Resources for Teachers and Students

For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 30, 2020

1. Transition

It has been more than three weeks since Joe Biden was declared winner of the presidential race, and President Trump has finally agreed to let the transition formally begin to a Biden presidency. President Trump still maintains there was voter fraud and he won the election, but at the urging of fellow Republicans he agreed to give the Biden team funds, offices and access to officials in his administration so that they can make plans for taking office. President-Elect Biden has already announced whom he will nominate for key positions in his staff and for cabinet positions heading different departments of the government. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways President-Elect Biden is preparing for taking office when he is inaugurated on January 20. Keep a log of people he would nominate for key positions and actions he says he wants to take after taking office. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the steps Biden is taking and which you think are the most important. Discuss with family, friends and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. Players Meet the Pope

Pope Francis is the worldwide head the Catholic Church and usually doesn’t get involved in the sports world. But last week, the Pope asked to meet with a group of National Basketball Association players to talk about their efforts to confront racial injustice and inequality in the United States. Five players and three members of the NBA players union met with the Pope to “discuss their individual and collective efforts addressing … injustice and inequality occurring in their communities,” the players said. Participating in the meeting were Sterling Brown and Kyle Korver of the Milwaukee Bucks, Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs, Anthony Tolliver of the Memphis Grizzlies and Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic. “We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said in a players association statement. “His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact.” When athletes get involved in efforts to address community issues or problems, it can give added attention to those problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about athletes getting involved with such efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing how the involvement of athletes can be beneficial for the community.

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. Historic Condor Program

The California condor is the largest land bird in North America, with a 10-foot-wide wingspan that matches the height of a basketball hoop. The condors became extinct in the wild in 1987, but since then birds bred in captivity have been re-introduced into natural settings in central and southern California and in the states of Arizona and Utah. Now, in a first-of-its-kind effort by a Native American tribe in Northern California, the huge vultures will soon be re-introduced on California’s northwest coast near the Klamath River. The project led by the Yurok Tribe and Redwood National Park could release condors as soon as next year if all goes according to plan. It would be the first time in more than 100 years that California condors would live and breed in the area on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The program would be based in Redwood National Park, but affect a wide area because condors can fly up to 200 miles in a day. Many programs seek to help endangered species or re-introduce them to natural habitats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such an effort. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what is being done to help the species, what has been achieved so far and challenges that still must be met.

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.

4. Unusual Slave Memorial

All across America, colleges and universities are re-examining the role that slavery played in their histories. At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the school has not only acknowledged its slavery past, but erected an unusual memorial to enslaved people that combines history and art. In a commemorative titled “From Absence to Presence,” St. Mary’s has re-created a slave quarter cabin at a spot on campus where enslaved people lived and worked. But it’s not just any slave quarter, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Boards in the walls and roof have been replaced by polished stainless steel plates displaying the names of slaves and poetry created from fugitive slave ads from newspapers of the 1800s. As visitors view the panels, they see their reflections amid the words, making them part of the history — past and present. At night, the cabin is lit from within, casting the names and poetry as shadows on the ground. The project got its start when archaeologists found evidence of slave quarters at a site being prepared for a sports complex on campus. St. Mary’s was founded in 1840 and once owned slaves. At colleges and universities across the nation there has been great debate over how they should acknowledge and address past connections to slavery. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one college and how it is addressing its slave past. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor assessing what the college is doing or wants to do, and whether you think it is an appropriate approach. Suggest another approach if you think it would be better.

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.

5. Rocks from the Moon

For the first time in more than 40 years, a spacecraft from Earth is heading to the moon to collect rock samples and bring them back. The mission by the Chinese space agency blasted off last week in the Asian nation and if all goes well will return in mid-December with its special cargo. If the mission is successful, China will be just the third nation to bring rock samples back from the moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia). The Chinese mission plans to collect more than four pounds of specimens from an area of the moon not explored before. In the 1970s, three successful Soviet missions brought back a total of about 10 ounces of moon rock, the New York Times newspaper reported. American astronauts brought back more than 800 pounds of rock and soil from Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972. The landing site for the Chinese mission is a volcanic plain in a “younger” part of the moon than those targeted earlier. Scientists are hopeful the “younger” samples will provide new knowledge about the moon’s history and evolution. The Asian nation of China has made great strides developing its space program. Last year it became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the back side of the moon, and its astronauts have docked three times with space stations China built and put in orbit. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about advances China has made with its space program. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film about the Chinese space program. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Give your film a title that would make students your age want to watch it. Pick a celebrity narrator for your film and explain your choice.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.