For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 04, 2021

1. Two More Museums

The Smithsonian Institution runs some of the most famous and popular museums in the nation. Now it may be adding new museums to go with the National Space Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the American History Museum and the Museum of American Art. The Covid relief bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump authorizes the Smithsonian to begin planning museums that would showcase American Women’s History and American Latinos. The museums would be the first opened by the Smithsonian since the Museum of African American History and Culture opened in 2016. They would be funded half by public money and half by private contributions. The approval for a Women’s History museum comes as the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the approval of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. The proposed new museums for the Smithsonian would focus on the history, culture and achievements of women and Latinos in America. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about achievements of women or Latinos in the past or present. Choose one from each group and write a paragraph detailing why the person or achievement should be featured in the new Smithsonian museums.

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.

2. Ancient Fast Food

Long before there were food trucks or drive-through restaurants, humans had a taste for fast foods. A new discovery in the Italian city of Pompeii has revealed that ancient people of the Roman Empire in Europe liked buying “street foods” from outdoor stalls. What’s more, researchers have found the stalls offered treats made from snails, ducks, sheep, goats, pigs and fish — sometimes combined in the same dish. The discovery has unearthed the most complete food stall ever in the city of Pompeii, which was buried by the eruption of the Mt. Vesuvius volcano nearly 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists said the stall contained counters with holes in the top so that containers of food could be stored and served to customers standing on the street. The stall also had colorful murals showing some of the foods offered, including chickens and ducks. Some of the containers still held remnants of foods being served on the day in the year 79 C.E. when Vesuvius erupted, including a concoction made of snails, sheep and fish that may have been a soup. Discoveries by archaeologists often shed light on how people lived and worked in ancient times. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about one of these discoveries. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or teacher, telling what was discovered, how it was discovered and why it is important.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. So Long, Indians

Following the lead of the Washington Redskins football team, the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball have announced they will drop the word “Indians” from their name. Unlike the Washington team in the National Football League, however, the Indians will continue to play as the Indians until a new name is chosen. Washington’s NFL team operated this season simply as “the Washington Football Team” while it looks for a new name. The Cleveland baseball team decided to change the name it had used for 105 years after discussing how it perpetuated negative stereotypes with Native Americans and other community leaders. The team had discontinued use of a cartoon Indian as the team’s logo and mascot after the 2018 season because it was considered offensive by modern audiences. As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, communities, colleges, institutions and even sports teams are re-examining traditions and practices that are now considered racially insensitive or offensive to different races or ethnic groups. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such re-examinations. Use what you read to write an editorial giving your view on the impact of such efforts and how you think they benefit the community. Share and discuss with friends, family and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

4. Ancient Wolf Pup

Permafrost is a frozen layer of soil found in the coldest regions of the Earth, and sometimes it has remained frozen for thousands of years. That can give scientists detailed looks at wildlife from long ago when it is explored or disturbed. In the Yukon region of the nation of Canada, a chance discovery by a gold miner has given scientists a first-of-its-kind look at a wolf pup that lived 57,000 years ago. The mummified female pup was perfectly preserved in the frozen ground, and has all its fur, teeth, skin and internal organs. Scientists have declared the pup “the oldest, most complete wolf” ever discovered in the Yukon, which borders the U.S. state of Alaska. Scientists estimate the pup was 6 or 7 weeks old when it died, perhaps when its den collapsed. Examination of its stomach and digestive track indicate it ate a combination of shore birds and fish like salmon. Discoveries of mummies or fossils of wildlife can teach scientists a great deal about species that lived long ago. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such discovery. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper comparing the ancient species to a species that lives today. How similar are the two species? How are they different?

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

5. Timely Win

When people have to overcome setbacks, they often get a boost from luck and good timing. Consider the case of Joe Camp, a pre-school teacher in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. Camp had been a teacher for more than 20 years when the coronavirus hit and he was laid off in September. He struggled to get by during the holiday season and then his luck suddenly changed. The day before Christmas he bought a scratch-off lottery ticket — and won $250,000! Camp says he will use the money to weather the coronavirus epidemic, help with his daughter’s education and buy a home he can one day pass on to his children and grandchildren. “I never had anything [growing up],” he said. “No one passed anything down, and that’s what I want to do.” When people win a lottery or come into unexpected money, they often are asked what they will do with their windfall. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about lottery winners and what they did or plan to do with their winnings. Then imagine you have won a large lottery prize. Write a personal column telling what you would do with your winnings — and why.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.