For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 11, 2021

1. Cartoon Crackdown

Unlike the United States, the Asian nation of China has some of the world’s tightest controls on political expression, social activism, free speech and creativity in the arts and entertainment worlds. This summer, China’s ruling Communist Party has been targeting stars in the entertainment industry whom the government feels are a “bad influence” on young people, shutting down Internet fan pages, banning “idol” TV shows and limiting the hours young people can play video games online. Now government officials are taking aim at cartoons. The nation’s broadcasting authority has announced that it will ban cartoons and other TV shows produced for children or teens that contain any mention of violence, blood, vulgarity or pornography. TV channels must “resolutely resist bad plots,” Chinese officials said, and instead only broadcast “excellent cartoons with healthy content and promote truth, goodness and beauty.” Earlier this year one Chinese province issued a list of 21 cartoons and television shows that could have a negative effect on children. The list included the well-known shows “Peppa Pig,” a British cartoon series, and the American cartoon “My Little Pony.” In the United States, freedom of speech is one of the most important rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of speech does not just involve things people say. It includes free expression in books, newspapers, music, movies, TV shows, artworks and even cartoons. In the newspaper or online, find and list examples of people exercising freedom of speech in different ways. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column detailing how life would be different if freedom of speech did not apply in these cases.

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.

2. Milestone Win

NASCAR auto racing is one of the most popular sports in the United States. It also is one of the whitest, with few Black drivers competing and even fewer finding success. This month Bubba Wallace made history by winning a NASCAR Cup Series event at the world famous Talladega Superspeedway in the state of Alabama. It was the first time in 58 years that a Black driver had won a Cup Series event — the highest level of NASCAR competition. The last African American driver to win a Cup Series race was Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott, who won at Speedway Park in Florida in 1963. The team that Wallace races for is co-owned by NBA superstar Michael Jordan, and the victory was the first for Jordan as an owner. African Americans continue to break new ground with achievements in different fields and careers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an African American man or woman who has done this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor calling attention to this achievement and to obstacles the Black man or woman may have faced that a white person would not.

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.

3. Dying Corals

Climate change is having a huge effect on habitats all over the world, and one of the hardest hit are coral reefs. These colorful formations of hard-shelled coral creatures are dying out due to rising ocean temperatures, and the situation will only get worse if steps are not taken to reverse global warming. How bad is the situation for corals? A new worldwide study found that the Earth lost 14 percent of its corals in the 10 years between 2009 and 2018 due to rising surface temperatures, pollution and construction along coastal areas. The biggest cause was “coral bleaching” which occurs when hotter ocean temperatures cause algae plants to die or leave the reefs. Without the algae, the usually colorful corals turn a deathly white. The death of coral reefs is one of the more dramatic effects of global warming and climate change. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another effect of climate change. Use what you read to prepare an oral report or PowerPoint presentation for family, friends or classmates. Create a handout of bullet points highlighting how global warming is having an effect, why this is important and what can be done about it.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; 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.

4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Safety

When wild animals live near people, officials try many things to keep families and children safe. In a community in the Asian nation of Japan, officials have turned to rock ‘n’ roll music to let people know how to stay safe around Asian black bears. The song created by the Iwate prefecture government uses a catchy tune and a lively beat to deliver a variety of bear safety tips for residents, UPI News reports. “So you think bear cubs are cute?” the song begins. “Discard that … way of thinking! Nearby that cub is a parent bear, and it will suddenly attack you!” To keep people safe, the song also advises to “never turn your back and run away” and “trying to play dead doesn’t work.” The song will be played at shopping centers and other strategic locations through the end of October. Asian black bears are medium sized bears that can grow to more than 6 feet in length and weigh up to 440 pounds for males and more than 300 pounds for females. They have a V-shaped patch of white fur on their chests and have the unusual ability to walk on their hind legs for distances up to one-quarter of a mile. Music is a great way to convey information about important topics. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about an issue important to your state or community. Then rewrite the words to a song you like to present a message about this issue. Share with friends and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language;

5. Special Doggie Camper

Service dogs provide comfort and support as well as performing physical tasks for people who need help. In the state of Pennsylvania, a service-dog-in-training enabled a 15-year-old girl to go to Girl Scout summer camp by providing the emotional support she needed. The dog, a pit bull terrier mix owned by Summer Laurin, was the first service dog ever to attend Girl Scout camp in Pennsylvania, and the experience turned out to be a success not only for Summer but for other campers. The dog, whom Summer named Echo, fit in so well she was “pretty much … just another girl there,” Summer told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. Summer needed a service dog because she suffers from anxiety and stress due to earlier experiences in her life. Echo provides a safe space for Summer if she feels crowded and calms her down when she is anxious by putting her nose or paws on her. “She adds help I wouldn’t ever be able to get from a human,” said Summer. There are many ways people can get support if they are stressed or anxious. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some different ways people can get support. Use what you read to write a personal column outlining ways people could get help when they feel anxious, stressed or upset. Include any times you needed help and how you got it.

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