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For Grades K-4 , week of Apr 18, 2016

1. Smart City Birds

City birds might be smarter than country birds — or at least better at problem-solving, according to researchers. And the researchers say it’s because of the challenges of a city environment. In the science journal Behavioral Ecology, the researchers report that birds from cities are much better at performing tasks like opening jars, have “bolder” temperaments and even seem to be tougher and stronger when facing life challenges. The reason is that they have adapted to their city environments so that they can make the best use of the resources there. In other words, they are “smarter” because they have to be to survive. Scientists study wildlife to understand what qualities make different species successful in their habitats. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species and its habitat. Then find photos of the species and its habitat online and study those. Use what you read and look at to write a paragraph describing what qualities the species has that make it successful in its habitat.

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. Sainthood for Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was one of the great, caring women of the 20th century. She served the homeless and desperately poor for more than 40 years in the slums of the Asian nation of India. Later this year, she will be given one of the highest honors in the Catholic Church when she is declared a Catholic saint. Pope Francis has announced that Mother Teresa will be elevated to sainthood on September 4, the day before the 19th anniversary of her death at age 87. The canonization ceremony will take place at the Vatican headquarters of the Catholic Church in Europe. Sainthood is one way that people are honored for living caring lives and helping others. As a class, discuss other ways that people are honored for helping others. Then find and closely read a story in the newspaper about someone who is helping others. Use what you read, to write a letter to the editor, suggesting a way to honor this person for his/her good works.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. Tribe Gets Recognition

More than 400 years after their ancestors greeted John Smith and other colonial settlers, Virginia’s Pamunkey Indians have won recognition from the federal government that they are an official Native American tribe. The tribe, which included the young Pocahontas in the early 1600s, has 208 living members and lives on a reservation 1,200 miles east of the Virginia city of Richmond. It is now one of 567 federally recognized tribes, and the only one thus far in Virginia (six others are seeking recognition). Recognition as a Native American tribe gives the Pamunkeys a variety of business and development advantages. The story of the friendship between Pocahontas and John Smith was one of the most famous involving the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. As a class, use the newspaper and the Internet to find and closely read stories about the history of your community or state. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips, explaining some of the history and the people involved.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Protect Those Reefs!

The United States and the Caribbean nation of Cuba have signed an agreement to join together to protect fish and coral reefs they share. The agreement is the first involving the environment since the U.S. announced last year that it would seek to resume relations with the nation 90 miles south of the state of Florida in the Caribbean Sea. The agreement directs scientists from U.S. and Cuban marine sanctuaries to work together to protect the delicate coral reefs that are home to hundreds of kinds of fish. U.S. scientists who are involved work for the Florida Keys and Texas Flower Garden Banks national sanctuaries, and those from Cuba work for protected wildlife reserves at Guanahacabibes National Park and the Banco de San Antonio. The U.S. cut off relations with Cuba after it became a communist government in 1959, but last year President Obama moved to restore them. Protecting the environment is a concern for nations all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about protecting the environment in the United States or another nation. Use what you read to write a short poem called “Protecting.” Your challenge is to start each line of your poem with the word “protecting” (example: “Protecting reefs brings life to fish…”). Your poems do not need to rhyme but should include colorful verbs and adjectives explaining the effects of protecting the environment.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Fruits, Veggies & Weight

Eating more fruits and vegetables does help prevent weight gain over time, new research reveals — but only if you pass on starchy vegetables like peas, potatoes and corn. The research reported in the journal PLoS Medicine was based on a 24-year study of eating trends. The study found that people were least likely to gain much weight if they ate berries, prunes, apples, grapes (or raisins) and grapefruit. Vegetables that can be eaten without weight gain include cauliflower, summer squash, string beans, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, most green, leafy vegetables, soybeans and tofu. In the newspaper or online, read about the benefits of eating one of the fruits or vegetables listed above. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a TV cartoon, in which the fruit or veggie would be the lead character. Write an outline for one episode and then write the opening scene. Give your cartoon a title that would make kids want to watch it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.