For Grades 5-8 , week of May 29, 2023

1. Another Hero Lost

Jim Brown was one of the greatest pro football players in history, but like basketball’s Bill Russell he earned wide respect outside of sports as an activist for civil rights and fair treatment of African Americans. Brown, who died last week at the age of 87, joined Russell and other Black athletes like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in calling for social change in the 1960s, the Washington Post reported, and he often criticized other high-profile Black athletes for ignoring what he considered their responsibility to be role models. To remedy that, he founded the Amer-I-Can organization in 1988 to foster self-esteem among Black youths, gang members and prisoners. “The young Black male is the most powerful source of energy and change we have,” he said in a 1991 interview. “My hope is to start a direction where these young men will be given respect and taught how to utilize it.” After leading the NFL with 1,544 rushing yards in 1965 and being named the league’s most valuable player, Brown abruptly retired to pursue an acting career and never played football again. At the time he retired, he held 15 NFL records, leaving generations of football fans to wonder what he might have accomplished had he played more years. Athletes like Jim Brown and Bill Russell worked to make America a better place for African Americans and all Americans. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about an athlete or entertainer from today who is working to make the nation a better place. Use what you read to write a personal or political column, detailing what this athlete is doing and how that could be a model for others.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Return to Space

Before retiring as an American astronaut, Peggy Whitson set a U.S. record for the most total days spent in space (665), was the first female commander of the International Space Station and spent more time spacewalking than any other woman (60 hours, 21 minutes). She retired from America’s NASA space agency in 2018 at age 58, but five years later she is still making space flights. At age 63, she has become the first woman to command a private space mission. Whitson traveled last week to the International Space Station on a flight organized by the Axiom Space company and powered by a rocket and capsule made by the private SpaceX company. The flight transported three private citizens as passengers for a one-week stay aboard the space station. The private passengers are among the first “space tourists” to travel to the space station and have been reported to have paid upwards of $50-million each for the experience. Despite the cost, “It was a phenomenal ride,” said Whitson, who is a paid consultant for Axiom as commander. Private space flights are becoming more and more common, as NASA encourages private companies to get involved in space travel and exploration. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a private mission being planned. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining the challenges faced by this private company for the mission to be a success.

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. ‘Forever Education’

As a 13-year-old, Elijah Muhammad loves to go swimming, play basketball and have fun outside with his family and friends. He also loves to learn very, very difficult things. How difficult? The teen from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma has just earned college degrees in computer science and cybersecurity. And he now has earned four associate college degrees on top of 10 certifications from the IBM computer company and one information technology certification from the Google network, CNN News reports. “He is the smartest person I know,” said his mother Shania Muhammad, after he earned his fourth degree from Oklahoma City Community College. “I’ve never seen anyone like him.” Elijah’s family is full of high achievers in education. Just last year, his sister Shania Muhammad graduated with an associate degree from Elijah’s Community College at age 14 and this year earned a bachelor’s degree from Langston University at 15. Both Elijah and Shania are the youngest graduates at their colleges. On top of that, four of the five Muhammad children have earned college degrees by the age of 21. “One thing about education, it’s not seasonal,” their father told the Oklahoman newspaper. “Basketball has a season, football has a season. Education is forever.” Education plays an important role in success in the STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone who has achieved success in one of the STEM fields. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing what kind of training and education was needed for success in this field, and how early students should start obtaining it. As a class, discuss opportunities STEM fields will offer in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

4. Lost and Found

A famous James Bond movie once declared that “Diamonds Are Forever.” A woman in the state of Minnesota would certainly agree, after recovering a ring loaded with diamonds that she had accidentally flushed down the toilet. It took her 13 years to get her ring back, and she can thank the sharp eyes of workers at a wastewater treatment plant for her good fortune. Mary Strand, who is now 71, never expected to get back the ring her husband David had given her in 2010 for their 33rd wedding anniversary. And it had more than sentimental value, with a wide gold band, a large marquise diamond in the center, 12 smaller diamonds and 16 “itty bitty” ones, she told the Washington Post newspaper. At the time she had lost the ring, her husband had taken their toilet apart, snaked the sewer line and even contacted wastewater workers to look for it. Nothing panned out, and the Strands felt the ring was gone forever. Then this year workers at a nearby wastewater plant were fixing a piece of equipment and spotted the ring in the muck nearby. Plant officials posted about the discovery on the Internet, and word eventually got back to Strands. “I was very excited,” Mary Strand said. And though the ring had some damage, the big diamond was intact and “absolutely gorgeous,” she said. People often make news when they recover things that have been lost. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such recovery. Use what you read to create a “Lost and Found” emotions chart. Write the words “Lost” and “Found” at the top of two columns. Under each, list the emotions the owner of the item could have felt when they “Lost” the item and then when they “Found” or recovered the item. Discuss emotions you would feel if you “Lost” and then “Found” an item important to you.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Boost for a River

The Colorado River is a major natural resource in the United States. It supplies water to 40 million people in seven southwestern U.S. states and is a source of the water needed for both agriculture and generating electricity. For more than 20 years, the Colorado has been drying up due to overuse, lack of rain, intense heat and extended droughts. The Lake Powell and Lake Mead storage reservoirs hit historic lows in the last year, and even heavy winter rains and snows in California won’t solve the crisis. A new deal between the federal government and the states that use the river may help, however. The states along the Colorado have reached an agreement with the administration of President Biden to conserve an unprecedented amount of their water supply in exchange for $1.2-billion in federal funding, the Washington Post reports. Under the agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate, the three states that make up the “Lower Basin” of the river — California, Arizona, and Nevada — have agreed to voluntarily conserve 13 percent of the water they get from the river to preserve water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two largest water reservoirs in the United States. States in the western United States are all taking steps to conserve water in the face of droughts and lack of rain. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the steps being taken. Use what you read to create the home page of an informational website on steps being taken to deal with water shortages. Pick two or three efforts to highlight and write headlines and text blocks to showcase important information. Pick photos from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your home page.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic. they need.