For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 18, 2021

1. Inauguration Day

Wednesday is Inauguration Day, when President-Elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office in Washington, DC. The day gets its name from the word “inaugurate” (in-OG-yur-ate), which means “to begin,” and on that day Biden will begin his term as the nation’s 46th president. This year’s Inauguration Day will be unlike most in American history. For just the fourth time, the outgoing president will refuse to attend the inauguration of the president who will succeed him. President Trump has refused to accept that he lost the election to Biden by more than 7 million votes and 74 electoral votes and is boycotting the event. There also may be protests from Trump supporters. President-Elect Biden has pledged that he will be president of “all the people,” not just those who supported him. In the newspaper or online, read what he had to say about that in his inauguration speech. Read also how people who opposed his candidacy responded. Use what you read to write an editorial offering advice to President Biden on how to heal the divisions in the nation and bring the country together.

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.

2. Impeachment

The inauguration of Joe Biden as president will take place against a backdrop of another historic event — the impeachment of outgoing President Donald Trump. Trump’s impeachment marks the first time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached two times for “high crimes and misdemeanors” with the intent of removing him from office. Now attention turns to what the U.S. Senate will do after the U.S. House charged President Trump with “incitement of insurrection” when he urged supporters to march on the nation’s Capitol building while Congress was counting the electoral votes that confirmed Biden as winner of the presidential race. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House may approve charges against a president, but it is the Senate’s job to conduct a trial and decide whether to convict. A Senate trial may not begin until Trump leaves office on January 20, however. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow the matter to be brought before the Senate until senators return from recess on January 19. The impeachment of President Trump will complicate the first days of Joe Biden’s presidency because it will compete for attention with actions he wants to take. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how Biden and U.S. Senators will attempt to deal with the situation. Use what you read to write a political column outlining what long-term effects you think the situation will have on the new President’s goals and agenda. Share and discuss with family, friends and classmates.

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. I Have a Dream

This week the nation honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with the Martin Luther King Day holiday and day of service. Dr. King, who would have turned 92 on January 15, was America’s most respected and revered civil rights leader. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was the son of a Baptist minister. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a doctorate in theology from Boston University. He helped launch America’s civil rights movement based on Mohandas Gandhi’s idea of achieving change through non-violent protest. He helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and led the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. During that year, the civil rights movement achieved one of its greatest accomplishments in the United States: the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about civil rights leaders past or present who have sought to bring change to America. Write a summary of one article, telling what the person is or was trying to change and why that is important.

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. That’s Really Rich

It’s not an official title, but in the world of business it’s one that everyone watches: Who is the richest person in the world? For the last three years Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has held the honor, but this month another billionaire has passed him. SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk has overtaken Bezos with a net worth of about $191-billion, according to the “billionaire tracker” analysis of Bloomberg news service. Bezos, whose Amazon online business was boosted by online shopping during the coronavirus epidemic, wasn’t far behind with a worth of $187-billion, Bloomberg reported. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who was once the world’s richest person, was a distant third at $132-billion. Musk’s wealth has been driven by Tesla’s development of electric cars and SpaceX’s travel program that has carried supplies to the International Space Station. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about the success of Elon Musk’s business empire. Then do some calculations about just how wealthy he is. If you write out all the zeroes, his net worth totals $191,000,000,000. If you counted one dollar per second, that would take 191,000,000,000 seconds. Calculate how many minutes that would be. How many hours? How many days? How many years?

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; representing and solving problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

5. Cleaner Air Travel

Air travel is a fast and efficient way to get from place to place. But it comes at a great cost to the environment. Burning jet fuel creates huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a “greenhouse gas” that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Researchers in the European nation of England have come up with a way to reverse that process, provide fuel for jets and reduce air pollution at the same time. A team from Oxford University has developed a process that can extract carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into a liquid fuel that could power aircraft, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Through the process, a jet would extract the gas from the air while on the ground and re-emit it via combustion while in flight. This would create a “carbon neutral” model for air travel that would not add more carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The challenge for the research team now is figuring out how to expand the process from the laboratory to a scale that could provide enough fuel for a jetliner. The creation of the process to turn carbon dioxide into jet fuel is a breakthrough in science. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another breakthrough in science. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation explaining the breakthrough, how it was achieved and what benefits it could provide.

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.