For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 17, 2020

1. Face Recognition at School

Facial recognition technology is one of the fastest growing fields of artificial intelligence. It is already used on social media sites like Facebook, in business security systems, at airports and arenas, and by law enforcement. Now it is being tried at schools to increase security and student safety. In western New York State, the city of Lockport has launched a facial identification program to monitor students, staff and visitors at its eight public schools. School officials say the system could prevent school shootings or other violent events and keep people off school property who should not be there. Opponents say the system violates student privacy rights and has a high risk of misidentifying students of color. Such false matches “can lead to very dangerous and completely avoidable situations,” a former Lockport student, Jayde McDonald, told the New York Times newspaper. Facial recognition technology can be used to improve safety and security, but it has also raised concerns about privacy, civil liberties and individual rights. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the use of facial recognition technology in schools or other settings. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your opinion on whether it should be used in schools. Be sure to list both benefits and risks of school use in your editorial.

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.

2. Cheers for Sportsmanship!

Sports events are great for the lessons they teach. They provide great competition, of course, but also examples of sportsmanship, caring and support. That happened at a middle school basketball tournament in the state of Georgia this month. Snowy weather had made it impossible for all but one of the cheerleaders from Hull Middle School to make it to the tournament. She still wanted to cheer on her team, and as she cheered alone, she got some unexpected support. The Coleman Middle School cheer squad was sitting in the bleachers between games and decided to lend their support. All through the game they cheered along with the Hull cheerleader. “The level of sportsmanship was enormous,” one parent noted, and it “will never be forgotten.” Athletes show good sportsmanship in many ways during competition. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about athletes displaying good sportsmanship. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor thanking the athletes for their sportsmanship and telling why their actions are a good role model for others. Finish by discussing times you have seen people showing good sportsmanship, and how that made you feel.

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. Hot, Hot, Hot

The continent of Antarctica is located at the Earth’s South Pole, and it usually doesn’t get very warm there. Due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis, it’s now the summer season in Antarctica, and the region has been hit by record heat. Earlier this month Antarctica recorded a temperature of 65 degrees — the warmest ever recorded on the continent. The record temperature was measured on the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts out toward South America from the northwestern tip of the continent. Scientists say the peninsula is one of the fastest warming regions in the world, with temperatures increasing a whopping 5 degrees in the past 50 years as a result of global warming and climate change. The warming has caused 87 percent of glaciers along the peninsula’s west coast to retreat in that time, according to the Washington Post newspaper. Global warming is affecting the environment all over the Earth. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about how the environment is being affected in one area. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short, animated video examining the situation. Write an outline for your video, including the characters your video will feature. Draw your characters and give them names that would fit the topic. Then write the opening scene.

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.

4. A Record Flight

Never underestimate the power of wind, especially if it’s part of a jet stream high above the Earth. Jet streams are narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere, and they can have huge impact on airplane flights. A supercharged jet stream last week, in fact, pushed a British Airways jet to a record-breaking flight between New York City and the European city of London, England. At 4 hours and 56 minutes, the flight across the Atlantic Ocean was the fastest ever between the two cities, breaking the previous record by 17 minutes. The flight touched down more than an hour ahead of schedule on a trip that usually takes 6 hours and 15 minutes. Pushed by jet stream winds topping 260 miles per hour, the British Airways plane reached a top ground speed of 825 miles per hour on its record-breaking trip. Wind, weather and other natural events can affect human activities in both positive and negative ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such effects. Pick one and write a paragraph describing the effect of the natural event and how people dealt with it.

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.

5. Dates from the Past

Dates are a fruit grown on palm trees in the Middle East and tropical regions of the world. They have been around since ancient times, and a species that hasn’t been grown in 2,000 years is now getting new life in the Middle East nation of Israel. Scientists there collected date seeds from ancient archaeology sites, planted them and got them to sprout and grow after thousands of years, according to a new report in the journal Science Advances. A total of seven trees have sprouted into plants, the scientists reported. Most important, the plants are both male and female, which means they could produce dates that can be eaten. Date trees can be identified by sex, with the males producing pollen and the females producing flowers that turn into fruit when pollenated. Scientists and agriculture experts are constantly experimenting to learn more about plants or improve plant species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one example of this kind of experimentation. Use what you read to write a consumer or agriculture column, detailing how this experiment is providing new information and how that will benefit people in the future.

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.