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For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 10, 2023

1. A Food Catastrophe

The World Food Program run by the United Nations is the largest humanitarian operation in the world — and one of the most vitally needed. The organization provides food support to nearly 130-million people in more than 120 countries, including school meals to nearly 16-million children. It has changed lives wherever it has provided help, but it faces an ever-growing challenge. The outgoing director of the program issued a warning to the world that if more isn’t done to help the hungry, more than 350-million people will be “marching toward starvation” in the near future. David Beasley, who is stepping down after six years as head of the food program, said the problem is only going to “get worse” in the coming years due to climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The war in Ukraine is a huge part of the problem, he said, because both Russia and Ukraine are large producers of food. Before the war, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of wheat, and Ukraine was the world’s third and fifth biggest seller of corn and wheat, respectively. Beasley said the food program needs to raise $23-billion from nations and private organizations to prevent a food catastrophe for the 350-million people now at risk. The United Nations is just one organization that provides assistance to nations whose people are facing hunger and “food poverty” around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an organization that does this. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining what this organization does, why it is important and how governments, private organizations or individuals can support it.

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. Learn to Be Happy

For six years in a row, the European nation of Finland has been ranked the happiest country on Earth, according to the World Happiness Report. Now the country’s national tourism bureau is offering free trips to people from other nations to learn what makes Finnish life so rewarding and special. On the trips sponsored by Visit Finland, visitors will get to experience Finnish happiness first-hand and learn what it takes to be personally happy as part of a “Masterclass of Happiness” at a Finnish resort, the Modern Met website reports. Participants in the program will be chosen through an online contest challenging them to write why they want to take part in the masterclass and how they would benefit. The 10 best answers will earn a four-day trip to Finland and an opportunity to experience Finland’s natural beauty and lifestyle. Participants also will receive personal coaching on how to live happier lives. “We believe that happiness is not a mystical ability you are born with — it’s an approach to life that you can learn,” the team of Visit Finland declares on its website. Winners will be announced in May and the class will take place in June. For those who do not win, Visit Finland plans to make the masterclass available online. As a class, discuss different things that contribute to happiness and being happy. Then use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read a story about a person or group living a happy and satisfying life. Use what you read, personal knowledge and ideas from classmates to write an advice column offering tips on living happier lives. Include things from your life that make you or your family happy, if you like.

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. Math Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. It also is Mathematics Awareness Month. Math plays a huge and important role in people’s lives, from the prices families pay for food, to the cost of cars and transportation, to the income people earn in their jobs and careers. Math affects people in both big and small ways from family budgets to the budget of the national government. As a class, discuss some of the ways math is used by your family and others in their daily lives. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find ways math plays a part in events in the news. Stretch your thinking: Some effects of math may be indirect, not direct. Finish by celebrating Poetry and Mathematics Awareness Months by writing a poem about “Math in My Life.” Your poem does not need to rhyme but should be filled with colorful adjectives and active verbs — and numbers! Draw an illustration to go with your poem, if you like. Read your poems aloud as a class, with expression and feeling. Emphasize the most important words with your voice as you read.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

4. Composting for Soil

The process known as composting uses heat, bacteria, moisture and oxygen to break down plants, vegetables and other soft garbage into soil that can be used in gardens. Farmers have been composting for years to dispose of plant wastes, and now cities are getting in on the action. This month officials in New York City will move forward with a new rule requiring that residents who have yards separate leaves, flowers, twigs, weeds and grass clippings from their regular trash so that the yard wastes can be composted, the New York Times newspaper reported. The composting will reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills and provide valuable soil for agricultural or garden use. The new rule will be phased in over the next 18 months, city officials said. City composting got its start in San Francisco, California, in the 1990s and has since been adopted in Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles, California; Portland, Oregon and other cities. Composting is a way to recycle materials instead of sending them to landfills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other efforts by communities to encourage or require recycling. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the benefits of recycling and how communities can get people and businesses to do more of it.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. No English, Please

English is the most widely spoken language in the world, with 370-million native speakers and 898-million non-native speakers for whom English is a second language. English is the leading language of science and technology, and more and more businesses are adopting it as well. Except in the European nation of Italy. Legislation has been introduced there that would penalize Italian companies that use English and other foreign languages in their official communications and documents, CNN News reports. And it would require that foreign countries provide Italian translations of their communications as well. Under the legislation, which is supported by Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni, businesses that use English and other foreign words in official communications could face fines of more than $100,000. While the legislation covers all foreign languages, it is particularly geared toward English, which the draft legislation states “demeans and mortifies” the Italian language. Italy’s plan to require businesses to communicate in Italian is an effort to promote Italian culture and traditions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another nation promoting its traditions in some way. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing how the nation promotes its culture and traditions, and how that might compare with what the United States might promote. Discuss ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.