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For Grades K-4 , week of May 22, 2023

1. Summer Travel

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend — the unofficial start of the summer travel season in the United States. Summer is the busiest time for travel in the U.S., because kids are out of school and families go on vacation. And this year could be especially busy, travel experts say. Families who put off traveling during the coronavirus epidemic are making plans to head out again for vacation destinations. “This summer travel season could be one for the record books,” said a spokesman for the AAA Travel organization. “More Americans are planning trips and [planning] them earlier.” The four-day Memorial Day weekend will see millions of travelers on the road or in airports. Car trips are expected to be up 6 percent over last year, with more than 37-million Americans driving to their destinations, CNN News reports. At airports, it’s likely to be busier than it was in 2019 before the coronavirus epidemic. Air travel is expected to be up by 11 percent over last year, with 3.4-million people expected to fly over the holiday weekend. That figure exceeds 2019 levels by 5.4 percent — or 170,000 more air travelers — and the weekend could be the busiest at airports overall since 2005. Where would you like to go if you could travel this summer? In the newspaper or online, find and study stories, ads and photos of places you could visit. Pick one and design a travel ad for the newspaper or Internet telling why people would enjoy a visit to this place. Give your ad an eye-catching headline and share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: 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; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

2. Dust Devil Rescue

Dust devils are swirling, mini-tornadoes that pick up dust and spin it in the air. They are usually harmless and don’t last long, but they can be scary to people who get caught in them. One person who got caught recently was a 7-year-old catcher playing a youth baseball game in the state of Florida. Bauer Zoya was catching for the Ponte Vedra Sharks in a game in the city of Jacksonville when a swirling cone of dust formed right at home plate, UPI News reported. Bauer held up his hands to shield his face, but couldn’t find his way out of the whirlwind. That’s when umpire Aidan Wiles stepped in. Wiles, who is 17, rushed into the dust devil, scooped up Bauer and carried him to safety and fresh air. Though Bauer said he “couldn’t breathe that much” when he was caught in the dust devil, he continued catching the game after his dad poured water on his face to get the dust out of his eyes. “At first I was freaked out myself until I saw him trapped in it,” Wiles told the First Coast News TV station. “So, I decided to run in there and grab him out of it.” Dust devils (also known as “dirt devils”) form when a pocket of hot air near a flat surface rises quickly through cooler air above it, forming an updraft. If conditions are just right, the updraft may begin to swirl in a circle. Dust devils are just one way weather activities make news in the summer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another weather event making news. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how to stay safe in this type of event.

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. Under the Sea

In the cartoon movie “The Little Mermaid,” the crab Sebastian sings to the mermaid Ariel that “under the sea … under the sea … Darling it’s better down where it’s wetter… take it from me!” A scientist from the state of Florida would certainly agree with that bit of watery advice. Joseph Dituri of the University of South Florida has just broken the record for most days in a row living in an underwater habitat. Dituri, who is a biomedical engineer, broke the record by living more than 73 days in a steel and glass “undersea lodge” 30 feet below the surface of a lagoon in Key Largo, Florida, UPI and CNN News report. And Dituri isn’t done. He says he won’t resurface until he reaches 100 days under water on June 9. Dituri, who calls himself “Dr. Deep Sea,” took on the challenge of living under water to research how well humans can survive in an isolated, confined environment, according to his website. When he resurfaces, he will undergo “an in-depth examination by a team of medical doctors to learn more about how the body reacts to such an environment,” he said. “My goal from Day 1 has been to inspire … scientists around the globe who study life undersea and how the human body functions when in extreme environments,” Dituri wrote online. People often do unusual things to challenge themselves or learn about the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done this. Use what you read to make a chart listing skills and character qualities a person would need to meet this challenge. Finish by using a marker or highlighter to indicate which of these skills and qualities you have. Share lists with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Firefighting Goats

With lack of rain and deadly heat in many parts of the world, wildfires have become a greater and greater threat in many countries. In the South American nation of Chile, officials are trying a four-legged approach to reduce the risks. More precisely, they are employing goats to eat the undergrowth that feeds fires when they break out in forests, the Washington Post newspaper reports. A program called Buena Cabra (which means “Good Goat” in English) trucks up to 150 goats at a time to forest areas to remove brambles and other bushes that burn in wildfires and allow them to spread. The brush becomes deadly fuel when it dries out in the hot summer months. Because Chile is located in the Earth’s southern hemisphere, it is summer there when it is winter in the United States. The Chilean summer was particularly brutal this year, with heat waves and drought causing fires in February that destroyed more than a million acres of forest. Animals can often be trained to do things that help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an animal that has been trained this way. Use what you read to write a thank-you note to the animal from a person who has been helped. Draw a picture to go with your note, if you like.

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.

5. ‘Thunder Beasts’

More than 30-million years ago, giant “thunder beasts” related to modern rhinos roamed the Earth in the United States and Canada. These beasts called Brontotheres were huge plant-eaters that weighed more than 2,200 pounds, measured 8 feet in height and had a length of up to 16 feet. For added interest, they also had giant Y-shaped horns on their noses. Brontotheres (BRON-toe-THEERS) were not always giants, however. New research indicates that when they first appeared about 53-million years ago, they weighed just 40 pounds and were about the size of a modern dog or coyote, CNN News reports. That was not unusual for the period that followed the reign of dinosaurs on Earth, researchers said. In fact, the absence of dinosaurs allowed Brontotheres to grow to enormous size because they didn’t have to compete with dinosaur plant-eaters for food. Scientists study wildlife species from today and the past to learn more about how they have changed or succeeded in their habitats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about scientists studying a wildlife species. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling what species scientists are studying, what they have learned (or hope to learn) and why that is important.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.