For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 25, 2022

1. Copyright Policing

Copyright laws were set up by the nation’s founders to protect the rights of inventors, authors, artists, designers, filmmakers and other creators of “useful arts.” In the city of Santa Ana, California this month, police attempted to use copyright protections established in the U.S. Constitution for an entirely different purpose. They blasted Disney music from a patrol car in an effort to limit scrutiny of their behavior during a police operation that was being filmed by a citizen. The goal was to keep video of the operation off social media sites like YouTube and Facebook, which often block or take down footage that uses copyrighted music such as Disney songs. Songs played by the police included “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from “Encanto,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” “Reflection” from “Mulan” and “Un Poco Loco” from “Coco,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. The use of music without permission often is an issue in copyright cases. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a case involving music copyrights. Use what you read to write a personal or political column analyzing whether use of the material in this case is a violation of copyright. Look up what is considered “fair use” of copyrighted material before starting your column. Would the way the Santa Ana police used copyrighted music be “fair use” or infringement?

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. Targeting Libraries

Over the last year there has been a rise in efforts to ban books in schools, classrooms and school libraries. Now community members and political leaders who find some books objectionable are taking aim at public libraries — and the librarians who run them are worried. According to the American Library Association, challenges to books in public libraries rose to 37 percent of all challenges last year, heightening concerns about censorship among library leaders. As in schools, public library challenges most frequently focus on books and other content related to race, sex, gender and politics and also on books that use raw or profane language. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts by communities to ban books in schools or public libraries. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your view on how books dealing with controversial topics should be dealt with by public libraries.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Avian Threat

The word “avian” (AY-vee-un) means anything connected to birds: avian nests, avian flight patterns, avian behavior and more. Among the more deadly things that are avian is a disease that is attacking birds ranging from chickens to penguins to bald eagles around the world. The disease is avian flu, and it is spreading throughout the United States and in other countries. It has spread to more than 27 states in the U.S. and has infected nearly 27 million chickens and turkeys on farms that produce eggs and meat for people to eat. It has killed or sickened bald eagles in at least 14 states. And it has forced zoos to bring their resident birds indoors to protect them from the disease. Many chickens on egg farms have had to be destroyed to keep them from spreading the disease, and that has caused the price of eggs at the grocery store to nearly triple from $1 to nearly $3 per dozen, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Avian flu, which is also called “bird flu,” is a low risk to humans, and the U.S. had reported no human cases through last week. Health and medical issues are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a health issue important to you or your family. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the most important things families need to know about this issue, or any actions they should take.

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.

4. Pitcher Perfect

Every spring Major League Baseball gives fans new hopes and new achievements to celebrate. But this spring one of the most amazing achievements did not take place in an American ballpark. In the Asian nation of Japan, pitcher Roki Sasaki showed fans what pitching perfection looks like in back to back games. On April 10, the 20-year-old Sasaki pitched a perfect game in which he didn’t allow a single batter to get on base, while striking out a record 19 hitters (13 in a row). Then a week later he nearly achieved another perfect game, pitching eight perfect innings and striking out 14 before being pulled to reportedly protect his arm. In those two performances, Sasaki pitched 17 consecutive perfect innings and retired 52 straight batters, a new record for Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. Showing such skills at such a young age, experts say the 6-foot, 3-inch Sasaki could eventually take his talents the Major Leagues in America, where another Japanese player, Shohei Ohtani, has become a superstar and fan favorite as both a pitcher and home run hitter. Great achievements generate a lot of excitement early in the Major League Baseball season. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a great achievement by a player in an early-season game. On a sheet of paper, write the words “That’s Great” down left side. Use each letter of the words to start a word or phrase describing why the achievement was exciting.

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.

5. What a Find

For art collectors, one of the great dreams is to find valuable works of art in unexpected places. In the state of Connecticut, a mechanic found a cache of paintings in a dumpster on a farm, and now the works are getting gallery shows in New York City and Connecticut. The works by abstract artist Francis Hines could be worth more than a million dollars, according the gallery owner displaying them. The Hines works were discovered several years ago when a barn Hines had used as a studio in the town of Watertown was being cleared out by a contractor to be sold. Several of the large paintings appeared to depict auto parts, so contractor George Martin contacted a mechanic friend named Jared Whipple, thinking he might like them. The dumpster contained several hundred works, and since the barn had been declared “abandoned” Whipple salvaged the entire group. Whipple researched Hines and his work and discovered that while the artist was not famous, his work could be valuable in today’s art world. Very valuable, in fact — upwards of $1-million and maybe more. Twin shows at Hollis Taggart galleries in New York and Connecticut next month will offer up to 40 of the found artworks for sale, which could provide Whipple with quite a windfall. The large paintings he salvaged have been valued at $22,000 apiece and smaller works at $4,500 each. Artists respond and represent the world in different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and study works by artists who respond differently. Think like an art critic, and use what you read to write a review of two works, comparing and contrasting them in style, emotion and the way they make you feel. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.