For Grades 5-8 , week of June 22, 2020

1. Blocking Political Ads

In the United States and around the world, online advertising is playing a bigger and bigger role in political campaigns. Users of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram get so many political messages, in fact, that they sometimes wish they could just turn them off entirely. Starting this month, they will be able to do that. The parent company for Facebook and Instagram has announced that it soon will allow people in the United States to opt out of seeing election, political or social issue ads from candidates or political action committees in their Facebook or Instagram feeds. The ability to block such ads will be tested on a small group of users before rolling out to the rest of the United States, the New York Times newspaper reported. The election season is heating up on the Internet and television with ads from President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden and independent groups like the Lincoln Project. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the kind of ads being run at this point in the campaign. Then watch different ads on the Internet or TV. Use what you read and view to write a political column analyzing the goal of ads being run, and how effective you think they are.

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. History Is Now

History is not just events that happened a long time ago. History is being made every day across America and around the world. To capture and preserve the history of the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, three museums in Washington, DC have begun collecting posters, signs, artifacts and stories of people who took part. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Museum of American History and the Anacostia Community Museum started their effort in Lafayette Square in Washington DC, where thousands of people had gathered next to the White House to protest inequality and police violence against people of color. The Square itself had made history, when Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser renamed it Black Lives Matter Square, and museum staffers were looking for posters that protesters had left behind or attached to fences and barricades in the area. Protest signs have always been a big part of demonstrations and political gatherings. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of signs created by demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Or find and study signs from a rally for President Trump. Think like an art or social critic and write a personal column highlighting signs you think were especially effective for the message they offered or the images they used. Discuss with family or friends.

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. Goodbye, Aunt Jemima

For people who like pancakes, one of the most familiar names in the world is Aunt Jemima. For 131 years the image of this large, friendly, smiling African American woman has been a symbol of the pancake syrup that bears her name. Now the Quaker Oats company has announced it will retire the Aunt Jemima image and name because it is based on an outdated “racial stereotype” that dates back to the days of slavery. The change comes as the Black Lives Matter movement has called for companies and communities to re-assess their histories and role in promoting black stereotypes, bias or discrimination. Many communities have responded by taking down statues or renaming buildings with historic ties to people who had played a role in the slave trade, promoted slavery or been symbols of discrimination. Quaker Oats, which is owned by Pepsi, said that it was changing the Aunt Jemima brand in an effort “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.” After Quaker Oats made its announcement, the makers of Uncle Ben’s rice and Cream of Wheat cereal announced they would review or change their branding, which features black men considered by some to be racial stereotypes. Many businesses are re-evaluating their branding and advertising to eliminate racial stereotypes or messaging. With family or friends, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about actions being taken by the makers of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat or Mrs. Butterworth pancake syrup. Talk with older relatives about products they remember that used stereotypes in the past. Use your reading and conversations to write an editorial examining how these stereotypes came to be used and whether they should be changed.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Micro-Plastics on the Wind

Plastic pollution is a growing problem around the world, but it is not just the plastic bottles and fast-food cups that people see. “Micro-plastic” particles that break down from containers and even clothes can be found in air and water all over the planet, scientists say. A new study, in fact, has found that micro-plastic particles are now carried on the wind to even remote areas that people think of as pollution free. The study published in the journal Science focused on such natural areas as the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Researchers were shocked at how much micro-plastic is landing on such protected areas. It amounts to more than 1,000 tons each year, an amount equal 123-million to 300-million plastic water bottles broken down. It is not yet known what effect breathing or eating such amounts of micro-plastics could have on humans or animals. Plastic pollution is a problem around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how plastic pollution is affecting the environment in other nations. Choose two cases and create a poster showing the effect of plastic pollution on each nation, what is being done about it, or what needs to be done. Give your poster an eye-catching headline.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

5. Maya Discovery

Thousands of years ago, the Maya people developed a highly advanced civilization in southern Mexico and Central America. The Mayans created cities, had great achievements in art and astronomy and developed the only known writing system of the ancient Americas. A new discovery of an ancient temple may demonstrate that the Mayans were even more accomplished than previously known. Archaeologists working with new laser mapping technology have discovered what is believed to be the largest and oldest Mayan temple buried under the fields and forests of southern Mexico. The temple covers more ground than the Great Pyramid in Egypt and was built between the years 1,000 and 800 BCE, CNN News reports. The temple features a raised ceremonial platform and nine walkways leading to the platform. It was discovered using lidar mapping technology that maps underground areas by bouncing laser signals off the ground from a plane or drone. The discovery of ancient artifacts can shed light on how people lived and worked in ancient times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one of these discoveries. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing what scientists learned about ancient life from these artifacts. Then write a paragraph detailing what future scientists could learn from the artifacts in your bedroom or home today. Share with family and friends and discuss.

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.