For Grades 5-8 , week of May 16, 2022

1. ‘Life-Changing’ Gift

Many students dream about going to college, but most don’t start when they are in third grade. A third-grade class in the state of Arizona now has a reason to start dreaming, however. Thanks to a “life-changing” gift from a local family foundation, 63 third-graders in the city of Phoenix have been offered scholarships that would completely cover all college expenses for tuition, room and board. The students attend Bernard Black Elementary School, which is located in the Roosevelt School District in a low-income neighborhood where families might struggle to pay for college costs. Now the Rosztoczy Foundation will take care of those costs, freeing students to concentrate on academics and what kind of careers they would like to have. The scholarship offer is valued at about $120,000 per student, which is roughly the cost of what it would be to attend a state school for four years, the Washington Post newspaper reported. If a child chooses to attend a more expensive college, the student’s family would pay any additional cost. To maintain the full scholarship, students must graduate from the local public high school district, maintain a grade-point average of 2.0 or higher in college and earn at least 12 college credits per semester. In middle school, many students and their families start thinking about what kind of college or career a student might like. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a career you might like to have. Research what skills and knowledge a student must acquire to pursue this career. Write a memo to yourself outlining things you will need to study before graduating from high school to qualify for a college education in this career.

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. ‘I Read Banned Books’

Over the last year there has been a rise in efforts to ban books in schools and libraries across the nation. Now the Nashville Public Library in the state of Tennessee has taken an unusual approach in opposition to book bans. The library has launched a Freedom to Read campaign and is offering residents bright yellow library cards that declare “I read banned books.” The cards are being offered through the end of May as part of a campaign designed to give readers “autonomy” over what they choose — or don’t choose — to read. “This campaign is our way of bringing our community together in our shared Freedom to Read, which is essential to sustaining our democracy,” the Nashville Public Library’s director said in a news release. The library hopes to give out 5,000 of the “I read banned books” cards by the end of the month. In addition, the library’s website offered a list of books that have been banned in Tennessee and other states and is selling “I Read Banned Books” T-Shirts and mugs. Many of the books targeted by parents and communities this year have been Young Adult novels written for middle school and high school readers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the Young Adult books people have wanted to ban and the topics they address. Use what you read to write an editorial giving your opinion on whether such Young Adult books should be banned or restricted, and under what circumstances.

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.

3. Head to Toe

When the extremist Taliban group returned to power in the Asian nation of Afghanistan last August, women feared a crackdown on women’s rights and freedoms. Now, just nine months later, many of those fears have come true. Women and girls have been instructed to stay home from work and school, political activity has been restricted and women have been blocked from international travel without a male guardian. Now the Taliban is re-instituting one of the tightest restrictions from the time it controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s. The Taliban has announced that Muslim women must cover their bodies from head to toe whenever they are in public. Women may choose to wear the head-to-toe covering called a burka, or a cloth veil covering the face paired with a headscarf and long robe, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The return to Islamic dress “is not a restriction on women but an order of the Koran, said a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, referring to the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. “It is the order of Allah and the prophet Muhammad.” Since the Taliban returned to power, the group has imprisoned dozens of women’s rights activists. In Afghanistan and other nations, women do not have the rights and freedoms they have in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about women’s rights in one of those countries. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining how the U.S. or other nations could pressure or persuade the nation to provide greater freedoms for women.

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.

4. Sky High Achievement

Sherpas who live in Asia’s Himalaya mountains are considered some of the finest mountain climbers in the world. But even in this talented group, one Sherpa from the nation of Nepal stands out. The Sherpa Kami Rita has climbed Mount Everest — the tallest mountain in the world — a record 26 times. Rita, who is 52, broke his own record for Everest climbs on May 6, when he led a group of 10 other Sherpa climbers to the so-called “top of the world.” Mount Everest soars 29,032 feet tall above sea level, for a height of nearly 5.5 miles. If you added all Rita’s climbs together, it would total 143 miles of elevation or more than 2,500 football fields. Everest has been climbed 10,657 times since it was first scaled in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa partner Tenzing Norgay. Norgay, like Rita, was from Nepal. Many adventurers like to take on challenges presented by extreme natural environments. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an adventurer doing this. Then find and study a photo of a natural place that could provide you or an adventurer a natural challenge. Use what you have learned about this place to write a travel column outlining an adventure that could challenge people in this exotic or unusual location.

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. Earth Moving Music

Music concerts and football stadiums are both known for being incredibly loud. But when country singer Garth Brooks appeared at Louisiana State University this month, the reaction was REALLY incredible. The singing, clapping, cheering and foot-stomping for the song “Callin’ Baton Rouge” was so loud it registered as a minor earthquake. The song is considered the unofficial school song for LSU, which is located in the city of Baton Rouge. And the 102,000 fans packing the university’s Tiger Stadium couldn’t wait to lean into it when Brooks took the stage. The song not only registered on LSU’s earthquake seismograph, it sent sound levels through the roof at an astounding 95 decibels. “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” which features the message to “send my love down to Baton Rouge,” is always played before the LSU Tigers rush onto the field for football games, and at closing time at local bars. Earthquakes are often in the news, and sometimes they cause great damage. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a damaging earthquake somewhere in the world. Use what you read to prepare a TV newscast detailing the damage caused by the earthquake, how many people were affected and how long it will take for them to recover. Include images from the Internet to go with your newscast and present it to the class.

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.