For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 25, 2021

1. Hail to the Vikings

Long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, Viking explorers from Greenland and Northern Europe landed here — and even set up settlements. Now a discovery in the Canadian province of Newfoundland has provided the first decisive evidence of WHEN the Vikings got here. The discovery came from analyzing the wood from trees found at a Viking settlement known as L’anse aux Meadows in the northernmost part of the province, the New York Times newspaper reported. Evidence of a rare solar storm that was stored in the rings of the trees dates the settlement to exactly 1,000 years ago, to the year 1021.The evidence was found by analyzing every ring in the wood of three trees cut down in the settlement, which was first discovered about 60 years ago. Solar storms are extremely rare, but they leave a radioactive chemical marker in trees that can be matched to other data to determine the age of old trees. Scientists used high-tech science to pin down when Vikings created a settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about scientists using high-tech techniques in their research. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or teacher, telling how the high-tech science made the research more effective or successful and what it helped scientists learn.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

2. Earthshot Honors

Every year people come up with new ways to call attention to environmental issues and encourage efforts to solve problems like global warming and climate change. This year, one of the splashiest was an effort organized by Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. The two members of the Royal Family in the European nation created the Earthshot Awards and gave the first ones out at a star-studded event at which celebrities like Emma Watson, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran attended or performed, and world leaders sent messages of support. The awards were nothing to sneeze at: $1.4-milllion for each of five winners. Those winners included the Central American nation of Costa Rica; the European city of Milan, Italy; an organization in India developing technology to combat air pollution from agricultural burning; a group in the Bahamas farming coral to replant in the ocean; and a company using technology to reduce emissions in renewable electricity. Costa Rica was honored for a national system that paid citizens to restore forests, and Milan won for a citywide food recovery project that redirected surplus food to charities and food banks. The Earthshot Awards seek to honor programs that are working to help the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about programs that are doing this kind of environmental work. Pick one and use evidence from your reading to write a proposal nominating it for an Earthshot award next year.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Adele Soars

Superstar Adele hasn’t released any new music in six years, but the British singer has proved she still has the magic. When she released a single from her new album “30” this month, it set new records for listener requests from both Spotify and Amazon Music. Spotify announced that the single “Easy on Me” set a new record for the most streams in a single day, while Amazon said the single had received “the most first-day Alexa song requests in Amazon Music history.” The highly-anticipated “30” album is set to be released on November 19. Her previous album, “25,” which was released in 2015, had the highest first week sales in U.S. album chart history, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The album also included the song “Hello,” which became the fastest video to reach 1-billion views on YouTube. Adele’s albums – “19,” “21,” “25” and now “30” – are all named after the age she was at the time she wrote the music for them. Adele is one of the most popular singers in the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another singer or singing group whose music you like. Do some research and listen to the latest music this singer/group has released. Think like a music critic and write a review of this new music. Be sure to use evidence from the lyrics or melodies of the songs to support your opinions about them.

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.

4. New Superman Motto

For more than 80 years, Superman has been one of the most popular superheroes in the world. For most of those years, he battled evil with the motto that he was fighting for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” That is now changing, with DC Comics announcing that Superman’s motto is being updated. From now on the Man of Steel will be fighting for “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.” The change was made "to better reflect the story lines that we are telling across DC and to honor Superman’s incredible legacy over 80 years of building a better world,” DC publisher Jim Lee said. “ … Superman has long been a symbol of hope who inspires people, and it is that optimism and hope that powers him forward with this new mission statement.” In a historical note, the “American Way” motto was not part of the original Superman comics. It was first used in a radio series created to entertain American soldiers who were fighting the nations of Germany, Japan and Italy during World War II. As one reporter wrote at the time, “We were all fighting for the American way. Why shouldn’t Superman?” Mottoes are a punchy, short-hand way to tell what people, groups or organizations stand for. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and study examples of mottoes for different people or groups. Then pretend you have been hired to produce a motto (or a new motto) for one person, one group and one organization in the news. Brainstorm two or three mottoes for each and share with friends or classmates. Have them vote to choose which of your mottoes they like best.

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

5. Wiz on the Outs

For more than 20 years, the city of Christchurch in the southern Pacific nation of New Zealand has had an employee like none in any other city. Ian Brackenbury Channell has been the official wizard of Christchurch, or in the words of a former prime minister, wizard of “New Zealand, Antarctica and relevant offshore areas.” Now the 88-year-old Channell is out of a job. The Christchurch city council has terminated his contract, which has paid him about $10,000 a year to provide “acts of wizardry and other wizard-like services.” Mostly that was appearing as a street performer dressed in a pointy black hat, black robe, long gray beard and a long wooden staff. He was an attraction for tourists, cast spells, tried to end droughts and offered opinions on anything and everything. Some of those opinions finally caught up with him, when he drew sharp criticism for comments and jokes about women in recent months. A spokesperson for the city council said it was ending Channell’s tenure because it wanted to promote Christchurch as a “vibrant, diverse, modern city.” Channell said it was because the council had no sense of humor at a time people really need one. As he has said in the past, “fun is the most powerful thing in the world” when facing serious issues. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos and stories about things that are fun to do in your community. Use what you find to create a one-minute TV ad promoting your community as a fun place to enjoy life. Write out your ad and read it aloud to make sure it does not run longer than one minute.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.