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

1. Learning at Home

Schools across the nation have shut down due to the coronavirus, and students have been asked to continue their learning at home. To help them do that, the Scholastic education publishing company is offering free online courses so that kids can keep learning while schools are closed. The educational company has launched a “Learn at Home” website that features daily courses for students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 6 and above. The courses provide approximately three hours of learning per day, including writing and research projects, virtual field trips and geography challenges, CNN News reports. Newspapers and the Internet are also great resources for learning and staying sharp while schools are closed. News websites provide fresh and interesting information about topics students learn about in school — from math and science to social studies and health. And just reading newspaper and Internet stories builds reading and writing skills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about science, health or social studies (government). Use what you read to compose five questions based on the story, as if you were a teacher offering a class on the subject.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Help for Sports Workers

The coronavirus outbreak has forced pro and college sports leagues to shut down. And that has created great uncertainty for the people who work those games in such jobs as taking tickets, working as ushers and cleaning stadiums. To help workers who lose income when games aren’t played, Major League Baseball has stepped up to provide relief. All 30 Major League teams have pledged $1-million each to pay game-day workers while the season is delayed. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of the 2020 season for at least two weeks to curb spread of the virus. In professional basketball, teams and stars like Zion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Love have pledged to chip in to cover the salaries of arena workers who have lost jobs due to the suspension of the NBA season. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors have pledged a combined $1-million to cover that team’s workers. With businesses closed many workers will need help paying bills and covering the costs of their lives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about proposals to help workers who have been thrown out of work. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining which proposals you think will have the most impact.

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.

3. ‘Digital Divide’

With the closing of public and private schools across the country, there has been a lot discussion about moving lessons online for home learning. The discussion has put a new spotlight on a problem that has nothing to do with health or coronavirus — and has been going on for years. Across America, schools and families in poorer communities do not have the computer equipment and Internet access that wealthier communities have. This “digital divide” puts online learning out of reach for poorer students and schools, especially with public libraries closed and their computers unavailable. Teachers at these schools still have to send home paper learning packets, which are effective but less flexible and expansive than online learning. It is not a small problem. The Washington Post reports that nearly one in five students between kindergarten and 12th grade do not have computers or high-speed Web connections, according to the Pew Research Center, and that creates a “homework gap” for low income families and people of color. All told, more than 21 million Americans do not have access to high-speed Internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Many school districts are taking steps to narrow or eliminate the “digital divide” experienced by students and schools. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these efforts. Then use what you read to write an editorial analyzing the success of different approaches.

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. Giant Saber-Tooth

With huge fangs and powerful jaws, saber-toothed tigers were among the most fearsome predators of the ancient world. A new discovery in South America, however, indicates they may have been even more fearsome than previously believed. A fossil skull re-discovered in a museum in the nation of Uruguay indicates that saber-toothed tigers may have weighed as much as 1,000 pounds — and been able to take down plant-eaters as large as small cars. The 16-inch skull was originally found in Uruguay in 1989 but had been stored out of sight at Uruguay’s National Museum of Natural History until recently. Its size allowed researchers to estimate it was from an animal twice the size of today’s African lions. Scientists estimate the giant saber-tooth lived 10,000 years ago. Fossil discoveries give scientists new information about species that lived in the past and how they interacted with other species in their environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a fossil discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper examining what scientists learned from the discovery and why that is important.

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.

5. Home Grown Sanitizer

With the spread of the coronavirus, people in states across the nation have faced shortages in germ-fighting supplies. In New York State, a shortage of hand sanitizer prompted an unusual solution: the state is making its own. New York has organized a program to produce 100,000 gallons of sanitizer a week for distribution in communities affected by the virus. Produced by inmates in state prisons, the germ-killing sanitizer will be far cheaper than commercial sanitizers, in large part because inmates make less than $1 per hour on such work projects. That drew criticism of advocates for prisoners, who noted that the low wages amount to “slave labor.” The state sanitizer brand is called NYS Clean and has an alcohol content of 75 percent, which is higher than commercial brands. Shortages of safety and health supplies continue to make news. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about the shortages and what is being done about them. Use what you read to write a five-minute TV news special report on the problem. Read your report aloud and time it to make sure it does not run longer than five minutes. Choose images from the newspaper or Internet to use in your report. Present your report to family or 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.