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For Grades K-4 , week of May 16, 2016

1. Polar Bears & School Kids

Melting ice off the coast of western Alaska is forcing polar bears onto the land. That is putting them dangerously close to villages where children often walk across tundra areas in the northernmost U.S. state. To protect kids in the community, residents are training polar bear patrols to escort students to and from school. Sea ice is melting off the coast of Alaska as a result of global warming. The warming is destroying the habitat of the polar bears, which hunt seals from the ice. Attracted by “anything that could be food,” they endanger residents in an area that has no routine police presence, said a local resident. Polar bears can be a threat to people, but they also are a “threatened species” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their habitat is at risk. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read a story about a species of wildlife that is endangered or threatened. Use what you read to write a short editorial suggesting ways that people could help protect this species.

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.

2. Cleaner Air Aids Breathing

Cleaner air in Southern California has brought a significant drop in childhood breathing and lung problems, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They have concluded that reducing air pollution with stricter air quality rules has benefited children, even those with asthma. “Clearly, the reduction in air pollution levels has translated into improvements in [breathing] health,” the study’s lead author declares. Breathing problems are one medical issue that affects children and families. As a class, find and closely read a story in the newspaper or online about another health issue that affects kids and families. Use what you read to design a poster showing the most important things families should know about the problem, plus tips on how to stay healthy.

Common Core State Standards: 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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Octopus Escapes

Inky the octopus saw a chance to make a break for it, and he did. Inky escaped from his tank in New Zealand’s National Aquarium, and is believed to have returned to the Pacific Ocean where he had been born and raised. “He didn’t even leave a message,” the aquarium manager complained. Telltale suction cup prints indicated that Inky slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his tank, made his way across the floor to a six-inch-wide drain, and squeezed his football-size (and very flexible) body into one of the drain holes leading back to the ocean. Inky had been an occupant at the aquarium in the coastal city of Napier since 2014, after he was caught in a crayfish trap. New research shows that octopuses are much more intelligent than previously believed. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another intelligent wildlife species. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing this species showing off its intelligence.

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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Hunger in Ukraine

Conflict and war in the European country of Ukraine has left about 1.5 million people hungry, including nearly 300,000 in need of immediate help, the United Nations’ World Food Program has declared. The conflict has been going on for about two years, and the agency’s director said “we need to reach those people urgently.” Because of its rich soil and farms, Ukraine used to be known as Europe’s “bread basket” for producing grains used to make breads. Torn by two years of fighting between government and rebel forces, Ukraine is now the only country in Europe requiring food assistance from other nations. As a class, use the newspaper and Internet to read about efforts to aid Ukraine or another country that is facing problems. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor suggesting ways that students, schools, families or the community could help deal with the problems being experienced by people in the other nation.

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. Women’s Rights Monument

In Washington, D.C., the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum has been designated a national monument for its role in the nationwide movement for women’s equality. For decades, it served as the movement’s unofficial headquarters and a dormitory where women lobbying for equal rights could sleep at night. At an “Equal Pay Day” ceremony, President Obama called the three-story house a symbol of the fight for both women’s rights and civil rights. It will be known as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument to honor two women who worked early on for voting rights and other rights for women — Alva Belmont and Alice Paul. Women today have many more rights and opportunities than they did in the past in the nation’s history. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about a woman doing something that she might not have been able to easily do in the past. Use what you read to write a short poem, rap or rhyme about this woman and what kind of character and personal qualities she needed to succeed. Read poems aloud as class.

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.