For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 22, 2021

1. Low-Cost Virus Pills

In the battle against the coronavirus, it has been a challenge to get enough vaccine shots to people who need them in poorer nations. Now the development of anti-virus PILLS by two drug companies could make medicines available in those countries to protect people from the Covid 19 virus. More importantly, the Pfizer and Merck companies have agreed to license the formulas for the pills so they can be manufactured and sold cheaply in poor and developing nations, the New York Times reported. Pfizer announced last week that it would allow licensing in 95 developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, while Merck said it would allow its pill to be made and sold inexpensively in 105 poorer countries. Both will be sold through the Medicines Patent Pool, a nonprofit organization backed by the United Nations. The development of pills that can protect people from the coronavirus is a major breakthrough in medicine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another medical breakthrough involving the virus or another disease. Write a short consumer column telling why the breakthrough is important, whom it will help most and how soon.

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. Ocean Power

Scientists have determined that burning fossil fuels like gas and oil is a major cause of global warming. As a result, businesses, governments and individuals are turning to alternative energy sources like wind, solar and water power that don’t produce greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere. In the European nation of Scotland, scientists are turning to the biggest source of water power in the world — the ocean. And they are hoping for big results. Three ocean power systems have been installed in the waters off the Orkney Islands and two are already poised to generate electricity on an experimental basis, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The devices use turbines and rotor blades that are turned by the power of tides to create electricity. The problem is cost. All three systems would be very expensive to operate on a large scale. But it is “inevitable,” one developer says, that costs will come down to take advantage of this natural resource. Scientists and businesses are using technology in new ways to produce and deliver clean energy to homes, businesses and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a new effort to produce clean energy in this way. Use what you read and a sheet of paper to analyze the benefits and challenges for this new approach. List the benefits and challenges in two columns in order of importance. Turn your list into a poster, if you like.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

3. Smog Shutdown

In the last 18 months cities all over the world have had to lock down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The capital city of the Asian nation of India is about to lock down again but not because of the virus. New Delhi is facing orders to shelter at home because of air pollution. With a population of 1.4-billion people, India has a huge air pollution problem, especially in the Delhi region that includes the city of New Delhi. Smoggy air has plagued the area due to cold temperatures, low wind speeds, the setting off of fireworks during the Diwali festival and crop-burning in neighboring states. Up to 40 percent of the particles in this year’s smog come from burning of plant stubble on farms to make way for next year’s crops, a leading air pollution expert said. Another 40 percent is coming from exhaust fumes of cars and trucks, especially those that use diesel fuel. Air pollution is a problem for cities all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about cities in the United States that have the greatest air pollution problems. Use what you read to write a paper or essay, comparing the problems in different cities and what is being done to address them.

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.

4. A Wish to Help Others

The Make-a-Wish Foundation grants special wishes to children who are dealing with critical or life-threatening illnesses. Many involve such joyful things as going to Disney World, taking trips, attending sports events or meeting sports or entertainment stars. A 13-year-old from Jackson, Mississippi recently got a chance to have his wish fulfilled and he surprised the foundation and his community. Abraham Olagbegi, who has a rare blood condition, asked to feed the homeless in his home town. Abraham asked that the foundation provide homeless people at a local park “one hot meal a month every month for the rest of the year or for an entire year.” The foundation chose to provide meals for a full year and set up a distribution station called “Abraham’s Table,” according to the Washington Post newspaper. Abraham, whose family had been feeding the homeless even before he had his wish granted, said it meant a lot to him to continue the tradition during his illness. “I just wanted to help in my community the best way I could,” he said. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about problems you would like to address in your community. Pick one and write a proposal for addressing or solving it. Use news sources other research to determine how much your proposal would cost, and what wealthy person or organization you could ask for support. Share and discuss ideas as a class.

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; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. Safe Christmas Display

During the holiday season, cities and communities all over the world erect “Nativity Scenes” to celebrate the Christian account of the Three Wise Men visiting the Baby Jesus in the manger. In the city of Naples, Italy this year, the Christmas Bible story is getting an update that reflects the times. In addition to carrying gifts of gold and the perfumes frankincense and myrrh, the Wise Men on San Gregorio Armeno street will be carrying Italian coronavirus health passes, Reuters News reports. The so-called Green Passes, which are required in Italy to use public transportation and attend cultural events, show that the user has received at least one Covid 19 vaccine dose, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. It is not the first time a San Gregorio Nativity has taken on current events. “Last year … the figurines of Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men were wearing masks,” noted one artist who worked on this year’s display. “… Because the Three Wise Men have to take a long journey to the crib, I gave them all their own Green Pass so that they have the proper documents for traveling.” In the United States and other countries, communities want to celebrate the winter holidays in a safe way that will not cause a new outbreak of the Covid 19 coronavirus or its variants. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about precautions your community and others are taking. Write an editorial offering guidelines or tips for having a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.