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For Grades K-4 , week of Sep. 04, 2023

1. PUFFIN POPULATION

While climate change has undeniably negative effects on animals across the world, some species are still beating the odds. Atlantic puffins, a small bird with colorful bills that live on islands off the coast of Maine, have grown in population for the last two years. The warming ocean temperatures have affected the birds because there are fewer of the kinds of fish they need to feed their chicks, but one fish, the sand lance, has strong numbers this year. This means the puffins are able to grow and thrive, going from just 140 in the early 1900s to as many as 3,000 today. Write a paragraph or draw a diagram that explains how the water temperature, fish population, and puffin population are connected.

2. COUNTING CUBS

Polar bears have been listed as a threatened species since the early 2000s but so far, the government couldn’t use climate change as a reason to stop activities like oil drilling that could impact the bears’ population. The Endangered Species Act required that projects approved by the government not harm species of animals on the endangered list, but they couldn’t consider greenhouse gas emissions as a factor. That’s because they couldn’t separate the emissions of one project, like oil drilling, from all the other causes worldwide and throughout our history. However, in a new study, scientists say they can point to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions from specific sources and how they affect polar bear cubs. By looking at how much ice polar bears have, the number of bears and cubs, and the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, scientists were able to connect the dots to show a relationship. Write a paragraph explaining whether you think the government should help save polar bears by limiting greenhouse gases and share your thoughts with your classmates.

3. MOON MAGIC

Last weekend, there was a rare sight in the sky: a blue supermoon. When a full or new moon is closer to the earth in its orbit, it’s called a supermoon and appears slightly larger when we look at it in the night sky. When two full moons happen in the same month, the second one is a blue moon (have you heard the phrase, “once in a blue moon”?). While blue moons happen every few years, a blue supermoon is much less common—the next one won’t happen until 2037. Even more special, when the blue supermoon happened last week, the planet Saturn was visible near it at sunset. Starting this month, several planets will be visible in the night sky. Read about them and write a paragraph about which ones will be visible when.

4. AIRLINE FINE

American Airlines is in trouble with the federal government for keeping passengers stranded on their planes. The Transportation Department has set rules for how airlines are supposed to handle it when a plane is delayed after passengers have boarded: They have to give travelers a chance to get off the plane if the flight is delayed for more than three hours. They found at least 43 times when American Airlines didn’t follow this rule between 2018 and 2021, so they fined the company $4.1 million, the largest fine they’ve given out for this kind of offense. Write a paragraph explaining why you think there’s a rule for airlines about how long passengers can be stuck on a plane without a chance to get off during delays.

5. A CITY ON THE HORIZON

While creating an entirely new city from scratch may sound like something in a fantasy story, it might be a reality in rural California. Several billionaires have been buying up land in Northern California and recently shared their plans to create a “green city,” with a focus on solar power and other renewable energy. The mysterious Flanders Associates LLC is now the largest single landholder in the country after buying 78 square miles of farmland for about $800 million. The project, called California Forever, plans for tens of thousands of new homes, which they say will help the affordable housing shortages in some of California’s current cities. But the fate of the project will be in the hands of Solano County, where the land is located, for residents to vote on whether the existing farmland can be used to build an urban city. Write some of the pros and cons to building a city in what is currently undeveloped farmland. How could it affect the environment and the existing nearby cities, like San Fransisco and Sacramento?

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