For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 08, 2021

1. Historic Election

The 2021 election has come and gone, and the big news continues to be historic gains made by Republicans in the state of Virginia. But Virginia was not the only place where history was made. In the city of Boston, Massachusetts, Democrat Michelle Wu became the first woman, first person of color and first person of Asian descent to be elected mayor. The cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Kansas City, Kansas elected Black mayors for the first time ever when Democratic Ed Gainey was elected to lead the Pennsylvania city and Tyrone Garner won in the non-partisan Kansas election. In New York City Alvin Bragg, became the first Black person ever elected Manhattan district attorney, while Eric Adams, became just the second Black person elected mayor. In Michigan the cities of Dearborn, Hamtramck and Dearborn Heights elected Muslim or Arab American mayors for the first time by choosing Abdullah Hammoud, Amer Ghalib and Bill Bazzi, respectively. Political experts are busy analyzing how the results of this year’s election will affect politics in the nation in the months leading up to the national midterm elections in 2022. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about the 2021 election results. Use what you read to write a commentary or political column of your own discussing results that could shape politics in the months ahead.

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. Admiration from a Queen

Queen Elizabeth II of England is 95 years old and has been queen of England and the United Kingdom for nearly 70 years. But despite her age and long service as head of the British royal family, she says is inspired by young people as she looks to the future. Addressing world leaders gathered for an international summit on climate change, the Queen said “I have drawn great comfort and inspiration from the relentless enthusiasm of people of all ages — especially the young — in calling for everyone to play their part” to slow global warming. “The time for words has now moved to the time for action,” she said, urging leaders “to rise above the politics of the moment and achieve true statesmanship.” In words aimed at all generations, she noted “None of us will live forever. We are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps.” In her remarks to the summit on climate change, Queen Elizabeth II praised the actions and energy of young people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about young people taking action or expressing their views on global warming or other issues. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining lessons that older adults could learn from young people on key issues.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Amazing Ancient Statues

The European nation of England was once part of the ancient Roman Empire that controlled much of the continent of Europe 2,000 years ago. A new discovery in an abandoned English church has given researchers a new look at what those Roman people were like. Archaeologists working along a route for a proposed high-speed railway, have discovered complete bust statues of a Roman man and woman and another statue of the head of a child. The lead archaeologist for the dig said the statues, which show the man and woman from the waist up, were “exceptionally well preserved” and represent a “once in a lifetime” discovery. “You really get an impression of the people they depict — literally looking into the faces of the past,” she said. England was a part of the Roman Empire from the year 43 C.E. to about 410 C.E. Archaeology discoveries reveal new information about how people from the past lived and worked. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a discovery about ancient people. Use what you read to write a magazine article for younger children telling what has been discovered, how it was discovered and why it is important. Be sure to use language that younger readers would easily understand. Illustrate your article with photos from the newspaper or Internet.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. A Batty Election

In the world of elections, a vote to choose a “Bird of the Year” would not seem likely to cause a controversy. But in the southern Pacific nation of New Zealand, the results of this year’s voting have done just that. The winner for “Bird of the Year” is not a bird … but a bat. The tiny pekapeka-tou-roa, or long-tailed bat, easily topped the field in the voting, finishing nearly 3,000 votes ahead of the runner up among 58,000 ballots cast. The runner-up was the kakapo, a fat, flightless parrot found only in New Zealand, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The “Bird of the Year” contest is run each year by the Forest & Bird conservation group to call attention to endangered native bird species. The tiny pekapeka IS threatened by predators invading its native forest habitat, according to conservationists. But it is definitely NOT a bird, critics of the vote said. “Putting a mammal in the competition did cause a bit of a flap,” said a spokeswoman for Forest & Bird. “It has ruffled some feathers.” All over the world people are concerned about endangered species. And they sometimes plan unusual events or activities to call attention to them. With a partner, find and closely read stories about an endangered species that interests you. Use what you read to brainstorm an unusual way to call attention to this species. Write an outline for your idea, telling what it would involve and why you think it would be successful.

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.

5. Shout Out for Sand

As a toy, sand is about the simplest thing you could imagine. It’s found on beaches, in back yards, in boxes and on playgrounds, and it doesn’t come in fancy packaging. Yet it has entertained kids for hundreds of years, and for that reason it was voted this fall into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. “Although some playthings can only be found online or in certain stores, sand has a global reach that most toy manufacturers would envy,” the museum’s chief curator said. “Children recognize sand as a creative material suitable for pouring, scooping, sieving, raking and measuring. Wet sand is even better, ready for kids to construct, shape and sculpt.” Sand was one of three toys voted this fall into the Hall of Fame, which is housed in the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. The others were American Girl Dolls and the board game Risk. Sand is a simple material, but it can be a great plaything. In the newspaper or online, find and study other simple items that could be turned into playthings with a little imagination. Pick several and write a personal column or essay celebrating them as playthings. Include any simple items you, your parents or grandparents may have used as playthings and why they were fun to play with.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.