For Grades 5-8 , week of May 08, 2023

1. Wanted for Assassination

John Wilkes Booth holds a notorious place in American history for assassinating President Abraham Lincoln as he watched a play in Washington, DC., in April 1865. Word quickly got out that Booth was wanted for the murder, and posters were distributed offering a reward for his capture. One of the rarest of these “wanted” posters was just put up for auction by a family that had held it for years — and it sold for an eye-opening $166,375, CNN News reports. Printed just five days after Lincoln’s death, the poster advertises a total of $100,000 in rewards for the capture of Booth and his accomplices — or about $1.9-million in today’s dollars. A reward of $50,000 was offered for the apprehension of Booth, and $25,000 each for the apprehension of accomplices John Surratt and David Herold. Booth, an actor, was described on the poster as “Five Feet 7 or 8 inches high” with a “slender build” and “a heavy black moustache.” He was killed by a Union soldier just six days after the poster was printed, when he was found hiding in a barn in northern Virginia. Police often ask for the help of the public when investigating criminal cases. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a crime story police are trying to solve. Use what you read to write a police “bulletin” detailing what information the public could provide that would be the most useful to the investigation. Who would be most likely to provide the information?

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.

2. Tiger Comeback

Saving endangered animals is an enormous challenge in many countries due to loss of habitats, business activities, diseases and illegal hunting. In the Asian nation of India, however, wildlife and government leaders are celebrating the comeback of tigers. India is the home to the majority of the world’s wild tigers, but as recently as 20 years ago their numbers had dropped to a record low of just 1,411 individuals. Now, however, after years of effort to Save the Tigers, the giant big cats have more than doubled their population in India, CNN News reports. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of wild Bengal tigers in India reached 3,167 last year, or about 70 percent of all the wild tigers in the world. India reversed the decline of its tigers by developing 53 tiger reserves covering nearly 30,000 square miles; by paying entire villages to relocate to make space for tigers; and by creating wildlife corridors to connect habitat areas. Officials also have tried to crack down on illegal hunting and poaching, though with less success. “We have thousands of years of history related to tigers,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address this month. “… The tiger is considered our brother in many tribes. A better future for humanity is only possible when our environments are protected and our biodiversity continues to expand.” The revival of wild tigers in India is a wildlife conservation success story. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another success helping wild or endangered animals. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing how success was achieved, who was responsible and what lessons can be learned from the effort for helping other wildlife.

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. ‘Found Objects’

Art can take many forms both for students and adults. Artists can display their creativity in paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, fabrics and combinations such as art collage (KOLE-ahj). Artists also can create artworks with everyday “found objects” such as cans, bottles, wheels or even bikes and skateboards. In the state of Kentucky, a team of middle school students used 2,262 cans of tuna and spaghetti and 400 bottles of water to create a sculpture of a shark biting through a surfboard. The shark sculpture earned first place honors for the students in a “Canstruction” art competition, UPI News reported. The students from Oldham County Middle School won multiple honors for their sculpture (seen here), including awards for the most cans, best original design, people’s choice, structural integrity and best use of labels. After winning all those awards, the cans of food and water were donated to a local food kitchen to support families in need. It can be a fun challenge to turn “found objects” into artworks. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of artworks made from found objects to see how they are put together. Then find photos of objects that could be used to create a “found object” sculpture. Draw a picture of your sculpture and write a paragraph telling how the “found objects” would make people feel about the new artwork.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Revolutionary Dead

In the American Revolution, volunteer soldiers from the original American colonies fought and won their independence from the most powerful nation in the world. It was a seven-year struggle for the Americans, with many setbacks against the forces of Great Britain. One of the bloodiest battles was the Battle of Camden in South Carolina in which outnumbered British forces soundly defeated the colonial Continental Army and boosted Britain’s strength in the American South. This spring, 243 years after the battle in August 1780, 14 soldiers who died in the conflict were honored for their sacrifice after their remains were found buried on the battlefield where they fell, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The remains were found last fall, some buried in sandy soil just six inches below the surface. Archaeologists analyzing buttons and other artifacts determined that the remains belonged to 12 Continental soldiers, one British soldier and one British loyalist. More than 900 American soldiers died in the Battle of Camden, and another 1,000 were captured. Just 68 British soldiers died, 245 were wounded and 11 went missing. This spring’s observance gave the soldiers honors they did not get at the time they died, officials said. The remains of the soldiers will be re-buried at a site on the battlefield. Historians study the past to learn how people lived and worked in careers and everyday life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about something new that historians have learned about the past. Use what you read to write a 300-word Internet blog telling what new information has been learned, how it was learned, why it is important and whom it affects most.

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. Big Ant Challenge

When people plan exhibits at museums, they always have to figure out how to display things effectively — and how to make room for all the things they want to show. At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, that proved to be a big challenge this spring. A really big challenge. For the museum’s new insectarium exhibit, planners had to find room for 500,000 leafcutter ants, plus forage areas where they could gather leaves, plus fungus gardens where they could use the leaves to grow food for the colony. Leafcutters are fascinating insects, but they need a lot of space. Their colonies are huge and their gardens and gathering areas require even more room. And then there was the challenge of teaching the ants to navigate their new home, the New York Times newspaper reported. “We’ve had a few ups and downs,” said the museum’s director of living exhibits. “Some problem-solving, as we expected, because it’s a pretty unique exhibit.” Still, most of the kinks were worked out by last weekend, when the insectarium opened to the public. The ants were crawling around to their heart’s content. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an exhibit at a museum in your state or community. Use what you read to write an entertainment column telling what things the museum chose to emphasize most in the exhibit, how they did that and how you think visitors will respond. What things in the exhibit would you find most interesting?

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.