For Grades K-4 , week of Jan. 23, 2023

1. Laughter Is Good for You

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. What that means is that it can make you feel better when you are stressed, worried, depressed or down. It also can spread from person to person, according to new scientific studies. Hearing one person laugh can prepare another person to laugh as well, the Washington Post newspaper reports. That happens because the brain responds to the sound of laughter by preparing a person’s facial muscles to join in, and by releasing chemicals that improve your mood, according to the new studies. By doing this, laughter can strengthen connections, because people naturally want to be around others who make them feel good. “Laughter is kind of a … building block of friendship,” one expert said. Many things can make people laugh. They can be a funny photo, a funny situation or a funny exchange of words between friends. In the newspaper or online, find and study comic strips, jokes or other things that you find funny. Pick one and write a letter to a friend, telling why you found it funny and how it made you feel. Share as a class and discuss.

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; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. Lunar New Year

For most Americans, the New Year starts on January 1 each year. But for nearly 2-billion people in the U.S. and around the world, it starts this week with the celebration of the Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year gets its name from the 12 phases of the moon in a year (“lunar” means “of the moon”). It is hugely important to Asian cultures — particularly those from the nations of China, Vietnam and the Koreas — and it goes by different names. In this country it is widely celebrated as Chinese New Year, while it is called T?t in Vietnam (short for T?t Nguyên ?án) and Seollal in South Korea. Like January 1 celebrations, Lunar New Year marks a goodbye to the past and an embrace of the future. It also is a family celebration, with relatives getting together to wish for good fortune. Lunar New Year celebrations also include “spirit animals” assigned to different years that are said to give the qualities of those animals to people born in each year. This year is the Year of the Rabbit for most celebrations, and the Year of the Cat for Vietnamese families. Rabbit people are seen as caring, attentive to details, likely to follow rules, and good at making friends. Cat people are sensitive, highly cautious, intelligent, fast workers and alert to risks that may arise. What kind of spirit animals would fit people in the news? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who interests you. Use what you read to write a paragraph describing what spirit animal would fit this person, and why. Write another paragraph picking a spirit animal for yourself and explain your choice.

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. ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime’

Megalodons were giant pre-historic sharks that lived on Earth more than 23-million years ago in the oceans off the coast of America. They were fierce predators, growing up to 50 feet in length with a mouthful of huge teeth. One of those teeth fell out when a giant megalodon was swimming in the waters off what is now the state of Maryland, and this winter a 9-year-old girl found it. Elementary student Molly Sampson found a 5-inch tooth while exploring a beach on the Chesapeake Bay, and the tooth is one of the biggest ever for a megalodon. The state park is known as a hotspot for fossil hunting, and Molly found the tooth while wading in shallow water, CNN News reports. Megalodons were “apex predators” at the top of the food chain and would have fed on whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles. Molly’s tooth was from one of the biggest of the megalodons, and that makes it rare. “There are people that can spend a lifetime and not find a tooth the size Molly found,” one fossil expert said. “This is like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of find.” Fossil finds give scientists new information about creatures that lived long ago. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a fossil find. Use what you read to write a one-minute TV news report telling why the discovery is important. Read your report aloud and time it to make sure it does not run longer than one minute. Present your report to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Art Is the Answer

Graffiti is a problem in many communities, but in the city of San Diego, California, the art of elementary students is helping to control it. Led by their art teacher, the students are painting over gang symbols, signature tags and other graffiti with creative artistic images. And they are discovering the graffiti artists aren’t coming back. The project got its start when art teacher LeoAngelo Lacuna Reyes noticed that electrical utility boxes, buildings and other structures were being defaced by graffiti in his Mira Mesa neighborhood. With the permission of the neighborhood council, he broke out his paints and headed for an electrical box that was covered in graffiti across from a library, the Washington Post newspaper reported. He turned it into a colorful, four-sided bookcase, and it quickly became a landmark in the community. Later he got his students involved, and they have since covered up graffiti with images of sunflowers, sharks, goldfish, butterflies, wild animals and even a beach scene. The community has joined in the fun as well. When Reyes painted one box as a burning fireplace, a neighbor brought out a recliner chair and placed it next to the fire! Art can beautify and improve a community in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo of an outdoor space that could be improved by art. Draw a picture of an artwork that could improve the space, either a painting, a sculpture or something else. Share ideas as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Heads Up! Iguanas!

If it’s winter in the state of Florida, it’s time to look out for iguanas falling on your head. Truly. When temperatures drop into the low 40s, iguanas get “cold stunned” and can’t control their muscles. As a result, they start falling out of trees where they live. Since adult males can reach 5 feet in length and weigh up to 20 pounds – this can be dangerous if one lands on top of you, CNN News reports. Iguanas react to cold this way because they are cold-blooded reptiles and can’t control their body temperatures apart from the temperature of the air. When air temperatures get below 45 degrees, as they did earlier this month in some parts of Florida, the iguanas enter an involuntary “dormant” state in which they can’t hang onto tree branches where they are perched. They generally recover when temperatures rise above 45 degrees again. Winter weather affects wildlife in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species that faces challenges in winter weather. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling what challenges the species faces and how people could help it during the winter.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.