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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 25, 2019

1. More & More Videos

With smart phones, tablets and televisions in every home, teens and pre-teens spend significant time using and interacting with screen devices each day. According to a new study, American 8-to-12-year-olds spent 4 hours and 44 minutes a day using screen devices on average, and teens average 7 hours and 22 minutes. A new study has found that more and more of that screen time is spent watching videos, especially YouTube. According to the non-profit group Common Sense Media, more than twice as many young people watch videos every day as did four years ago, and the average time spent watching videos has roughly doubled, to an hour each day. Among pre-teens between 8 and 12, slightly more than half of all screen use is dedicated to videos or TV, and 31 percent goes to gaming, the study found. Teens and pre-teens spend a great deal of time using screen devices, but what do they use them for? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the screen habits of students your age. Then poll your class to determine how your classmates use their screen devices. Create a bar or circle graph showing the results of your class poll. Then write the lead paragraph of a news story summarizing the results of the poll.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

2. Orangutan Freedom

Great apes are humans’ closest relatives in the animal kingdom, but few get the recognition that was given an orangutan in the South American nation of Argentina. Sandra the orangutan was freed from a zoo after being granted “legal personhood” in a landmark court case. In recognizing Sandra as a “non-human being,” the judge in the case granted her the right to freedom and a life of “no harm” physically or psychologically. The ruling was hailed by animal rights activists, but created a problem because there were no orangutan sanctuaries in Argentina, CNN News reported. This month, the 33-year-old Sandra was moved to the Center for Great Apes in the U.S. state of Florida. There she joined 21 other orangutans and 31 chimpanzees that have been rescued from zoos, circuses or other confinements. Animal rights issues have gotten more and more attention in recent years. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an animal rights issue making news. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering your opinion on the issue and how it is being addressed.

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. Teen Science Breakthrough

Blindspots are one of the biggest problems for people who drive cars. They are caused by the frames of automobiles and create areas that can’t be seen even with the use of rearview or side mirrors. They are the cause of about 840,000 traffic accidents and 300 deaths in the United States each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Car designers have not been able to solve the problem of blindspots over the years, but a science project by a 14-year-old girl from the state of Pennsylvania may change that. Alaina Gassler’s project, which won a $25,000 first prize in a national science and engineering contest, would solve the problem of blindspots by projecting images of what is behind them onto the inside frame of a car. Her technology is especially effective for blindspots caused by windshield frames in the front of cars. Eventually the images would be projected onto monitors that drivers can view, improving rearview blindspot safety as well. Alaina Gassler’s blindspot project is an example of a student achieving success using science, technology, engineering and math skills — the skills known as STEM skills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another student achieving success with STEM skills. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing why it is important for students to master STEM skills now and in the future.

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.

4. Lunch Support

Students from low-income families often qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. But even with that support, some families run up a debt for lunches they couldn’t pay for and bought on credit. In Cobb County, Georgia, police officers and the Fraternal Order of Police union have come to the rescue. When Police Bureau Chief Chris Jose learned that as many 80 percent of students at Pebblebrook High School needed lunch support, he asked how many had been unable to pay even reduced prices. When he was told it was a significant number, he alerted the police union of the problem. As a result, the union delivered a $500 check that paid off all outstanding lunch debt at Pebblebrook. The union says it eventually wants to provide lunch support for all students in the school district outside the city of Atlanta. How school districts handle unpaid lunch debts is making news in many communities around the nation. In some situations, schools have set policies that have caused controversy, and in others community members have stepped in to pay off debts. In teams or pairs, find and read stories about how school districts are dealing with unpaid lunch debts. Use what you read to write a policy for your school district that you think would be fair and effective. Share with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. Water, Water Everywhere

The European city of Venice, Italy has long been known as the “City of Water.” Built on more than 100 islands in a lagoon on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, it has no roads, just waterways known as canals. Instead of cars, people get around on boats known as gondolas. This month, thanks to extremely high tides and a strong storm in the Adriatic, Venice had more water than it knew what to do with. Waters rose to the second highest level in history, endangering palaces, cathedrals and priceless treasures of art and architecture. Shops and restaurants had to close, and handmade bridges had to be built just to help people get around. Venice, which dates back more than 1,500 years to its founding in the year 421, has had floods before. But city officials say flooding is getting more frequent and more severe as global warming raises the level of the Adriatic Sea. In addition, the land on which the city is built is sinking due to shifts in the Earth’s geological plates beneath it. Global warming is affecting communities and environments all over the Earth. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about how one community or environment is being affected. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or documentary film examining situation. Write an outline for your video, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.