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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 14, 2022

1. Animated Oscars

This year’s nominations for the Academy Awards have been announced, and the whole world is watching to see who will take home the Oscars. For families and kids, the category that gets the most attention each year is the award for Best Animated Feature Film, which goes to full-length cartoon movies. This year’s competition is unusual because it features three kids films from the Disney company, and also a film for adults that has been nominated for Oscars in three different categories! The Disney offerings are “Encanto,” “Luca” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” but they will get competition from “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and especially from “Flee,” the movie nominated in three categories. “Flee” is not a kids’ movie like “Encanto” or “Luca.” It tells a real-life story of a 36-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who has been living with a secret for 20 years. It has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature and Best International Film as well as for Best Animated Film. Animated films use cartoons and art to tell stories in entertaining or eye-catching ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or situation you think would make a good subject for an animated movie. Would it be fun loving or serious, real-life or fantasy? Write a “pitch letter” to a movie studio outlining your idea for making an animated movie about this person or situation. Share ideas with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

2. Targeting Methane

It doesn’t get the attention of carbon dioxide, but methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes a huge amount to global warming. At least 25 percent of today’s warming is driven by methane, which has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. In the United States and around the world, the biggest sources of methane are the oil and gas industry, landfills and agricultural operations that raise livestock like cattle and pigs. Tracking the biggest sources of methane is a key to reducing the impact of this greenhouse gas, and a new satellites are giving scientists the information to do it. The satellites are equipped to detect methane from space and can pinpoint places where “super emitters” are operating, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Eliminating “super emitter” sites and events could reduce global methane emissions by 8 to 12 percent and provide a low-cost way to slow global warming in the short term, the scientists say. Scientists and government leaders around the world are looking for ways to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial, outlining the most important steps you think should be taken.

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.

3. Peacock Crackdown?

Peacocks are big, beautiful birds that are famous for spreading their blue and green tail feathers to attract female mates. Peacocks and the female peahens are loved in zoos and nature preserves, but are not so popular when they roam free neighborhoods or communities. In the city of Miami, Florida, the peacock population has gotten so big that some neighborhoods wish the birds would go away — even though they are protected under county wildlife rules. To address such concerns, Miami-Dade County officials this month voted to allow communities to take action against the peacocks if they are able to present a plan for humanely removing them. The move has generated controversy, pitting neighbor against neighbor in some cases. While many residents love the birds, others are fed up with their aggressiveness, messiness and their ear-splitting screams, which sound like someone being attacked. While many people love wildlife, wildlife sometimes becomes a problem. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife problem that individuals or a community are dealing with. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining ways the problem could be handled.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Long-Lasting Gift

A good deed can have a long life. And sometimes it can inspire someone to “pay it forward” years later. Consider the case of Broadway star Claybourne Elder. Sixteen years ago, when Elder was a struggling actor of 23, a stranger he met at a Broadway play gave him $200 to see the musical “Sweeney Todd.” Elder couldn’t afford tickets to the popular play, but the stranger said it would change his life so he accepted the gift. Today, Elder says seeing “Sweeney” DID change his life, convincing him to pursue a career in music and acting on the New York City stage. Remembering that long-ago gift, he now buys tickets for others who cannot afford them, through a go-fund-me program he set up online. As an added bonus, he has re-connected through social media with the man who gave him the life-changing gift years ago, the Washington Post newspaper reported. He’s Mark Howell, who owns an advertising agency and lives in Los Angeles, California. And he couldn’t be happier his gift has had such lasting impact. “Most people never get to see the effect that their kindness has,” he said. “I got to see how my random act resonated in somebody’s life and the ripple effect of that.” People often make news by performing “random acts of kindness” for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person offering this kind of kindness. Use what you read to write a personal column examining how such acts benefit both the giver and receiver of the kindness. Include times when you did something kind for someone else, and how the person responded.

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.

5. ‘Roller-Coaster’ Walk

In amusement parks all over the world, roller coasters are popular and exciting attractions for visitors. In a park in the Asian nation of South Korea, a new attraction is drawing attention like a roller coaster — but isn’t a roller coaster at all. The new SpaceWalk in South Korea’s Hwanho Park is actually a giant walkway on which people can walk as if they were riding a roller coaster. There are plenty of twists and turns and ups and downs, and visitors can walk the whole thing except for the upside-down loop at the center. The walkway is also South Korea’s largest-ever contemporary public sculpture. To see this new attraction, click here. South Korea’s SpaceWalk is attracting tourists and visitors to Hwanho Park. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story or photo involving an attraction that gets attention in your community or state. Use what you read to design a newspaper or TV ad telling why this attraction is worth visiting. Write bullet points highlighting the features of this attraction and choose images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your ad.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.