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For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 22, 2022

1. NBA Voting Push

In the United States, one of the most important rights citizens have is the right to vote. It is also one of the most important responsibilities. That’s because if people don’t vote, they give up their right to choose their leaders in state and local governments and the national government in Washington, DC. To encourage people to vote in this year’s November elections, the National Basketball Association has announced that it will schedule no games on Election Day to give fans, players and officials the time and incentive to go to the polls and vote. Voters in November’s elections will choose all members of the U.S. House of Representatives, one-third of the nation’s 100 U.S. senators, plus state governors, state legislatures and countless local officials. “The scheduling decision came out of the NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections,” the league said in a statement. The midterm elections get their name because they fall in the middle of the four-year term of the President of the United States. This year’s midterms will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the U.S. House and Senate in Washington. The competition is heating up for the midterm elections. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a close or important race in your state or the nation. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the positions and personalities of the leading candidates and which you think would do the best job in the position.

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. Invasive Benefits

Invasive species create problems in many places, because they invade natural areas and threaten native plants and animals. In most cases, they upset the balance of nature, because they have no natural predators or enemies. In some parts of the world, however, invasive animal species may actually be helping endangered wildlife. From the waters in the South Pacific nation of Australia to the deserts of Death Valley in America, they are providing food for species that are threatened or endangered, the New York Times newspaper reports. In Australia wild pigs that have been causing wide damage to natural areas have become prey for saltwater crocodiles and have helped the crocs survive. In Death Valley, donkeys once introduced by mining companies have helped the mountain lion population grow. In Australia and Death Valley, the pigs and donkeys had been growing in number and damaging the environment. Many parks, communities and states are struggling to deal with invasive species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one invasive species. Use what you read to write a short editorial summarizing the damage being caused by the species, what is being done to control it and what else could be done in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Historic Footprints

The history of humans is told in the things they left behind: bones, tools, weapons and more. In the state of Utah, a new chapter of human history has been written by the discovery of footprints made as far back as 12,000 years ago! The footprints — 88 in all — were made by children and adults walking barefoot in a shallow riverbed in what is now a military testing site. The discovery not only sheds new light on where humans lived, but how they behaved, scientists told the New York Times newspaper. The tracks indicate that humans were not just traveling from place to place, but living and congregating in areas for longer periods of time. The discovery of the footprints at the military site surprised scientists because humans have not lived in the desert environment for thousands of years. To the people of the Shoshone Band of Native Americans, the tracks affirm their history and presence in the area. “It gives us proof that our people were here,” a spokesperson said. “And I think our people have always been here.” Discoveries of artifacts from the past help scientists better understand how people lived in ancient times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a discovery. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend, telling what was discovered, how it was discovered and why that is important to scientists.

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

4. This Cheese Is Out

Global warming is having wide effects all over the world. This summer in the European nation of France, it has stopped something that has been going on for 2,000 years. A severe drought and lack of rain have halted production of salers cheese because there is no grass in pastures for cows to eat. Salers cheese is made from the milk of cows in the Auvergne region, and under French cheesemaking rules 75 percent of the cow’s diet must be grass from local pastures. The problem is, all the grass has dried up this summer, making it impossible for cheesemakers to ensure that their cows meet the 75 percent requirement set by the government and enforced by cheesemaking groups. “The ground is so dry, so hard, that in some places it looks like ashes,” one farmer told the France Bleu radio station. “We have always had periods of drought in the summer, but this is hard, very hard.” Global warming and climate change are affecting human activities as well as the lives of wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one way that warming is affecting human activity somewhere in the world. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film showing the effects of warming on humans in this place and how they are responding. Give your film a creative title that will make people want to watch it and learn more.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Pony Mayor

People in the European nation of England do things differently than folks in the United States. Consider the case of who should be mayor of the village of Cockington. When the man who held the ceremonial position died recently, residents signed petitions to name an unusual replacement — a miniature Shetland pony named Patrick. Patrick had gained a following from the good deeds he had done comforting people as a therapy pony during the coronavirus epidemic. He visited schools, hospitals, support groups and other programs, spreading good will and making people feel better. When the mayor’s job became open, “Patrick’s fans thought that he deserved a title for all his hard work and jokingly suggested that he could be mayor,” the pony’s owner said. Hundreds signed petitions naming the pony to the post, and he was unofficially sworn in wearing a red gown and a gold chain that lights up in the dark. Even real politicians attended, including British lawmaker Kevin Foster, who serves as a member of England’s Parliament legislature. “The move to make Patrick ‘mayor’ was meant as a lighthearted and humorous way to promote Cockington Village to tourists,” Foster told the Washington Post newspaper. At least one person was not amused and filed a complaint with the local Torbay Council. As a result Patrick’s office — a pen outside a local pub — had to be dismantled because it hadn’t been constructed with the proper permissions. Patrick’s future as mayor is now in doubt, and that “is the real joke” Foster said. Editorial cartoons use art to offer commentary or opinions on issues facing communities or the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and study editorial cartoons to see how they are drawn. Pick two and write a paragraph for each summarizing the opinion being expressed on the issue. Then draw an editorial cartoon of your own commenting on Patrick the Pony or another issue or person.

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.