For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 31, 2022

1. Groundbreaking Telescope

After a month-long journey in space, the groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its location in the solar system where it will spend the rest of its life exploring the universe. The final destination of the craft launched by America’s NASA space agency is an orbit 1-million miles away on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. To get there, the Webb had to perform a series of complicated tasks never tried before by NASA or any other space agency. Launched in a folded position on Christmas Day, the Webb has unfurled itself over the past month, deployed solar arrays that will collect energy from the sun to provide power, set up a huge, multilayered sun shield and assembled a group of 18 gold-plated, hexagonal mirrors that will gather light and images from space. Over the next three months, the big challenge will be getting all the mirrors aligned properly to create clear images of what the telescope “sees.” “Everything went according to script,” the Webb’s deputy project manager said of events so far. “… Nothing went wrong.” The Webb Space Telescope will explore the universe in ways never possible before. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the things the Webb will do. Use what you read to create an oral report or PowerPoint presentation about the Webb for your class. Create a handout of bullet points highlighting some of the things the Webb will be able to do if all goes well.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Higher-Grade Masks

All over the nation, school leaders have been debating whether students should wear masks in class to protect them from the Covid 19 coronavirus. The nation’s second-largest school district is going all in — not only requiring masks but requiring that students upgrade the masks they are wearing. Last week, the Los Angeles School District in California began requiring that students all wear non-cloth masks that have a nose wire while in class and participating in sports. Schools will provide such surgical-style masks for students and employees who need them, and they can only be removed while eating and drinking, CNN News reported. For months public health officials have been recommending that people wear more effective masks such as N95s that fit tightly around the nose and mouth to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to high-grade masks, the Los Angeles district requires weekly testing for all students and staff, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. “In-school cases rates dropped 7% since our baseline testing [started] and current rates of students and staff are half of those in the general community,” the interim schools superintendent said. School mask-wearing has become controversial in community after community. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how different communities are dealing with the issue. As a class, discuss what you and your classmates feel is the best approach. Then use what you have read and points raised in the discussion to write an editorial recommending what you think your community should do regarding mask-wearing in schools.

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. Incredible Discovery

The science of archaeology reveals secrets about the past. In archaeological digs, scientists uncover artifacts that show how ancient peoples lived and worked and how civilizations grew and evolved. In the European nation of England, a dig that started with construction of a railway line has given scientists a bonanza of artifacts showing what life was like when the ancient Roman Empire ruled the area nearly 2,000 years ago. The dig has uncovered an array of artifacts ranging from stone roads and buildings, to pottery and glass vessels, to jewelry and coins. Scientists even have unearthed game pieces from ancient games and samples of makeup used to decorate people’s faces and bodies, the Washington Post newspaper reports. “Uncovering … so many high quality finds has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who lived here,” noted the lead scientist of the group examining the site. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another archaeological discovery in the world. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing the two most important things discovered. Illustrate your paragraph with an original drawing if you like. 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.

4. Bears and Bees

The spectacled bear of South America gets its name from yellowish-white marks around its eyes that can look like a pair of glasses. It is South America’s only bear species and is famous around the world as the model for the Paddington Bear character of children’s books. As with many wildlife species, however, the future of the spectacled bear is uncertain due to human activities and loss of habitat in the Andes Mountains. An innovative program in the nation of Bolivia, however, is offering hope for the spectacled bear. A conservation group is encouraging native farmers to switch from raising cattle to cultivating bees to preserve the bear’s habitat. Cattle farmers typically cut or burn forests and fields to make way for their herds, reducing the natural areas the bears need. Raising bees for their honey preserves the land while allowing farmers to still make a living. The results of the program are promising, CNN News reports. In areas where farmers have switched, bees have given them twice the income they have gotten from raising cattle. People often try unusual approaches to help wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an unusual approach being tried. Use what you read to design a poster or graphic organizer showing the Problem Faced by Wildlife, the Approach Being Tried and the Results So Far. Illustrate your poster/organizer with images from the Internet or newspaper.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

5. What a Give-Back!

In farming communities across the nation, teens and pre-teens often raise livestock to show off their agricultural skills. They then take their animals to livestock shows, where they can earn cash rewards at animal auctions. In the state of Texas, a 17-year-old girl who had overcome cancer surprised people at the Kendall County Junior Livestock Show by announcing she wanted to donate her rewards to the hospital that saved her life. The response was overwhelming, the Washington Post newspaper reported. When officials tallied up the results for the two hogs Maddie Barber had brought to the show, she had raised an astounding $30,500 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “They removed my tumor and saved my life,” said Maddie, a high school junior who lives in Boerne, Texas. “I wanted to give back in some way to help other kids struggling with cancer.” Teens and pre-teens often make news by doing unusual things to help others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a teen/pre-teen doing this. Use what you read to brainstorm a way to honor this helper. Write a description of your honor and how you would make the community aware of it.

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