1. ‘The Ickabog’
Ever since the coronavirus forced families to isolate at home, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling has been doing her best to keep kids learning and entertained. Through her “Wizarding World” website, she created an Internet hub offering learning materials, puzzles and games called “Harry Potter at Home.” Now she is offering a new story called “The Ickabog” for free online. And she wants kids to help illustrate it! Written for students ages 7 to 9, the story is a fairy tale set in an imaginary land that she wrote for her own children more than 10 years ago. It is a story about truth and the abuse of power, but Rowling stresses that it is not related to her “Harry Potter” books or based on real life events. She has been posting chapters daily on the website www.theickabog.com and plans to wrap up the story by June 10. After that she will publish the story as a book and include illustrations sent in by fans. Proceeds from book sales will go to coronavirus relief efforts. A big part of the fun of J.K. Rowling’s new book is that she wants kids to illustrate it with their own drawings. Illustrating stories requires close reading of the text and lots of imagination. Practice these skills by reading a story that interests you in the newspaper or online. Use your drawing skills to create two or more illustrations showing the events or people in the story. Discuss with family and friends.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
2. Disney in July
The Disney World theme parks in the state of Florida have been closed since the middle of March due to the coronavirus emergency. But there is good news for families hoping to visit them this summer. The Disney company has announced it will reopen the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the middle of July. Visitors will have to wear masks, have temperature checks and observe other rules for safe social distancing, Disney officials said. Parades and fireworks displays will be temporarily halted due to the big crowds they attract. Plans to re-open Disney’s Florida theme parks do not affect Disney parks in the state of California, which remain closed for health reasons. The planned re-opening of the Disney theme parks in Florida is good news for people looking for special things to do this summer. In the newspaper or online, find and study stories, ads and photos of things you like to do during the summer. Pick one and write a personal column telling why you like it and why you would miss it if you couldn’t do it this summer.
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. Robots to the Rescue
The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is one of the world’s great ocean habitats, supporting 1,500 species of fish, 400 types of hard coral and one-third of the world’s soft coral. It is also home to millions of spiky crown-of-thorns starfish. That is bad news for the reef’s corals because a crown-of-thorns can eat its weight in coral every day. To battle these starfish, sealife experts are turning to technology, specifically to a vision-based robot called the RangerBot. The RangerBots can be programmed to detect crown-of-thorns starfish and inject them with bile salts, which kill them, the Washington Post newspaper reports. A fleet of robots could work much faster than human divers, which can only inject about 350,000 crown-of-thorns a year. With the help of a Google challenge grant, reef experts are hoping to have a robot army up and running within the next year. Creating robots is one of the fastest growing fields in technology, and researchers are finding new ways to use robots every day. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new use of robots. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling how this robot is doing things in better ways than they were done in the past.
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.
4. Plush Social Distancing
Like many public places, the Izu Shabonten Zoo in the Asian nation of Japan had to close down due the coronavirus epidemic. When it reopened May 16, it put new rules in place to make sure people stayed a safe social distance of six feet apart. But the zoo did it in a fun way. It seated giant stuffed animals in its cafeteria to keep people apart. Many animals are featured among the plush toys sitting in chairs, but getting most attention are big, cuddly capybaras (kah-puh-BEH-ruz). Capybaras, which are relatives of guinea pigs, are among the most popular animals at the zoo and even have their own bathtub in which they take baths to entertain visitors. Native to South America, they are also the largest rodent in the world, growing up to 4.5 feet long and weighing up to 150 pounds. Capybaras are interesting wild animals that many people don’t know about. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another wild animal that may not be familiar to a lot of people. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report for family, friends or your teacher, telling them interesting or important things about this animal.
Common Core State Standards: Citing textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
5. Rent a Ballpark!
Have you ever dreamed of playing in a professional baseball stadium? Or just hanging out with your friends for a behind-the-scenes look at how ballparks work? Or having a sleep-over or birthday party where pro athletes play? A minor league team connected to the Minnesota Twins is offering baseball fans just that opportunity while health concerns keep ballparks closed to the public. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are offering to rent their Blue Wahoos Stadium to small groups through the Airbnb rental website on the Internet. Cost is $1,500 a night for groups of 10 and are available now through next fall. Families, groups or youth sports teams that rent can take batting practice in the team’s batting cage, play catch on the field in the middle of the night or even play video games in the clubhouse usually reserved for players. If you could rent any place in the world for one night, what would it be? In the newspaper or Internet, find and study photos of places you might like to rent for a night with your family and friends. Or think of a place in your community you would like to rent. Write a friendly letter to friends and family inviting them to spend a day or night with you at this special place — and why it would be fun.
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.