For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 30, 2021

1. Homes for Refugees

The fall of Afghanistan to the extremist Taliban group has forced thousands of Afghan people to flee the south central Asian nation. Now the world is working to find places for them to live. Last week the vacation rental company Airbnb offered to supply free accommodations in the United States and other nations to refugees who need a place to stay. “The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time,” Airbnb’s co-founder Ben Chesky said. “We feel a responsibility to step up.” Chesky said he hoped that the company’s initiative would inspire “other business leaders to do the same.” The resettlement of Afghan refugees is an issue affecting nations all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about resettlement efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining what nations, communities and individuals can do to assist in the effort.

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.

2. Witchcraft Pardon

In the modern world, the term “witch hunt” refers to a situation in which accusations are made against a person who holds unusual or unpopular views. Yet witch hunts were once a real thing. The most famous in the United States occurred more than 300 years ago when people living in and around the city of Salem, Massachusetts were accused of practicing witchcraft and being a threat to the community. Though 20 people were executed, the charges were later determined to be false. Now one of the accused may get her named cleared thanks to eighth grade students in the community where she lived. The students at North Andover Middle School have written legislation that would exonerate Elizabeth Johnson Jr. and have petitioned their state senator to introduce it. Johnson, who was once described as “simplish” and may have been mentally disabled, was one of 28 members of her family to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 and sentenced to death, the New York Times reported. Though her sentence was later overturned by the governor, her name was never cleared of the charges because she had no survivors. Now the students want to remedy that, asking that the state legislature issue a pardon for Johnson. “To right a wrong, it’s worth doing,” said the students’ teacher, Carrie LaPierre. The Salem Witch Trials were an early example of intolerance in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another example of intolerance in the United States or elsewhere. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining ways communities could respond or eliminate this kind of intolerance. Share with family or friends and discuss.

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. Celebrity Horse

A paper horse that became an Internet sensation when the nation of Australia was locked down for the coronavirus is getting a more permanent kind of fame. The horse created by artist David Marriott — and named Russell — is going to become part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Australia. Marriott became an online celebrity when he created Russell from food delivery bags while quarantined at a hotel in the city of Brisbane after returning from the European nation of England. He also made himself a cowboy outfit and filmed videos of the “Quarantine Cowboy” and Russell having adventures. He posted them on a Facebook page set up for Australians who were quarantining to prevent the spread of the Covid 19 virus. Soon he was receiving requests for TV and radio interviews and Russell became famous. Now that fame will become part of Australia history in the National Museum’s collection artifacts connected to the virus epidemic. “I’m going to miss him,” Marriott admits. Museums often collect artifacts connected to current events like the coronavirus epidemic. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a current event a museum might want to memorialize or remember. Write a proposal listing items the museum might want to include in an exhibit about the event, and explain why you would include each one.

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. Found Objects … Found Art

Artists use their imaginations in many ways to get people to talk and think about their works. Sometimes they do it by painting familiar subjects in new ways. And sometimes they do it by creating artworks from “found objects” in their neighborhood or community. The street artist who calls himself Tom Bob is a found object specialist who is drawing wider and wider attention in New York City and beyond. Tom Bob takes everyday objects like manhole covers, pipes or cement parking barriers and turns them into fun and colorful creatures and objects that make people stop and smile. A jumble of rectangular, cement parking barriers, for example, turns into a pile of French fries being eaten by a little girl. Pipes coming out of walls become anteaters, worms or Bart Simpson flying in a parachute. A manhole cover turns into a pepperoni pizza missing a slice. “My goal is to transform street objects into fun whimsical characters,” Tom Bob told the website My Modern Met, leaving viewers with “the emotion of happiness and wonder.” To see examples of Tom Bob’s work, click here. It can be fun to create art from “found objects.” In the newspaper or online, print or clip out pictures of everyday objects that could be colored or turned into amusing and artful images. Use pens or markers to draw over the picture to create a new image or character. For each, write a caption detailing what the artwork might say to people who pass by.

Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

5. A Record for Vaccinations

As the world battles the spread of coronavirus infections, communities are working overtime to administer vaccines against the Covid 19 virus and its variants. In the Asian nation of India, a hospital teamed up with an insurance company to set a new world record for the number of vaccines delivered in a week. Earlier this month, the Surana Sethia Hospital in the city of Mumbai administered 30,467 free Covid 19 vaccines in a seven-day period to establish a new Guinness World Record, UPI News reported. Nearly 20,000 people were vaccinated in a second week for a total of 50,000 vaccinations in a two-week period. “As the pandemic continues to re-emerge in waves, it is most crucial to vaccinate the population," said Dr. Prince Surana, chief executive officer of the hospital. Persuading people to get vaccinated against the Covid 19 virus and its variants has been an ongoing challenge in the United States and other nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches being taken to persuade people to get their shots. Use what you read to write a proposal for a new program of incentives that you think would persuade more people to get vaccinated. Give your program an eye-catching name and explain why you think it would work.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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.