For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 16, 2020

1. Targeting the Coronavirus

President-Elect Joe Biden has said that getting the coronavirus epidemic under control will be his top priority when he takes office in January. And he has already taken a first step toward getting that done. Biden has announced the formation of a 13-member task force of doctors and health experts to advise the president on “science-based” solutions to slow the spread of the virus, develop a vaccine and to distribute the vaccine effectively. “Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a prepared statement. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and … free; and protecting at-risk populations.” The coronavirus epidemic continues to surge around the nation with state after state setting records for new cases and hospitalizations. Find and closely read stories about the spread of the virus and what health experts say should be done to stop it. Use what you read to write an open letter to the Biden virus task force recommending key steps you think need to be taken to get the virus under control.

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.

2. Game Show Legend

The game show “Jeopardy” has been one of the most popular programs on television, with a format that gives contestants the answers in various categories and asks them to come up with questions that match. This week the program and its millions of fans are mourning the death of the man who gave out those answers for a record-setting 37 years. Alex Trebek died at age 80 after a public battle with pancreatic cancer that inspired his followers and gave hope to people dealing with the disease themselves. Trebek had announced 19 months ago that he had been diagnosed with the deadly disease, and he worked until just two weeks before his death, taping episodes that will run until late December. He was praised by contestants and others for always letting the contestants be the stars of the show and encouraging them “to be all you can be.” When Alex Trebek died, newspapers and Internet sites ran long and detailed obituaries telling how he lived his life, what he accomplished and what kind of person he was. Obituaries are a way to sum up the important things about a person’s life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a person you admire. Use what you read to write an obituary for this person that would tell what they achieved in life, what kind of person they were and the impact they had on others. Think carefully about what you would put first in your obituary. It may be an achievement or it may be a personal quality. Share obituaries with family or friends and discuss.

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

3. Women Were Hunters, Too

The earliest humans were hunters and gatherers. They hunted animals for meat and searched their environments for plants, nuts and other things they could eat. For years, archaeologists and historians have thought that men in these societies were the hunters and women did the gathering. A discovery in the Andes Mountains of South America may change that view. Archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of a woman buried 9,000 years ago that indicate women may have been hunters alongside the men in early societies. The woman was buried in what is now the nation of Peru with weapons and stone hunting tools, suggesting she hunted animals by throwing spears, Science Magazine reports. In addition to a spear point, the woman’s remains were found with a knife and other tools for removing internal organs and scraping the flesh from hides. The discovery of fossil remains of a woman who was a hunter in ancient Peru has changed views of the roles of men and women in hunter-gatherer societies. The actions of women and men today also can change the way people think of their roles in business, politics, families or communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people whose actions are changing the way people think about the roles of women and men in different fields. Use what you read to write a personal column about such trailblazers and how they are changing attitudes about male and female roles.

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.

4. Parks for Veterans

America’s 61 National Parks are among the most popular natural attractions in the world. Dozens of them have connections to achievements by the U.S. military, and now military veterans and families will get special treatment from the National Park Service. Starting on Veterans Day last week, military veterans and Gold Star families who have lost a member during military service will have lifetime free admission to the parks, wildlife refuges and other public federal lands. The veterans, Gold Star families and members of the National Guard and Reserve can claim a free America the Beautiful Pass that will grant free admission for as long as they live to attractions such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, the Everglades and other sites. “With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said when making the announcement. Active military personnel already receive free admission to the national park system. Many national parks have connections to military history. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these sites. Use what you read to create a travel brochure highlighting parks and other sites that military families might want to see. Write a headline for the cover of your brochure and choose photos for it online or in the newspaper. Write text blocks for the different parks or sites summarizing why military families would like them.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. That’s L-o-n-n-n-n-g Hair

School dress codes often require that students cut their hair to a certain length. It’s fortunate such codes don’t apply to a teenager in the Asian nation of India. Eighteen-year-old Nilanshi Patel has just set a new Guinness World Record for the longest hair ever recorded on a teenager. Patel’s hair was measured just before her 18th birthday and came out to a length of 6 feet, 6.7 inches — about the height of NBA legend Michael Jordan. Two years earlier her hair had set a previous record when it measured 5 feet, 7 inches. Patel told UPI News she has been growing her hair out since she was 6 years old. At that time, she said, she got a “bad haircut” and vowed she would never cut her hair again. She has kept her word but has not decided whether she will keep growing her hair to try for a World Record in the adult category. Teenagers and young adults often make news in unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teen or young adult who has done this. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for an animated movie that would feature this person’s unusual achievement or situation. Write an outline for your movie and then write the opening scene in the style of a screenplay. Draw sketches showing what your lead characters would look like. Give your movie a title that would make students your age want to see it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.