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For Grades K-4 , week of Sep. 27, 2021

1. Goodbye, Plastic Toys

From the time they were introduced more than 40 years ago, Happy Meals at McDonald’s restaurants have appealed to young customers by including small toys with the food. For many years those toys were made of plastic, but now the fast-food chain has announced a big change. The worldwide company has announced it will significantly reduce the use of plastics in its Happy Meal toys and substitute paper-based toys that are healthier for the environment. The new toys, which will include board games, books and 3D figures made of paper or cardboard, will start appearing in U.S. Happy Meals in January. They already have been appearing in meals in other countries, most notably the European nation of England. There, two elementary age sisters drew worldwide attention when they launched an online petition asking McDonald’s and Burger King to replace plastic toys with toys that would be less harmful to the environment. The petition was signed by more than 500,000 people and helped convince McDonald’s to explore options that would reduce plastic pollution. With their online petition, English sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan took action to change something they thought could be improved. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about kids or young people taking action to change something. Write a letter to the editor telling what you think of their effort, and how they could convince the community to support them.

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.

2. Pooh Cottage

Winnie-the-Pooh has been a favorite character in children’s books and movies from the time he was introduced by author A.A. Milne 95 years ago. Now families who have been charmed by the honey-loving “bear of very little brain” can stay in a cottage that looks and feels like Pooh’s home in the Hundred Acre Wood. The cottage in the European nation of England has been created by the Disney company in cooperation with the Airbnb agency, which arranges rentals for people looking for interesting places to stay. In honor of the famous bear, the cottage is listed as a “Bearbnb” and features cupboards stocked with pots of “Hunny,” as Pooh used to spell it. Visitors who rent the cottage also can take guided tours of the Hundred Acre Wood (represented by Ashdown Forest) and play Poohsticks, a game in which players drop sticks into a brook from Poohsticks Bridge. The Winnie-the-Pooh cottage is an example of an attraction based on a children’s book and movie to appeal to kids and families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another attraction for kids that is based on a children’s book, movie or TV show. What features make the attraction fun or interesting? Brainstorm an idea for a kids attraction based on a book, movie or TV show you have liked. Write a paragraph outlining what your attraction would include and why those features would make it fun. Give your attraction a name and share with friends or classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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. Tallest Nation

The Netherlands is a very small nation on the continent of Europe, but it has a very big claim to fame. Its people are the tallest on Earth, according to statistics involving height. People of the Netherlands, who are also known as the Dutch, average just over 6 feet tall for men and about 5-feet, 6-inches for women, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The Dutch have earned that position as the Number One height nation due to a combination of good diet, family genetics and lifestyle, but that may be changing, experts say. New statistics from the Dutch government indicate that the growth of the nation’s people has come to a halt. Dutch women born in 2001 are, on average, more than half an inch shorter than those born in 1980, while men have declined nearly 4/10 of an inch. Such height changes are important, scientists say, because taller people generally live longer and are less likely to develop heart or breathing diseases. In case you’re wondering, American men average 5-feet, 9-inches tall and women stand at 5-feet, 4-inches. Every nation is known for many different things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about a nation other than the United States and some of the things it is known for. Use what you read to design a Did You Know? poster highlighting some of the interesting or unusual things this nation is known for.

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.

4. Canary Volcano

Volcanoes form when hot, liquid rock called magma forces its way through the outer layer of the Earth’s crust. This usually happens when pressure builds up on the magma due to earthquakes, shifts in the rock beneath the Earth’s surface or other changes. The European nation of Spain got a first-hand look at how earthquakes can cause volcano activity this month when a volcano that had been quiet for 50 years erupted on the island of La Palma in Spain's Canary Islands. The island where the Cumbre Vieja volcano is located had been rocked by thousands of earthquake tremors in the days leading up to the eruption. The eruption turned the magma into red-hot lava that shot hundreds of feet into the air, burned through forests and sent molten rock on a path toward the ocean on the volcano’s western side. No deaths or injuries were reported, but nearly 200 homes were burned and 6,000 residents had to be evacuated to safety. Though governed by Spain, the Canary Islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa 850 miles to the south. Volcano eruptions are a natural event that can have great impact on the surrounding area. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another natural event that is affecting people and the environment. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper on the cause and impact of this natural event. Print or clip photos from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your paper.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Hall of Fame

The Strong Museum of Play knows a thing or two about what kids like to do to have fun. In its exhibits the museum demonstrates that great play not only comes from dolls, action figures or board games, but from simple things that only require an active imagination. Through the National Toy Hall of Fame it runs in Rochester, New York, the Strong each year calls attention to toys and other items that have influenced the world of play. This year the Hall of Fame has not only nominated toy store favorites like American Girl Dolls and the board game Battleship but also “one of the most universal playthings” — sand. Other toys nominated for the Hall this year are Cabbage Patch Kids, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Masters of the Universe action figures, the board games Risk and the Settlers of Catan, the Mahjong tile game, a pinata, toy fire engines and the adult game billiards. “Whether old or new, for kids or adults, all 12 of these toy finalists greatly influenced the world of play,” said the Strong’s vice president for collections. The winners will be announced November 4. Everyone has favorite toys. In the newspaper or online, find and study ads for toys you have liked in the past or toys you would like to have. Pretend you are going to nominate one toy for the Toy Hall of Fame. Write a paragraph telling what features make your toy unusual or fun and why it deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

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

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