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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 25, 2020

1. Tough Times for Airports

The world’s busiest airports have taken a huge hit in lost business due to the coronavirus epidemic. And it will take a long time for them to recover as long as border restrictions and quarantines for travelers remain in effect, according to the airport trade association Airports Council International (ACI). Traffic is down by more than 90 percent when measured against last year, and it is estimated that 4.6-billion fewer passengers will pass through airports in 2020 than in 2019. The world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, Georgia, served 110.5-million passengers in 2019, but in the first three months of this year volume was down 18 percent due to the virus, ACI reports. The world’s third busiest airport, Los Angeles International in southern California, saw a 21.7 percent drop in passengers in the first three months, after serving more than 88-million passengers last year. The world’s second busiest airport, Beijing Capital International in the Asian nation of China, saw the biggest drop in passengers of any country, with a loss in the first three months of nearly 63 percent over last year, when it served 100-million passengers. “The demand is pretty much gone,” an ACI spokesman said. Airports and airlines face many challenges to safely reopening and getting back up to full operations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about challenges they face. Use what you read to write a consumer column, telling travelers things they need to know about future air travel.

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. TV Learning

With schools closed due to the coronavirus, students are learning at home with their parents or participating in “distance learning” with the Internet. In the Asian nation of Pakistan, Internet learning hasn’t been an option because nearly 65 percent of Pakistani households don’t have Internet access. To bridge the gap Pakistani officials have turned to an old school solution: television. The government has set up a Teleschool channel that offers lessons for children in kindergarten through high school. Each grade gets one hour of programming a day, so students have to learn in shifts depending on the time of day. Additional teaching still must be handled by parents or family members. Even with television support, many Pakistani children are not getting an education. Education statistics show that more than 40 percent of Pakistan’s school-age students don’t attend school, the second-highest rate in the world. Distance learning is being tried across the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how it is working out. Use what you read and personal experience with distance learning to write an editorial pointing out things that are positive about distance learning and things that could be improved. Offer suggestions on how things could be improved.

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.

3. Smelling Covid-19

Dogs have a sense of smell that is up to 100,000 times stronger than that of humans. That makes it possible for them to track humans or other animals, detect bombs or determine if people have diseases like cancer. Soon dogs may be able to detect the coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease it causes. A program at the Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine is training dogs to detect Covid-19 by smell, the way dogs have been trained to detect the smells of cancer or Parkinson’s disease. The training is just in its early stages, but the first dogs may be able to test whether people are infected as early as this summer. Dogs can be trained to do many things to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these helpful things. Pick one training program and write a letter to the editor telling why people should support it.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. White Stork Babies

Wild white storks are dramatic birds, standing nearly 4 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 7 feet. They once were native to the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Europe, but hunting and loss of habitat almost made them extinct there. This spring a pair of white storks in southern England has made history for the United Kingdom by successfully hatching a nest of babies for the first time in more than 600 years. The nest in an old oak tree contains five hatchlings, according to the White Stork Project, which is trying to re-introduce the species to the region. “This is just one step toward establishing this species in the south of England,” a spokesperson for the project said. “It may be a small step, but it is an exciting one.” White storks are carnivores that feed on insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds. They feed their young by regurgitating food they have eaten into their babies’ mouths. All over the world wildlife supporters are working to help species whose numbers have shrunk in different habitats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such effort. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report about what the project is doing and what success it has had. Deliver your report to family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Good Deed Degree

Earlier this spring, a farmer from the state of Kansas made a donation to the battle against the coronavirus that got nationwide attention. Now, in response to his good deed, he has gotten a reward he thought he’d never see. Dennis Ruhnke made news when he donated one of the five medical grade N95 face masks had found on his farm to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He said he needed four of the masks for himself and his ailing wife, but he wanted the governor to make sure the fifth mask got to a nurse or doctor in New York who needed it. Cuomo read Ruhnke’s letter on one of his nationally televised news conferences on the virus and Ruhnke drew nationwide praise. Now he has gotten a more tangible reward. Kansas State University, which Ruhnke had to leave when his father died unexpectedly in 1971, has granted him the college degree he never got. Ruhnke was two credits short of graduation when he left the university to take over the family farm and never found a way to make them up. Now he has been granted credit for a lifetime of experience in the agriculture business and has earned his degree after all. It took Dennis Ruhnke 49 years to achieve his goal of earning a college degree. It also can take a long time for other people to achieve goals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who achieved a goal after trying for a long time. Use what you read to make a list of the character traits it took for this person to achieve his/her goal. Write a sentence for each trait telling how it helped the person.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.