For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 13, 2021

1. Embracing Refugees

The poem Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty is often considered the motto of the United States. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the poem declares. “… Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” Since the nation of Afghanistan fell to the extremist Taliban group, many Americans have taken Lazarus’s famous words to heart. They are making plans to open their communities to refugees who fled the war-torn nation after the U.S. pulled out its forces. They are raising money for clothing, food, housing — and people of all political backgrounds are joining the effort. “For a nation that has been so divided, it feels good for people to align on a good cause,” Mike Sullivan, director of the Welcome to America Project in Arizona, said in an interview with the New York Times newspaper. “This country probably hasn’t seen anything like this since Vietnam.” Federal officials said last week that at least 50,000 Afghans who assisted the United States government or might be targeted by the Taliban are expected to be admitted into the United States in the coming month. hesef Afghan refugees are resettling here thanks to the help of U.S. citizens and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts to help these refugees. Think like Emma Lazarus and use what you read to write a poem celebrating the people and communities who are helping. Read poems aloud to friends and family.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

2. Delay Climate Summit?

Global warming is a problem for nations all over the world, and the United Nations organization is seeking to address it at an international summit of leaders in November. Yet what if the nations most affected by warming are not able to attend due to the coronavirus epidemic and economic problems? That is the concern of a coalition of activist groups from around the world, and they are asking that the summit in Glasgow, Scotland be postponed until conditions improve or greater support can be provided for poor nations. The protest is led by Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network, a collection of hundreds of nonprofit and advocacy groups in 130 countries, the Washington Post newspaper reports. To calm calls for a delay, the British government last week said it would work with the United Nations to deliver coronavirus vaccines to all delegates, official observers and journalists who could not receive doses in their home countries. The British leaders said also that Britain would pay the costs of delegates required to quarantine in hotels upon arrival because they are traveling from countries with high coronavirus infection rates. The U.N. global warming summit in November is an attempt to address a problem that is rapidly changing environments in nations all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about things the summit seeks to achieve. Use what you read to write a short editorial examining whether the summit should take place as scheduled or whether it could be postponed.

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. Shredded Genius

Nearly three years ago, the artist known as Banksy shocked the art world by causing one of his paintings to shred itself just after it had sold for more than $1.4-million at an auction house in London, England. Now the painting is coming up for sale again at another auction sale. And experts estimate the work titled “Love Is in the Bin” (originally “Girl with the Balloon”) could command six times its original selling price, CNN News reports. The value of the painting has skyrocketed, experts say, because “nothing like that had been done before,” in the words of art historian Matthew Israel. And the painting was only partially shredded, dangling from the frame that contained a hidden shredder. As with many Banksy works, the shredded painting has caused great debate — and prompted more than 30,000 news stories around the world. Some observers have argued it was simply a stunt seeking publicity, while others have suggested Banksy was critiquing the sky-high prices collectors pay for works. Whichever is true, one thing is certain: The Sotheby’s auction house expects “Love Is in the Bin” will fetch up to $8.3-million when it is sold again next month. Artists often spark debate with their art, or create controversy with new approaches. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about artists who have done this with exhibits or individual works. Use what you read to write an art opinion column about the value of artists sparking debate with their work.

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.

4. Goodbye, Columbus

Explorer Christopher Columbus was long hailed as a hero for “discovering” the Americas on behalf of Queen Isabella of Spain. More recently he has been criticized for exploiting native peoples who already had “discovered” the Americas and had been living here for hundreds of years. From Pennsylvania, to Illinois, to Florida to Colorado, protests have targeted statues honoring Columbus and demanded that cities remove them. Officials in more than 30 cities have complied. Now the capital city of the nation of Mexico is doing even more. A statue of Columbus that has been prominently displayed in Mexico City for more than 100 years will be removed and replaced by a statue of an indigenous native woman, the city’s mayor announced. The new statue will “become a great recognition of the 500 years of resistance of the indigenous women of our country,” said Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. “We owe it to them.” Across America and around the world, communities are re-examining individuals honored by statues in public places. Many cities have been asked to remove statues of people who supported racist causes, stood for white supremacy, exploited minorities or discriminated against them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about communities dealing with such statues from the past. Use what you read to write an editorial or political column detailing what you think should be done with them.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Hopping Back to School

Going back to school in the fall has always been a time of excitement, discovery and, for some, anxiety. This year, those feelings are even more intense for many students, who haven’t been in a classroom for a year and a half due to the coronavirus epidemic. To break the ice, a sixth-grade teacher in the community of Arden, North Carolina tried something different to get students comfortable about being with their classmates again. Teacher Delana Parker of Koontz Intermediate School challenged them to a game of hopscotch. And when they beat her time, she challenged them again — to make a hopscotch course that went all around the school’s outdoor basketball court! “We’ve spent a year and a half not having normal school,” she told local TV station WLOS. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been able to be social and be around other kids.” And how did students react to the unusual welcome-back activity? “I think we did it to see what people’s ideas would be if there was a wacky hopscotch,” one said. “And that’s what we did. We just made it fun.” Teachers often do unusual things to make students feel comfortable and successful. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teacher doing something unusual like this. Use what you read to write a thank-you note to the teacher for the effort, as if you were one of her/his students. For added fun, write a thank-you note to a teacher you have had for doing something special that made you feel comfortable or successful. Deliver or mail your note to this special teacher.

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