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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 20, 2021

1. Colorful Protest

When the extremist Taliban group returned to power last month in the Asian nation of Afghanistan, leaders quickly moved to establish greater controls on women. One move urged women to wear “Islamic dress,” which for many meant a return to black, full body burkas that cover women from head to toe. Not all women support the new restriction, however, and they have taken to the Internet to post protest photos showing colorful attire reflecting Afghan pride and traditions from various provinces. Accompanied by hashtags such as #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture, the women’s posts seek to counter the images promoted by the Taliban seeking to show women dressed somberly and conservatively. “We are in a prison,” one woman told the Washington Post newspaper. This is “not our culture … not our identity,” another told BBC News in the European nation of England. To see examples of traditional and colorful Afghan attire for women, click here. The clothes people wear tell a lot about their culture, attitudes and personal style. They also are an example of freedom of expression, which is a form of freedom of speech. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of the clothes people wear in the United States or another nation. Think like a fashion writer and write a column detailing how three or more outfits express the culture or attitudes of the people wearing them.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Private Space Crew

The private SpaceX company continues to set new milestones in space travel. Last week, it recorded another first when it sent a spacecraft into orbit with a crew that didn’t include a single professional astronaut among its four members. The crew members included a billionaire who financed the trip, a cancer survivor and physician’s assistant, a data engineer and a community college professor. The all-civilian crew trained for six months for the Inspiration4 mission aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. “Few have come before, and many are about to follow," said Inspiration4 Commander Jared Issacman, the billionaire who paid an undisclosed amount to fund the flight. “The door is now open, and it’s pretty incredible.” The Crew Dragon orbited for three days about 360 miles above the Earth, a distance that is higher than both the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope. The craft was controlled remotely from Earth by SpaceX’s ground team, freeing the crew members to conduct experiments, paint and simply enjoy the view. As a private company SpaceX is now doing things that were once only done by America’s NASA space agency. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one thing SpaceX is doing. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation explaining this venture and how that will affect exploration and travel in space.

Common Core State Standards: 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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. No-Hit Season

In Major League Baseball, hitters often get all the attention for their home runs, batting average and runs batted in. This season, however, no-hitters are stealing the spotlight. When Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers combined to no-hit the Cleveland Indians this month, the Major Leagues set a new record for no-hitters in a single season. The Brewers’ effort in a 3-0 win was the ninth no-hitter tossed by pitchers this year, breaking a record set 137 years ago in 1884. In the Brewers-Indians game, Burnes was amazingly dominant, striking out 14 Indians in eight innings before leaving when he reached his pitch limit. Hader picked up right where Burnes left off, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth inning. In every sports season athletes break records set in the past — or do things that have never been done before. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an athlete or team that has set a new record. Use what you read to write a sports column, discussing what skills and character traits were needed to set the new record and how long you think it will stand.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Mammoth Experiment

In a move that sounds like a plot for a “Jurassic Park” movie, a team of scientists and entrepreneurs have announced that they have started a new company to bring woolly mammoths back to life. Unlike the movies, however, they will not use DNA extracted from frozen mammoth remains recovered in the Arctic area of the Earth, but manipulate DNA of modern elephants to create animals that closely resemble the woolly mammoths of old. Mammoths were ancient ancestors of today’s elephants and share traits in the “blueprint of life” DNA strands found in individual cells. The new research team plans to “edit” the genes of modern elephants by adding genes for mammoth traits like dense hair and thick fat for withstanding cold. The program is led by a biologist from Harvard Medical School who is an expert in reading and editing DNA strands and funded by $15-million in private grants. DNA science is getting more and more attention around the world, and not just for reviving extinct species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways DNA science is being used in the study of wildlife or humans. Use what you read to write a short editorial, outlining the benefits and risks of one use of DNA science.

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.

5. Life-Saving Dolphins

After humans, dolphins are considered one of the smartest animals on Earth. They have advanced language and comprehension skills, the ability to show emotion and are highly social. They also have demonstrated a compassionate talent for helping people. In the European nation of Ireland this summer, a man caught in ocean currents while swimming off the nation’s west coast learned first hand how helpful dolphins can be. Ruairí McSorley, 24, was attempting to swim to Mullaghmore Rock five miles off the coast of County Kerry when he became stranded two and a half miles from shore. While he treaded water to keep afloat in the frigid sear, a pod of bottlenose dolphins surrounded him and stayed with him until rescuers could get to his location. In fact, the activity of the dolphins may actually have helped rescuers find McSorley, who was “hypothermic and exhausted” after 12 hours in the water. Rescuers said the dolphins may have been trying to protect McSorley or swim him to shore. “He was very, very lucky,” one told the Daily Mail newspaper. “There is no doubt about it. Another half an hour, and he was a goner.” Animals often do things to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one animal doing this. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing what this animal did, how It helped someone and how the person reacted.

Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.