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For Grades K-4 , week of Aug. 28, 2023

1. IN HOT WATER

Octopuses aren’t social creatures—they don’t usually live, swim, or hunt for food in groups. So scientists were surprised to find a group of thousands of octopus grouped together on the ocean floor off the coast of California. Researchers discovered the reason: a natural egg incubator. The octopus were gathered around the base of an extinct underwater volcano, which lets off heat and helps their eggs hatch faster. The octopus stand watch over their eggs, using their many legs to push away predators like snails and shrimp, until they hatch. The eggs in this location hatched after 21 months, much faster than the four or more years other deep-sea octopus eggs take to hatch. Write a short paragraph about why you think it would be better for octopus if their eggs hatched faster and if they were in a larger group when protecting their eggs.

2. SPOTLESS

A rare baby giraffe was born at a zoo in Limestone, Tennessee, recently. The young female was born without the spots typically seen on a giraffe, which help the animals blend into their surroundings in the wild. Research found only three giraffes reported to have been born without spots—the most recent in 1972. The zoo posted photos of the yet-unnamed baby giraffe with the hope of encouraging people to look into helping giraffes in the wild. Their numbers have dropped by around 30 percent in the last 30 years. Think about the way the zoo used the birth of this rare giraffe to turn attention to wildlife conservation on social media. Think of a cause you’re passionate about and write down ideas of something in your own life that you could use to draw attention to your cause—things like using a birthday party theme or Halloween costume to spread awareness.

3. PARTY ANIMALS

The Republican debate last week marked the start of the activities leading up to the 2024 presidential election. With all the political talk, you may notice two symbols that pop up frequently: a donkey to represent the Democratic Party and an elephant to represent the Republican Party. Those symbols have been used to symbolize America’s political parties for longer than any of us have been alive—but why? The answer is an editorial cartoonist from the 1800s named Thomas Nast. In his highly detailed drawings for Harper’s Weekly from 1862 to 1886, Nast often used animals to represent politics, pointing out its messiness and chaos. While he wasn’t the first to use the donkey or elephant for the parties, his cartoons cemented them in Americans’ minds. Looking up some of Nast’s political cartoons here is a good place to start. Pick one and see what symbols you can identify in it. Write a paragraph with your ideas about what Nast might be trying to convey.

4. MOON LANDING

India recently became the first country to successfully land a space craft near the south pole of the moon. It’s only the fourth country to land on the moon and now the first to explore the area that has interested scientists, as they believe it may hold frozen water. It comes just days after Russia’s lunar lander crashed attempting to land in the same region. Now, India’s lander will conduct experiments and analysis of the moon’s surface for the next two weeks. Write a paragraph about why you think it is important to know if there is water on the moon’s surface and what that could mean for humans going to the moon in the future.

5. A DARING RESCUE

Eight people, including seven students, were rescued from a cable car that transports them everyday from their mountainside village in northwest Pakistan to a more populated area where they attend school. Two of the cables supporting the car snapped, leaving the group dangling for 12 hours while a military crew worked to rescue them by helicopter and zip line. Prior to the cable car, students had to walk for two or three hours down a mountainside, cross a river, and climb up the opposite mountain, then walk two more miles to reach their high school. With the cable car, the journey takes just ten minutes, and between 400 and 500 residents of the 30,000-person village use it to commute every day. Many of the cable cars built in rural Pakistan are privately owned and made from existing materials, rather than new construction and technology. Write down ways you can think of that transportation in rural Pakistan could be made safer for remote communities in the mountains. Do you think it would be better to improve and regulate existing cable cars or come up with a new solution entirely? Share your answers with your classmates.

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