Resources for Teachers and Students

For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 23, 2020

1. Milestone Space Mission

The International Space Station celebrated its 20th anniversary this month, and now it has marked another milestone. The station orbiting 250 miles above the Earth has hooked up with a privately built and operated spacecraft for a six-month mission. Last week the Crew Dragon craft called Resilience docked with the space station and delivered four astronauts for service. The craft was built by the private SpaceX company of California for America’s NASA space agency and represents the first “commercial” spacecraft to engage in an active mission. The four astronauts delivered by Resilience more than double the size of the crew on the space station. They also bring groundbreaking diversity, with a woman, an African American man and a Japanese astronaut among its members. The addition of four astronauts will give the crew of the space station more time for scientific experiments, since much of the time of the previous three-member crew had been spent doing maintenance. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the experiments being conducted on the space station, or experiments done in the past. Pick one and write a letter to a friend, teacher or classmate telling what the experiment has, or hopes, to achieve and why that is valuable 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 or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Museum of the Army

The U.S. Army has been a fighting — and peacetime — force for America since 1775, a year before the United States even existed. Now it has a new museum in the state of Virginia to tell its story. The National Museum of the United States Army opened on Veterans Day this month with a mission to “promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Army's achievements” — not only the wars it has fought in, but its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and other peaceful services. A large black granite “campaign wall” lists all of the Army’s military campaigns, and display pillars tell the life and military stories of individual soldiers from different eras. Artifacts on display include tanks, planes and landing craft, and other exhibits stress how the 30-million people who have served in the Army have upheld the U.S. Constitution. At any time, soldiers in the U.S. Army are engaged in a variety of missions around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these missions. Pick one and write a paragraph summarizing the goal of the mission, who will benefit and why that is important. Discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Record-Setting Officials

Monday Night Football has been a weekly TV attraction for NFL fans since it was first broadcast on ABC-TV in 1970. This Monday night, in the show’s 50th year, it will break new ground and make history. For the first time ever, it will feature an all-Black officiating crew running the game between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The crew has been assembled to recognize the show’s history and also to call attention to the National Football League’s efforts to include more minorities in its officiating department. “This historic … crew is a testament to the countless and immeasurable contributions of Black officials to the game, their exemplary performance, and to the power of inclusion that is the hallmark of this great game,” said NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, an African American star who played 15 years as a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles and three other teams. African American men and women are breaking new ground in a variety of careers professions. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about African Americans who are doing this. Use what you read to write a personal column or commentary analyzing how the achievements of these people could inspire African Americans and all Americans.

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.

4. ‘Murder Hornets’

“Murder hornets” are giant hornets from Asia that can kill honeybees needed for farming and deliver painful and powerful stings to humans. They are an invasive species that was detected just this year in the United States, and now the first nest of them has been discovered and destroyed “just in the nick of time,” officials said. The nest in the city of Blaine, Washington contained more than 500 hornets, including 200 young queens that each could have started its own colony. The Washington nest was found in a family’s back yard, just 30 feet from a children’s play set. Invasive species of plants and wildlife pose a threat to many natural environments. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about one or more invasive species. Use what you read to prepare an oral report on the dangers of invasive species and how humans can deal with them.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. ‘Five Little Queens’

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors is one of the most powerful local government bodies in the nation. It is so powerful in the state of California that its members were known for years as the “five little kings.” That was when men dominated the board, but a lot has changed in recent years. Today it is made up of five women, leading to a new nickname for members — the “five little queens.” This month’s election brought a fifth woman to the board when State Senator Holly Mitchell defeated Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson. It is the first time in the 168-year history of the board that all members are women. The supervisors oversee public health, public safety and social services and are in charge of the largest jail system in the country, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and area hospitals. Women are making gains in politics at all levels of government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these gains by women. Use what you read to write a political column assessing how these gains will change politics and government now and in the future.

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.