For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 30, 2019

1. Peanut Allergy Treatment

For many students and adults, peanut allergies are a real risk to health. Reactions can range from hives and skin rashes to life-threatening breathing problems and loss of consciousness. Those who suffer from peanut allergies got some encouraging news this month when advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend approval for a first-of-its-kind peanut allergy treatment. The treatment designed for children ages 4 to 17 would “desensitize” them to life-threatening reactions, though they would still have to avoid eating or coming in contact with peanuts. Taken regularly the drug would provide a “buffer of safety” for children who could accidentally come into contact with peanuts, researchers said. The treatment is not a cure for peanut allergies, and severe reactions still will require treatment with emergency medicines like epinephrine, which is delivered through EpiPen injections. The new treatment must be approved by the FDA before it is available to the public. New medical treatments and breakthroughs are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new treatment or breakthrough. Write a paragraph explaining its significance, whom it will affect most and how soon.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

2. New Duck-Bill

In the Asian nation of Japan, scientists have found the largest dinosaur skeleton ever discovered in that nation — and it turns out to be a new kind of duck-bill. The dinosaur was found in a coastal area in northern Japan and is believed to be more than 72-million years old. It was an adult plant-eater, weighed more than 4 tons and measured more than 26 feet long, researchers from Hokkaido University said. The fossil skeleton was not discovered all at once. The duck-bill’s tail was unearthed in 2013 and the remainder of the skeleton in subsequent digs. When excavation was complete, scientists realized they had found an almost complete dinosaur skeleton. Study of the bones revealed that the dinosaur was a new species. Fossil discoveries and expeditions give scientists a better understanding of what life was like on Earth in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another fossil discovery that is helping scientists understand the past. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling what has been found in the new fossil discovery, why that is important and why fossil expeditions deserve support from universities, government and other institutions.

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

3. Feeding the Need

Kindness and caring take many forms. In the town of Brewton, Alabama, they take the form of a special restaurant that helps people in need in an unusual way. The restaurant, called Drexell & Honeybee’s, has no prices on the menu, and allows people to pay whatever they want for their meals — or nothing at all. The goal, say owners Lisa Thomas-McMillan and her husband Freddie, is to “Feed the Need” of people of limited income. It also spares people the embarrassment of not having money to pay by hiding the “donation box” behind a partition where others can’t see what diners pay, if anything. Those who are able can volunteer at the restaurant in return for meals by setting tables, pouring water or cleaning up at the end of the day. The owners, who are retired, take no salary from the restaurant and rely on donations from individuals and businesses to keep things running. There have been anonymous donations of up to $1,000 and also gifts of food and fresh vegetables. “I just feel like, when we’re down here, that we’re doing something so important and something just joyful,” Thomas-McMillan told the Washington Post. “… It’s just the best feeling in the world.” The Drexell & Honeybee’s restaurant has come up with an unusual way to help people in need. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another unusual approach to helping needy people. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video or documentary film examining the approach and its benefits. Write an outline for your video, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Stepping Forward

Nurses help children in many ways when they are sick. But few go as far as a transplant nurse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Nurse Cami Loritz stepped forward to save the life of an 8-year-old boy who needed a liver transplant to live. She donated a portion of her liver to young Brayden Auten, who was experiencing liver failure after contracting a rare virus. No one in Brayden’s family was a match to donate liver tissue, but the 25-year-old Loritz was. With Brayden’s health failing quickly, she agreed to be his donor. “She’s a true miracle,” Brayden’s mother told CNN News. Since the liver is the only human organ that can grow back, both Brayden and Loritz will have full-size, functioning livers when they recover. Nurses often do extraordinary things to help people or save lives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about special things nurses have done to help people. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column discussing the work nurses do and thanking them for cases of extraordinary service.

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.

5. Swarming Dragonflies

Every year at this time, birds, insects and other wildlife start migrations to find warmer areas to stay the winter. This fall, some of them are doing it quite dramatically. The National Weather Service reports that dragonfly insects have been swarming together in such numbers that they are showing up on weather radar systems. The dragonflies are a species known as “green darners” and they have been picked up on radar flying over the states of Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, UPI News reports. Bug experts say it is unusual for green darners to swarm this way, but weather can sometimes make them cluster together. They are attracted to where the air is moist due to storm systems. Green darners are one of the largest dragonflies, with males growing up to 3 inches long with a wingspan a little longer. With a double set of wings, they migrate great distances every fall, traveling from the northern United States south to Texas and Mexico. Birds, insects and other wildlife all migrate in the fall. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife migration. Use what you read to write a letter to a younger student, explaining the biggest challenges faced by this species while migrating. Make sure your letter is written at a level that younger students will read easily.

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