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For Grades K-4 , week of Mar. 21, 2016

1. A Civil Rights Doll

The American Girl doll company has created its third African-American doll — and she’s socially aware! The doll is named Melody Ellison and she is a 9-year-old in Detroit during the 1960s civil rights era. According to the “backstory” distributed with the doll, she was affected by civil rights events of her time, and even chose to sing a song based on the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for her church’s Youth Day event. To develop Melody’s backstory and image, American Girl consulted a six-person advisory board of historians and educators, including civil rights leader Julian Bond. Accessories for the doll, which will be available this summer, include many items connected to Detroit’s Motown music history. The Melody Ellison doll and story were created to show what life was like for an African-American girl in the civil rights era. What would a doll be like to show what life is like for an African-American girl today? Discuss ideas as a class, including clothes she would wear, music she would like and people she would admire. Then draw a series of comic strips for the newspaper, introducing an African-American girl doll for today. Give her a name you like and share strips with the class.

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

2. Back from a Year in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly has set a U.S. record of 340 days in space, and says he would have stayed up longer if necessary. “It felt like I’d been up there my whole life after about the first six months,” he said after landing back on Earth in the Asian nation Kazakhstan. In good spirits and looking fit, Kelly said “leaving the [International Space] Station was bittersweet,” but “I clearly could have stayed however long it took.” On his flight from the landing site to the NASA space agency headquarters in Houston, Texas, Kelly was joined by NASA administrator Charles Bolden and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden. During Kelly’s mission, the crew of the International Space Station performed many experiments and tasks. As a class, use the newspaper and the website to closely read about some of the things the space station crew did while Kelly was there. Pick one and write a paragraph explaining why it was important for scientists or other researchers.

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. Butterfly Comeback

Monarch butterflies have made a big comeback in their wintering grounds in Mexico, after serious declines in recent years. The number migrating the 3,400 miles to Mexico from the United States and Canada had been declining steadily before recovering in 2014. This winter the numbers were even better for the distinctive orange and black insects. The area they covered in Mexico was about 10 acres in size, compared with 2.8 acres in 2014 and a record low of 1.66 acres the prior year (20 years ago, they covered 44 acres). Because the insects clump so densely in the pine and fir forests, they are counted by the area they cover, not individually. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the migration of monarch butterflies. Use what you read to write a poem, song, rap or rhyme about the migration from the point of view of the butterfly. Read poems aloud with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

4. Solving Problems

The co-founder and chairman of the Nike shoe and clothing company has pledged $400 million to Stanford University to recruit graduate students from around the world to look for solutions to the world’s biggest problems. Among the problems to be looked at are poverty, health, nutrition and climate change. Nike’s Philip H. Knight said the new Stanford program will be “using education to benefit mankind.” In addition to Knight’s donation, the program has raised an additional $350 million, making it one of the world’s largest fully funded programs for scholarships. There are many problems the new Stanford program could study to seek solutions. In teams, find and read about a problem in the world, your state or your community that you think needs attention. Use what you read to write a proposal for studying the problem and a possible solution.

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.

5. Villages to Move?

In the state of Alaska, some Native Alaskan villages are considering moving from where they are located because of natural disasters made worse by climate change. The first village under consideration is Newtok, which is home to 92 Native Alaskan families about 500 miles from the city of Anchorage. Newtok is located on a river and the land is washing away due to erosion and changes brought by climate change. The families are considering a move to establish new homes on higher ground nine miles away. Three other villages that were damaged by recent storms have been earmarked for later relocation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is prepared to distribute nearly $1 billion in grants in an effort to address problems related to climate change and extreme weather. Alaskan officials want some of the money to be used for relocation costs. All over the world, climate change and global warming are affecting people, wildlife and the environment in different ways. As a class, read a story in the newspaper or online about one of these effects. Use what you read to write a short letter to the editor of the newspaper, giving your view on what could be done to deal with some of this effect.

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.