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For Grades K-4 , week of May 01, 2023

1. Sniffing for the Virus

Dogs have a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans. Their noses have up to 300-million smell detectors compared to just 6-million for humans, and the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to smells is about 40 times greater than the same part in humans. That enables dogs to use their nose to track people and animals, detect drugs and explosives and even determine if a person has cancer or an infectious disease. In the state of California, for example, dogs have been trained to detect the coronavirus in students, and they have proved 90 percent accurate, according to a new study. The dogs detected the presence of the virus by sniffing the feet of 3,500 students in 27 schools across California last year, according to the study. The researchers found that the dogs accurately alerted their handlers to 85 infections and ruled out 3,411 infections for an accuracy rate of more than 90 percent, CNN News reported. Only the students identified by the dogs as positive were given nose tests for the virus — reducing the number of nose tests by about 85 percent. “What would you rather have?” the lead researcher said. “A swab in your nose or something that just maybe tickles your ankle?” Animals can be trained to do many things to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such animal. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a movie on the skills this animal has learned. Write an outline for your movie, including images you would use. Then write the first scene. For added fun, pick a celebrity to narrate your movie and explain your choice to family and friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Fossil Finder

The great thing about fossil-hunting is that anyone can do it — young people, old people, students and adults. And you don’t need special training. In the European nation of Wales recently, a 9-year-old boy walking on a beach with his dad discovered a 200-million-year-old fossil that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. The fossil discovered by Eli Morris was a rare ammonite, a spiral-shaped shellfish that is a relative of snails, clams and oysters. Eli discovered the fossil while walking on the Llantwit Major beach, which is located on the Bristol Channel below rocky cliffs. “I was just sitting here and looked up and thought ‘Oh my God, that's big!'” Eli told the BBC News service. The Welsh boy’s find excited fossil experts because it is a rare discovery for that area. It also is “especially pretty” because its inner chambers have been filled in with the mineral quartz over millions of years. Eli will add it to his collection of other fossils he has found on outings with his dad. “It's just cool,” to make fossil discoveries he said — but not as cool as his other dream. Like many 9-year-olds in Wales, he’d like to be a professional soccer player. Kids, teens and adults often are in the news for making unusual or interesting discoveries. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone making a discovery. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend describing what was discovered, how it was discovered and why it was interesting, important or unusual. Share with the class and discuss interesting discoveries you have made with family or friends.

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

3. NBA Playoffs

The NBA playoffs are under way, and fans all over the country are watching to see which team will win the championship for professional basketball. Every year there are surprises, upsets and amazing performances that weren’t predicted before the playoffs began. In the first round alone this year, there were significant upsets in the Eastern Conference, and one of them was huge. In the first round of the Eastern playoffs, the Number 8 ranked Miami Heat stunned the Number 1 ranked Milwaukee Bucks, to win their playoff series 4 games to 1. In another upset, the Number 5 New York Knicks defeated the Number 4 Cleveland Cavaliers, also by 4 games to 1. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about NBA playoff games this week. Were there upset winners in any of the games? Did any players have spectacular performances or make unusual plays? Use what you read to write a sports column highlighting two or three performances that were unusual, unexpected or especially exciting. Try to capture the excitement in your writing by using active verbs and colorful adjectives. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. May Day

Monday is May 1, a day that is celebrated as May Day in many cultures. May Day celebrations go back to ancient times and mark the beginning of summer for many people and communities. Celebrations include the gathering of wildflowers and green branches, weaving floral garlands for costumes, crowning a May Queen and setting up a Maypole or May Tree to dance around. At one time in the United States and other nations, May Day was celebrated by giving May Baskets containing flowers or treats to people you loved. The earliest known May Day celebrations occurred in the time of the ancient Roman Empire 2,500 years ago, when Romans celebrated the Floralia, a festival honoring Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. The word “flora” is still used by scientists to refer to plants, flowers and trees (while animals are known as “fauna”). On May Day people of many cultures celebrate nature, trees, flowers and the great outdoors. In the newspaper or online, find photos of outdoor scenes that show things nature lovers might celebrate. Then pretend you are a news photographer and plan three photos you would take to celebrate nature. Write a description for each photo telling what would be in it and why you would want to show that. For fun, use a smart phone with your family to take some outdoor photos to share.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. For the Birds!

If you like to play dress-up, there’s a job for you at a zoo in the European nation of England. The Blackpool Zoo is looking for people who would be willing to dress up as eagles, hawks and other birds of prey to scare seagulls away from outdoor dining areas. The “seagull deterrents” would flap their wings and move about to clear dining areas of the seabirds that are known for stealing fries, burgers and sandwiches right off the trays and tables of visitors. “It goes without saying that we love all animals,” the zoo said when advertising the job. “… However, the seagulls are proving to be … a nuisance when it comes to trying to steal food.” The zoo said ideal candidates should be visitor focused, friendly, energetic, flexible, outgoing and “need to be comfortable wearing a bird costume,” UPI News reported. Employees dressed in costumes can help businesses in a variety of ways. They can scare away birds or animals, call attention to business locations or serve as mascots for teams or schools. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a team, business or organization that could benefit from an employee dressed in costume. Use what you read to write a job description for a job requiring a costume, what the costume would look like and how an employee wearing this costume would benefit the business or organization.

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.