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For Grades K-4 , week of Aug. 08, 2016

1. Phelps Carries the Flag

The Summer Olympics are under way in the South American city of Rio de Janeiro, and the United States team was led by a very familiar person in the opening ceremonies. Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, was chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA members to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies. Phelps is the first American male swimmer to qualify for a fifth Olympics, and at 31 years old he is looking to add to his historic medal haul. He made history in in 2008 when he won eight first-place gold medals in eight events, and added to his legacy in 2012 when he became the most decorated Olympian ever — with 18 gold medals and 22 overall. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Michael Phelps and other members of the U.S. Olympic team. Pick one athlete who has performed very well and write a letter to the editor stating why this athlete could inspire others.

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.

2. Telescope Mission Extended

When launched by the United States in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was expected to operate for 15 years. It’s still working, however, 26 years after it was sent into space. And it will continue to operate until at least June 30, 2021, America’s NASA space agency has announced. During that time, it will operate for several years alongside the new James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated for launch in 2018. After being serviced in 2009, Hubble is operating “better than ever,” NASA stated, and “is expected to continue to provide valuable data into the 2020s.” That will secure “its place in history as an outstanding general purpose observatory in areas ranging from our solar system to the distant universe,” NASA said. Space missions send back all kinds of information that helps scientists better understand the universe and our solar system. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a space mission. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining important information the mission has gathered.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Eavesdropping on Whales

A floating ocean buoy has been set up 22 miles off the coast of New York’s Fire Island to monitor the activities of great whales. The high-tech device will eavesdrop on the songs whales use to communicate in an effort to better understand and protect the animals near shipping lanes entering New York Harbor. The buoy — six feet in diameter with a mast six feet above the sea surface — is located south of Long Island, connected by “stretch hoses” to a weighted frame 125 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. It is equipped with listening devices connected to an underwater microphone. A variety of whales swim in the waters around the buoy, including large humpback and finback whales. “We know they’re there,” one of the scientists said, “but we know very little about them.” Scientists study wildlife to better understand and protect different species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about a study of a wildlife species and what scientists are learning or hoping to learn. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short movie explaining how one species lives. Write an outline for what you would show in the opening scene, including images you would use.

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.

4. Beijing Is Sinking Fast

Beijing, China is one of the world’s biggest cities by population — and it is sinking. Overuse of water stored naturally in the ground is causing China’s capital city to sink by as much as four inches a year, according to a report in the science journal Remote Sensing. The sinking is threatening “the safety of the public” by damaging streets, buildings and other structures. Beijing is the fifth most “water-stressed” city in the world, with demand for water greatly exceeding supply, the report states. Underground water is contained in layers of the Earth called aquifers, and Beijing officials say some areas sank more than 30 inches between 2003 and 2011. Water is important to almost everything humans do. In the newspaper or online, find and read about three activities that humans do. List them on a sheet of paper and write how water is important or used for each activity. Stretch your thinking. Some reasons may be indirect, not direct.

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.

5. Less Salty Food

The nation’s Food and Drug Administration is responsible for making sure the food we eat is healthy and good for us. And recently the FDA has recommended guidelines to the food industry to make the food we eat less salty. The restrictions on salt (sodium) content are designed to help prevent deaths from heart disease and stroke — medical problems whose risks increase when people eat too much salt. The guidelines are voluntary, so food companies won’t be required to follow them. Many companies and restaurants have already lowered the amount of sodium in foods, but this is the first time the government has listed specific limits for about 150 kinds of food, including cereals, pizza and sandwiches. Setting guidelines for the amount of salt in foods is an example of an effort to improve people’s health. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another effort to make people healthier. Use what you read to design a poster explaining what is being done and why it is important. Give your poster an eye-catching title so people will notice it. Use images from the Internet or newspaper to illustrate your poster.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.