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for Grades 5-8

Oct. 25, 2021
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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 12, 2021

1. Trouble for Hubble

For more than 30 years, America’s Hubble Space Telescope has been sending ground-breaking photos and information from deep space back to scientists working on Earth. Now, however, scientists at America’s NASA space agency are worried the Hubble may have sent its last image. For more than a month, the Hubble has been shut down due to a computer glitch, and scientists so far have not been able to correct the problem. The failure is located in a particularly important piece of hardware: the payload computer that controls and coordinates the scientific instruments on board, CNN News reported. NASA scientists have tried “work-around” solutions using a backup computer on the Hubble, but have gotten the same error message with each computer. If the Hubble is unable to restart, it will end one of the most successful NASA missions in history. The Hubble has discovered moons orbiting Pluto, sent back images of galaxies millions of miles away and provided invaluable information about the role of “black holes” in space. The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most successful missions for America’s NASA space agency. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another successful space mission. Use what you read to write a science column telling what the mission has accomplished, why that is important and how it could affect or influence future missions. Share and discuss with family or friends.

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. ‘Dragon Man’

A huge fossilized skull that was hidden in a well in the Asian nation of China has been discovered by scientists — and they are calling it a new human species. The skull was originally found in 1933 by laborers building bridge near the Northern Chinese city of Harbin during a time when China was occupied by Japanese forces. The laborers carefully wrapped the skull and hid it in a well to keep it from falling into Japanese hands, CBS News reported. The skull was rediscovered in 2018 when an old man who had hidden it told his son of its whereabouts. In articles in the research journal Innovation this month, scientists said the skull is gigantic compared to modern human skulls with a cranium 9 inches long and more than 6 inches wide. It has a “massively developed” brow ridge and low, flat cheekbones with "shallow" depressions beneath them, scientists said. Because of its size, the skull has been labeled a new human species, “Homo longi,” by Chinese researchers and nicknamed “Dragon Man” for the “Black Dragon River” region where it was found. Fossil discoveries give scientists new information about people and wildlife that lived in the distant past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another fossil discovery. Use what you read to prepare a TV news report about the discovery, detailing how it was made and why it is important to scientists.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Rowing to a Record

Competitive rowing is a grueling sport, with rowers using nothing but muscle power and oars to move their boats. In one of the hardest contests in the world, a four-man team from the state of California has just set a new world record crossing from California to the state of Hawaii. The team completed the 2,400-mile race in 30 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes to top the previous Guinness World Record by almost nine days, according to Great Pacific Race officials. Team members rowed two hours at a time, followed by two hours off, 24 hours a day for the entire trip, CNN News reported. That amounts to 12 hours a day for more than 30 days straight. With such a schedule, team members lost a combined 76.3 pounds, or an average of nearly 20 pounds per person. People often challenge themselves to difficult or dangerous things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one such challenge. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how the person met the challenge, what planning went into it and how the experience could inspire others.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. Buggin’

Insects do many things to help people, from pollinating fruits and vegetables to controlling pests to cleaning up the carcasses of animals that have died. In the European city of Paris, France, insects are now doing something not done before: providing food in a fancy, upscale restaurant. Insects are regularly eaten in the diets of cultures on the continents of Asia and Africa, but French chef Laurent Veyet wants to introduce them to diners who have never eaten them before. His menu includes pasta made with mealworm flour, toppings of sauteed insect larvae and chocolate-coated grasshoppers. “There are some really interesting flavors,” he told Reuters News. Veyet admits he is offering an insect menu as a novelty, but other food experts say insects could provide good food at an affordable cost for people everywhere. “Insects are nutritious,” said a food safety spokesman for the European Commission. “They can really help us switch to a more healthy and sustainable diet and food system.” Restaurant chefs are always looking for new foods or dishes to serve. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about chefs who are doing this. Use what you read to write a food column assessing which of these new foods or dishes will appeal most to the public. Include which appeal most to you as well.

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.

5. ‘Eye of Fire’

Environmentalists worry about offshore drilling for gas and oil for fear accidents could cause water pollution in the world’s oceans. Off the coast of the nation of Mexico this month, an accident caused a different kind of pollution — “fire pollution.” A gas leak at a drilling rig off the Yucatan Peninsula caught fire and created what observers described as an “eye of fire” on the surface of the ocean. The flames were intense in the middle of the fire, and less so on the edges, creating an image that looked like an eye. The fire was brought under control in a matter of hours by firefighting teams, and there was no oil spill as a result, officials of the Pemex company said. Cause of the gas leak is being investigated. Offshore oil drilling has been controversial from the start due to fears of oil leaks or spills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about current or proposed offshore drilling projects. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining issues and concerns to be considered regarding one proposed project, and what should be done to address them.

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.