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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 12, 2012

1. Scientific Genius

He may have gone down in history as the man whose work led to the development of the atomic bomb, but Albert Einstein was a man committed to peace and science. Born on March 14, 1879, in the European country of Germany, Einstein went on to develop theories that drastically changed how people viewed the world and the universe. He was instrumental in the theories of quantum physics, for which he won a Nobel Prize in 1921. His most famous scientific work dealt with the theory of relativity. Einstein also became a political activist in opposition to the rising Nazi regime in Germany and left the country in 1933. Find a newspaper article about new discoveries in science or physics. Or find one online. As a class discuss the impact of the discoveries and the work of the scientists who made them.

Core/National Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; thinking critically and logically to make the relationship between evidence and scientific explanations.

2. Troubles in the Middle East

Tensions continue to mount in the Middle East between the nations of Israel and Iran. Find an article in today's newspaper about the situation and discuss ways in which various groups are seeking resolutions to the issues. Or find an article online. After your discussion, draw a political cartoon showing the dangers in the situation.

Core/National Standard: Understanding narratives about major eras of American and world history by identifying the people involved, describing the setting and sequencing the events; comprehending the past.

3. Flipping for the Olympics

Don’t mess with American women – especially if they are gymnasts. It’s just five months until the Summer Olympics start in the European city of London, and the U.S. Gymnastics Team has set its collective eyes on more gold medals. The American women have ruled gymnastics since the year 2000. According to an Associated Press article, the team has produced the last two Olympic champions and won 60 world and Olympic medals during the time since those competitions. No other country has gotten more than 35, the article said. One of this year’s standouts is a 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, Virginia, named Gabrielle Douglas. She turned heads recently at the American Cup competition in New York by posting the highest score in the competition as an alternate. Because alternates cannot win the competition, the top American Cup award went to Jordyn Wieber, with Aly Raisman coming in second. Choosing an Olympic team of just five gymnasts now could prove difficult, said Martha Karolyi of the U.S. team. Find a newspaper article about athletes from your area training for the Olympics or another top competition. Do some research on one athlete and create a multi-media report on that person.

Core/National Standard: Using technology to produce and publish reports

4. Busted Myths

Moms always tell kids to eat their carrots because they’re good for your eyes. That’s actually true, but there are many myths out there regarding food that aren’t. Lisa Collier Cool busted several food myths recently in a Yahoo! News article. One myth is that raw foods are always more nutritious than cooked ones, but that is bogus, she said. Cooking does destroy certain vitamins, but enhances many other nutrients. Another myth is that high-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest has said the two are almost identical, healthwise. Everyone knows that fruit juice is healthy. Or is it? The Harvard Nurses’ Study showed that women who drink one or more glasses of fruit juice a day are more likely to develop diabetes. Find a newspaper article about healthy eating. Write a summary of the article, including how you could eat better.

Core/National Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.

5. Fair Game

Everybody talks about sportsmanship and the importance of playing fair. Evidently the New Orleans Saints didn’t get that memo. The NFL is investigating the team for “bounties” its players offered for injuring opponents. Allegedly, team members were paid extra for knocking opponents out of a game, according to an Associated Press article. The article said the Saints players maintained a bounty pool of up to $50,000 over the past three seaons. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” were worth $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs. Find a newspaper or Internet article about the bounty controversy in the NFL. Divide the class in half and debate the issue.

Core/National Standards: Posing questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others’ questions and comments.