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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 31, 2020

1. Wildfires and Wildlife

Wildfires are causing huge damage in the United States and around the world. In the state of California, more than 1.4-million acres have burned in the last month, and in the South American nation of Brazil more than 500,000 have burned in a sensitive wetlands area near the Amazon jungle. The fires have destroyed homes and farms, but also the habitats and homes of endangered species. In California a sanctuary for the huge California condor was destroyed by fire in the Big Sur area, and 14 of the endangered birds were unaccounted for. In Brazil, a fire in the Pantanal wetlands area destroyed the home of one of the world’s rarest birds, the blue macaw. The sanctuary in Brazil was home to 15 percent of the world's population of blue macaws, while the Big Sur sanctuary supported the breeding and release of condors bred in zoos. The California condor is the largest North American land bird, with a wingspan of up to 9 feet. The blue macaw is the largest flying parrot species with a height of more than 3 feet. Wildfires cause harm to wildlife species and their habitats in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the effects on wildlife from fires in the United States and other nations. Use what you read to write an editorial for the newspaper outlining ways people and organizations could help wildlife species affected by wildfires.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. A Concert for Science

During the coronavirus epidemic, big events like concerts and sports contests have been shut down all over the world. But in the European nation of Germany, a large, indoor concert was held this month and no one was upset. In fact, the 1,400 people who packed a concert hall in the city of Leipzig had been invited by medical researchers looking for ways to safely resume events that draw large crowds of people. There were controls for those who attended, the Washington Post newspaper reported. First, every concert-goer had to have tested negative for the virus. Once there, they had to wear face masks and agree to wear tracking devices to record their movements, whether they were dancing in place to the music or going to the sausage stand. “I hope that this study will help to keep the joy of life up around the world,” said a dean of Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, co-sponsor of the event. Scientists are working in many ways to gather information about the coronavirus and how it can be combatted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of their efforts. Use what you read to write a science, medical or consumer column summarizing some of the efforts, what they have learned or what they hope to learn.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. ‘Eat Out to Help Out’

Like the United States and other countries, the European nation of Great Britain has struggled to re-open after shutting down businesses due to the coronavirus epidemic. As in the United States, restaurants have been particularly hard hit. But in August, the British government came up with an unusual plan to get people eating out again. It offered to pay half the bill for anyone eating in a restaurant, up to $13 per person. Called the “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign, the program has been hugely popular and provided a boost to the British restaurant industry. In its first three weeks the government subsidized more than 64 million meals and diners are pushing to extend the program into the fall. More than 84,000 restaurants are taking part, at a cost of more than $650 million to the government. Restaurants and other businesses face many obstacles in their efforts to reopen. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of those obstacles. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film explaining different obstacles and how they are being overcome or addressed.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Abandoned Money

When people fly for business or vacations, they have to go through security checkpoints to enter the airport. At those points they have to take everything out of their pockets, including money in the form of coins and paper bills. Sometimes in the hurry of getting through the line, travelers leave their money behind. And it adds up. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration reports that people left nearly $1-million behind at U.S. airports last year. The most money — $98,110 — was left behind at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. In second place was San Francisco International Airport in California, where travelers failed to collect $52,669. In third place was Miami International Airport in Florida at $47,694. If not claimed, the money goes to support TSA screening and training programs. People often lose things when traveling or appearing in public places. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about things people lose and what happens to them. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor giving your view on how such lost items could be put to good use.

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.

5. Animal Recognition

Around the world, facial recognition technology is being used more and more in businesses, government buildings and other public places. The Asian nation of China is one of the leading users, and now it is experimenting with the technology to track animals on farms. For people, China uses the technology for security purposes, entering train stations, paying for goods in stores and tracking people exposed to the coronavirus. For animals, it is being tried for monitoring how often they eat, how long they drink, how healthy they are and more. So far, the technology is being tried on sheep, pigs and cows, but scientists predict other animals will be included in the future. “This system is very powerful, and it will definitely make our work easier,” said one farm manager. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how facial recognition technology is being used in new ways. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation showing how facial recognition technology is being used in new ways and how that benefits people.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.