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for Grades 5-8

Nov. 29, 2021
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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 28, 2021

1. Juneteenth

For more than 150 years, states and communities have celebrated Juneteenth — June 19th — as the day slavery finally ended in the United States. Now Juneteenth has been made a national holiday by the U.S. Congress and President Biden, and this year marked the first time it was observed. Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger announced to the slaves of Texas that they were free. The announcement came 2 ½ years after President Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves in the southern states with the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War. Texas officials had kept the news from slaves there, in effect holding them in bondage for an extra two years as the Civil War wound to a close. “All Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history,” Biden said at a ceremony at the White House. He said signing the law was one of the greatest honors he will have as president and noted that Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Day was established in 1983. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in America but also African American history and culture. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways communities are celebrating Black history and culture this summer. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how all Americans could benefit by learning more about Black culture.

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.

2. No Roads

The Tongass National Forest in the state of Alaska is one of the world’s largest intact temperate rain forests. It is a wonderland of natural resources, valued by both environmentalists and developers who want to harvest them. This month the Tongass Forest got a boost in protection when President Biden announced he would reinstate rules blocking the construction of roads in 9.3-million acres of the forest and stop other types of development. The rules, first instituted by President Bill Clinton 20 years ago, had been overturned by President Donald Trump just three months before he left office. The Tongass Forest has been subject of great debate over the years. Republicans and state leaders want to open it to development to boost the Alaska economy, while environmentalists and leaders in the recreation industry want to protect it for future generations. President Biden has pledged to more aggressively protect the environment and natural areas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the things he has done or plans to do. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your views on one or more of his plans. Use evidence from your reading to support your arguments and opinions.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Maori Explorers

New Zealand’s Maori people have long been known for their “haka” dances used to encourage warriors, urge on sports teams or mark great occasions. Now they are becoming known for their exploring skills as well. A new study has determined that these indigenous people may have discovered the continent of Antarctica long before Europeans or Americans set foot on the icy region surrounding the Earth’s South Pole. The research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand found that the Maori may have made voyages to Antarctica from their Southern Pacific homeland as early as the 7th Century — 1,300 years before westerners visited the Earth’s southernmost continent. A Russian expedition in 1821 has long been credited with making the first sighting of mainland Antarctica, with the first landing made by an American explorer a year later, CNN News reports. The new research based on Polynesian narratives and Maori oral traditions indicates the Maori may have been there much earlier. That conclusion is supported by Maori carvings that show both voyagers on the sea and navigational knowledge, the researchers said. The new report on Maori exploration of Antarctica sheds light on achievements by minority or indigenous people that had been overlooked before. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another achievement by minorities or indigenous people that has been overlooked. Use what you read to write a proposal for honoring this achievement and why that would be valuable.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Cleaner Astronauts

When astronauts meet the public, they often face questions about basic tasks of living in space. How do they go to the bathroom? (There are special vacuum toilets.) Or how do they do laundry? The answer to the second question is: They don’t. But America’s NASA space agency is looking to change that and reduce clothing waste. At present, astronauts aboard the International Space Station wear underwear, shorts and socks until they get so dirty they can’t be worn any more, Nextar Media reports. Then they are just thrown out with other waste to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now NASA and the Procter & Gamble Company are teaming up to invent a way to wash dirty laundry and re-use it in space. In its initial experiment, P&G will test a detergent custom-made for space to see how its enzymes react to weightlessness. A second experiment will test stain-removal pens and wipes. P&G is also developing a washer-dryer that could operate in space with minimal amounts of water and detergent. Scientists and businesses often create new products to solve problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people or businesses doing this. Use what you read to write a consumer column telling what the problem is, how the scientists or businesses are addressing it and whether you think their solution will be the best one. Discuss other solutions you think might work.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions;

5. Who Was That Guy?

In the world of children’s literature, the John Newbery Award is the highest honor an author can get. It was first proposed 100 years ago this month, and named for John Newbery, an Englishman often called the “Father of Children’s Literature.” Newbery lived in the middle of the 18th century, and starting in 1744 published about 100 storybooks for children. Among his notable titles was “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book,” which promised to “make Tommy a good boy and Polly a good girl,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. Though Newbery had never been to America, the American Library Association decided to honor him when it created its annual award “for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” Most of the honored books have been works of fiction, and winners have included authors of all races and backgrounds This year’s winner is “When You Trap a Tiger” by Tae Kellar, in which a magical tiger offers to help a young biracial girl get her sick grandmother back to health. The Newbery Award has been given out since the 1920s to help young readers find good books to read and enjoy. With family, friends or classmates, use the newspaper or Internet to find stories about this year’s winner, past winners or books that sound interesting to you. Pick a book you think sounds interesting and write a letter to a friend telling why you think it would be fun or worthwhile to read.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

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