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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 26, 2021

1. Masks or Not?

As communities seek to reopen their schools, one of the biggest questions facing local leaders is whether students and teachers should wear masks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently loosened its recommendations, saying students and teachers who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus do not need to wear masks in school buildings. But now the nation’s leading association of children’s doctors has declared that everyone should wear masks in schools. With variants of the Covid 19 virus spreading and cases on the rise, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that mask-wearing should be part of a “layered approach to make school safe for all students, teachers and staff.” The “layers” of protection include vaccinations, mask-wearing and clean-hands hygiene, the Academy said. Just 36 percent of students ages 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to latest statistics. All over the country, school officials are debating whether students and teachers should wear masks when schools open for in-person learning. Use the newspaper and Internet to find and closely read stories about the mask debate and what different districts are deciding. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your view on mask-wearing for in-person learning in your school district.

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.

2. ‘Hawkpocalypse’

It’s often said that survival of the fittest is “the law of the jungle” — or of any other environment. In severe conditions that law can drive wildlife to do extreme things in their effort to survive. The latest example can be seen in the American West this summer, where devastatingly hot temperatures have set new records in states like Oregon and California. The scorching heat has forced baby birds of prey to jump out of their open nests before they can fly to escape the relentless sun beating down on them. So many baby hawks have jumped that wildlife officials have declared a “hawkpocalypse” in the hardest hit areas, with hundreds of hawks being brought in to rescue centers. Many of the hawks are overheated and suffering from dehydration, the Washington Post reported, while others have suffered broken bones and other serious injuries and have had to be put down. Intense summer heat usually arrives in August in the West, but this year it came earlier and overlapped with nesting season. Intense heat and high temperatures have had devastating effects in the American West, especially for wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the effect of record-setting heat waves on wildlife in different areas. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor alerting people to the problems wildlife face and suggesting ways people could assist different species.

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.

3. Nintendo Shocker

Many people love video games, but some love them in a way most people couldn’t afford. At an auction sale in the state of Texas this month, an unopened copy of Nintendo's Super Mario 64 game sold for a record-smashing $1.56-million. The sale to an unnamed buyer came just two days after a sealed copy of Nintendo’s “The Legend of Zelda” went for $870,000 and three months after an unopened “Super Mario Bros.” sold for $660,000. “Super Mario 64,” which came out 25 years ago, has a lot of appeal, according to the Heritage Auctions company that sold it. It features one of Nintendo’s most memorable characters, was the first in the Super Mario franchise to feature a three-dimensional world and was one of the first games released for the Nintendo 64 console. Still, experts were stunned by the selling price. “I was blindsided, to be quite honest with you,” one said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect [that] price … would become a reality.” From video games to baseball cards, collectors are paying incredible prices for items that are rare or unusual. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the prices collectors are paying for games, cards, artworks or other items. Use what you read to write an analysis of why people would pay so much for such items and what benefits they will get from them. Finish by imagining you had the money to buy one recently sold item. What else could you spend that amount of money on, for yourself or others? Discuss with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

4. Pioneering Black Women

One of the results of the Black Lives Matter movement has been to call attention to chapters of African American history that have been overlooked in the past. One of those chapters was written by 855 women who served in the first all-Black unit to be sent overseas during World War II by the Women’s Army Corps. The unit was the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (nicknamed “the Six Triple Eight”) and it was sent to Europe to clear a backlog of mail that had been delayed months, or even years, from being delivered to U.S. soldiers. When they arrived in Birmingham, England in February 1945, the women found a “mess” of a mail system, survivors told the Lily news site. Within three months of their arrival, the 6888th had sorted at least 17 million pieces of mail, working around-the-clock shifts, seven days a week. Now, 76 years later, the U.S. Congress is poised to award the unit a Congressional Gold Medal. A bill approving the medal has passed the U.S. Senate and is awaiting action in the U.S. House. “I think we helped a lot” said 6888th veteran Romay C.J. Davis, who is now 101. “We did what we had to do, and we were good at what we did.” Communities, museums and other institutions are now calling attention to chapters of African American history that had been overlooked in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to write a personal column telling how learning more about this chapter of history benefits African Americans and all Americans.

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.

5. Look Ma, Both Hands!

When someone can do something equally well with either hand, it is said they are ambidextrous (AM-bee-DEX-trus). A man from Centralia, Kansas may be able to call himself the “ambidextrous king” of basketball after something he did this summer. Bob Fisher, 63 set a new Guinness World Record for making the most free throws in 30 seconds while alternating hands — 27 — and most free throws in one minute while alternating hands — 49. Fisher also tied a Guinness World Record by making 67 free throws in one minute. Fisher said he became successful at free throws by studying the science of good form. He said the most important thing is wrist position — the “strongest position of the wrist … [that] would apply the greatest force through the fingers.” Being ambidextrous helped Bob Fisher set two free-throw records. In what other fields or careers would it be helpful or useful to be ambidextrous? In the newspaper or online, find and read about three careers in which this ability would be helpful in doing your job. Create an illustration for each career showing how this ability could help and write a caption for each.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

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