer worker is a hard, dirty job, but sometimes it can make you feel like a king. Or an emperor, at least. That’s what happened for sewer workers in the European city of Rome, Italy this winter, while they were repairing pipes on the city’s famous Appian Way. The Appian Way is Rome’s first highway, and the sewer workers found something that goes back to ancient Roman times, Reuters news reports. Digging through old pipes, the workers unearthed a statue of a Roman emperor that experts believe is nearly 2,000 years old. The emperor was dressed as the mythological hero Hercules, with the hero's trademark lion skin and club. The statue had wrinkle lines of worry on its forehead, which experts said was a common way emperors were portrayed during times of trouble in the Third Century C.E. They said the sculpture bears a “fair resemblance” to the Emperor Decius (DEE-she-us), who ruled Rome from 249 to 251 C.E. They thanked the sewer workers for the discovery, because it is “quite rare” to find a sculpture of an emperor dressed as Hercules, who was known for his great strength. Discoveries of artifacts from ancient times often shed light on leaders from the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a discovery involving an ancient leader. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what the discovery revealed about the ancient leader, and how that leader might compare to leaders of today.

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. Lunchables in School

For 35 years, Lunchable meals and snacks have been popular with kids and families. Now Lunchables are going to be offered directly to schools and students in combinations designed to meet National School Lunch guidelines. The Kraft Heinz company, which produces Lunchables, said the new meals will offer “improved nutrition” over past Lunchables and meet the “whole grain rich” guidelines of the National School Lunch Program. The school options will include “Lunchables Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers” and a “Lunchables Extra Cheesy Pizza,” CNN News reported. The company said the new Lunchables will be available in elementary, middle and high schools across the nation this fall. National school lunch guidelines require that lunches offer students a choice of a fruit, a vegetable, a protein, a grain and milk. Students must take at least three of the five lunch choices, one of which has to be a fruit or vegetable. Kraft Heinz has not yet provided details on the nutritional content of the new Lunchables, including how much salt, sugar and saturated fat they contain. More and more companies are offering healthier food products for children, schools and families. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories and ads for a new healthy product being offered by a company. Pretend you are a consumer reporter and write out five questions you would like to ask to determine how healthy the new product is.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.