For Grades K-4 , week of Sep. 21, 2020

1. New Mayflower

When studying the story of America, every student learns how the sailing ship named the Mayflower carried Pilgrims from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts to start a new colony in the year 1620. That ship made history in its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, and now a new Mayflower will attempt to make history 400 years later. A high-tech research vessel named the Mayflower Autonomous Ship has been launched in England and will try to duplicate the famous voyage of the first Mayflower next year. Like the original Mayflower, the new vessel is a sailing ship, but unlike the original there will be no people on board to sail it. It will be controlled entirely by computers and “artificial intelligence” programs that will make decisions based on conditions at sea, its builders announced. At a length of 50 feet, the new $1.3-million Mayflower will be the largest high-tech, unmanned ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Artificial intelligence programs use technology in new ways to do things that only people could do in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another way new technology is helping people. Use what you read to write a one-minute TV news report telling what this new technology does, how it helps people and why that is an improvement over the way things were done in the past. Time your report as you read it aloud to make sure it does not go over one minute.

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.

2. Meet the Cave Bear

Cave bears lived during the Earth’s Ice Age thousands of years ago, and up to now what scientists know about them depended on bones or footprints that have been found. Now a group of reindeer herders in the Siberian region of Russia have changed all that. The herders found a perfectly preserved cave bear frozen in the permafrost layer of soil in the area, and scientists around the world are buzzing. The bear, which could be more than 39,000 years old, has all its tissues intact, right down to its black nose. It will give scientists their first ever look at what a cave bear looked like and their first chance to test what it ate, how its organs worked and how it related to its habitat. The frozen bear was found because rising temperatures and global warming are melting glaciers and the permafrost soil layer in far northern areas of the Earth like Siberia. Global warming is having great effects on the environment all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effect. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling why this effect is important and what can be done about it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. A Rowing Record

Rowing a boat in the ocean is one of the great physical challenges in sports or competition. Waves, wind and weather make every trip an adventure and a possible disaster. A California woman learned that first-hand this summer, setting a new women’s record rowing alone from the city of San Francisco to the city of Honolulu in Hawaii. Lia Ditton covered the 2,400-mile trip in 86 days, 10 hours, 5 minutes, and 56 seconds with no support boat nearby. She twice had to overcome giant waves that flipped her boat over, once in the middle of the night. As if that weren’t enough, she had sharks circling her boat and almost ran out of food. She rowed 23 hours straight to finish the trip. “I massively underestimated what the challenge would be,” she said. People often challenge themselves to do amazing things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done this. Use what you read to write a paragraph telling what the person needed to do to prepare for this challenge physically and mentally. Write a second paragraph describing an occasion you challenged yourself to do something and how you prepared. Share and discuss with family, friends and classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Origami KitKats

Plastic pollution is a growing problem around the world, and companies are looking for ways to reduce use of plastic in their products. In the Asian nation of Japan, the Nestlé candy company came up with a way that gets rid of plastic and ties into a Japanese art tradition. Nestlé replaced the plastic wrappers on its chocolate KitKat bars with origami paper that kids can use to fold into shapes like birds or animals. Origami is a popular art tradition in Japan, and experts can make amazing creations just by folding paper into different shapes. Under the program each KitKat bar includes instructions on how to fold the paper to make a traditional origami crane — which is a symbol of hope and healing in Japan. “Plastic waste is one of the biggest … issues the world is facing today,” the head of Nestlé said. “We are committed to finding improved solutions to reduce, re-use and recycle.” Companies all over the world are taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic they use in their products and packaging. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one company doing this. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your opinion on how this company’s effort could be a model for other companies.

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. This Mail Was Late!

People often complain that the mail is slow to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and agencies around the world. But no piece of mail has been as late as a post card delivered to a Michigan home this month. The card was post marked October 29, 1920, meaning it was mailed 100 years ago! The post card showed up in the mailbox of Brittany Keech of Belding, Michigan on September 8, addressed to a man named Roy McQueen. It was a Halloween greeting with a black cat, pumpkins, a witch, an owl and a broomstick on the front and the message: “Witch would you rather be … a goose or a pumpkin-head?” the Washington Post newspaper reported. On the back was a brief message to McQueen and family members from a woman named Flossie Burgess. “Dear cousins,” the message read. “We are quite well but mother has awful lame knees. It is awful cold here.” Keech was surprised to see the old-fashioned post card but didn’t realize how old it was until she noticed it carried a green 1-cent stamp picturing George Washington in the corner. A post card costs 35 cents to mail today. No one is sure why the McQueen post card took 100 years to be delivered. Odd stories like the Michigan post card often inspire movies or TV shows. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about an odd bit of news. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short movie or TV show based on the story. Create characters to feature in your movie and write an outline for the plot. Give your movie or show an eye-catching title that would make students your age want to watch it. For added fun, brainstorm an idea for a movie based on the 100-year journey of the post card in Michigan.

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