For Grades 5-8 , week of July 25, 2022

1. Heat Dome

From California on the West Coast to New York City on the East Coast, the United States has been smothered by oppressive and deadly heat this month. As many as 100-million Americans in the Lower 48 states were under heat alerts last week and 60-million experienced temperatures of 100 degrees or more. In some places in the Southwest and Midwest, temperatures soared as high as 115 degrees. This record-breaking heat wave was caused by a giant “heat dome” that settled over the nation. A heat dome is a ridge of high pressure that clears out clouds and dries out air, sending temperatures soaring to dangerous levels. Last week’s heat dome stretched from Southwestern states like Arizona and New Mexico to the Middle Atlantic states in the East. America’s heat dome was part of a worldwide heatwave that also hit other countries. The European nation of England, for example, saw temperatures hit 104 degrees for the first time ever, shutting down subways and businesses and causing extreme discomfort for residents because most homes do not have air conditioning. Extreme heat can be dangerous for people, animals, plants and crops. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how people have been dealing with extreme heat across America. Use what you read to write an advice column offering tips and suggestions on how to keep people, animals and crops safe during heat waves.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. Compassion

When people offer advice on how to be more understanding of others, they often say “walk a mile in their shoes.” What that means is to put yourself in the other person’s position and look at life’s challenges from their point of view. In the city of Richfield, Minnesota, a homeowner did that — and helped change the life of a homeless woman. Dan McCurdy came home recently and found a young woman rummaging through his garage. He called 911 immediately, but was surprised when he confronted the woman. “She was honest,” he told the local CBS Minnesota TV station. “She said ‘I tried to get into your car.’ She said ‘I’m 32 and I’m homeless.’” Her honesty stunned him, and McCurdy tried to imagine himself in her situation. When the police arrived, he told them not to arrest the woman. “I didn’t want to make her life more difficult,” he said. He followed her down the street and gave her money from his wallet. “She looked at me like why are you doing this? I just said I feel bad for your situation and I hope you can get things turned around.” Later he reflected on how the world needs more compassion. “Everybody is going through something,” he said. Compassion and understanding are qualities that can make life better for people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone showing compassion for another person. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how this act of compassion made the community better, and how it could serve as a model for others.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Everyday Artist

Claes Oldenburg was an artist who won wide fame by turning everyday objects into giant public sculptures outdoors. His works included a giant cherry balanced on a spoon, a huge clothespin, a 20-ton baseball bat, a broken button, a massive electric plug and a 38-foot-tall flashlight. His whimsical works earned him a reputation as a master of “pop art,” as works based on popular culture and items were called. Oldenburg, who died last week at the age of 93, called his huge works “Colossal Monuments” and wanted them to make people look at familiar objects in new ways. He also created oversized soft fabric sculptures of such things as a 10-foot-long ice cream cone, a 5-by-7-foot hamburger and a 9-foot slice of cake. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photograph of an indoor or outdoor scene. Look closely at the items in the photo. Then think like Claes Oldenburg and pick one item to turn into a giant sculpture. Draw a sketch of your sculpture and write a paragraph telling how it could change the way people think about the everyday object it depicts. Share ideas with family and friends and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. It’s a Wrap!

Police departments are always looking for ways to catch and subdue people who are behaving erratically or suspected of criminal activity. And in this day and age, many are looking for approaches that don’t involve lethal force, violence or guns. A company in the state of Arizona is attempting to fill that law enforcement need with a device that seems right out of a Spiderman film — or an old western movie. It’s called a BolaWrap, and it shoots out a lasso at high speed that wraps up and restrains suspects without using violence. The BolaWrap has been developed by a company called Wrap Technologies, and according to the police website Officer.com it has proven itself “time and time again” for law enforcement agencies that have deployed it. “The BolaWrap helped officers de-escalate situation[s] that could have otherwise gone off the rails,” the website noted. Police departments, businesses and individual people are always looking for products that will help them do things in new ways. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story, photo or ad of a new product that does this. Use what you find to write a product “review” telling what the product does, how that is a new approach and how it is an improvement over the way things were done in the past.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

5. Lucky Orange Lobster

The Red Lobster seafood restaurants get their name from the color lobsters turn when they are cooked. Lobsters are greenish-brown when living in the ocean, but one that turned up this month at a Red Lobster in Florida was almost red to begin with. Due to an extremely rare genetic mutation, the live lobster was a bright orange — a condition that occurs only about once in every 30-million lobsters, UPI News reported. It’s not known if an orange lobster would have turned red when cooked. Staff members at the restaurant in Hollywood, Florida quickly grew attached to the orange lobster, and named it Cheddar, from the color of the cheese used in the Red Lobster’s cheddar bay biscuits. They also reached out to find a home for Cheddar at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “Sometimes ordinary miracles happen, and Cheddar is one of them,” Red Lobster manager Mario Roque said in a news release from Ripley’s. “We are so honored to have been able to save Cheddar and find her a good home.” Rare or unusual animals are often in the news, and people often try to help them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people trying to help a rare or unusual animal. Use what you read to tell the story of the effort in your own words for a friend or family member.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.