For Grades 5-8 , week of May 17, 2021

1. Virus Shots for Kids

In the battle against the coronavirus, one of the biggest questions has been: When can children be vaccinated? In the United States, students, parents and schools got an answer last week. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in adolescents 12 to 15 years old. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly followed the FDA move by clearing the Pfizer shots, and distribution started immediately. Those are major steps for re-opening schools that have been operating remotely and for achieving wide “herd immunity” that would ensure the safety of communities and states from getting the disease. The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be tested on adolescents and is the first to win government approval. Up to now, the Pfizer shots have been approved only for people 16 and older. Pfizer is not the only company testing coronavirus vaccines for children. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other companies that are working on vaccines for adolescents or children. Use what you read to write a consumer column detailing the vaccines that are being tested, what preliminary results show and how soon each may be available for use.

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. These Women Are Money

To honor women of achievement, the U.S. Mint has launched a program in which it will feature history-making women on U.S. quarters. The first two chosen for the honor are Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, and Maya Angelou, the inspiring and widely read writer and poet. Each woman will be honored on the reverse, or tails, side of the coins, as part of the American Women Quarters Program. The heads side of the coin will still feature George Washington, but in a new design. The American Women Quarters Program will feature as many as 20 women from the past in a wide variety of fields. The U.S. Mint has asked the public to submit suggestions for women to be honored on future quarters. The Quarters Program is designed to honor women from the past for their achievements and contributions to American life. With family, friends and classmates, discuss women from the past you would honor. Then use the newspaper and Internet to research one or two women you would honor. Use what you read to write a letter to the U.S. Mint nominating one or more woman for the American Women Quarters Program.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. 12-Year-Old Hero

When you learn a life-saving technique, you never know when you might have to use it. Some people never do, but a middle school student from Covington, Georgia knew how to quickly spring into action when faced with an emergency. Twelve-year-old Christian Swope had learned the Heimlich emergency maneuver from his aunt, so he knew just what to do when a friend started choking during lunch. Christian jumped up and hugged his friend around his middle to dislodge the food that had gotten stuck in his friend’s throat, The Citizen newspaper reported. “My friend was choking and couldn’t breathe,” said Christian, who is in the sixth grade. “My auntie is a nurse and she taught us how to do CPR and the Heimlich, so I wasn’t scared because I knew what to do.” For his quick thinking and actions, Christian was awarded the highest honor for students in his district, the Coin of Distinction. “You are a hero,” the school superintendent said. The Heimlich maneuver dislodges food by forcing out air from the stomach and lungs. Many young people make news by doing heroic things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a young hero. Use what you read to write a song telling the story of this person’s heroic actions. Use the tune of a song you like, and change the words to tell this person’s story. Perform your song for classmates or family.

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

4. Asteroid Treasure

Asteroids are formations of rock that orbit the sun like “mini-planets” in our solar system. They have long fascinated scientists, because they contain materials that could offer clues to how large planets formed. Now America’s NASA space agency has collected some of those materials for the first time and is bringing them back to Earth. Last week, a NASA spacecraft named OSIRIS-Rex fired its thruster rockets to begin a 180-million-mile trip back to Earth from the asteroid Bennu, which is orbiting near the orbit of the planet Mars in the solar system. It will take more than two years for OSIRIS-Rex to get back to Earth with its cargo of dust, rocks and rubble from the asteroid. Bennu is about 1,600 feet wide, which is about the height of the Empire State Building in New York City. NASA and other space agencies are interested in asteroids because they can offer clues about how planets formed — and even how life developed on Earth. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another space mission seeking to learn more about asteroids or planets. Use what you read to design a poster showing what the mission is doing, or trying to do. Label images on your poster and write a paragraph telling why the mission is important to scientists.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. ‘Time Machine’

Global warming has caused glaciers to melt around the world, revealing everything from ancient animals to human skeletons to settlements from the past. In the mountainous region of Northern Italy, a melting glacier in the Alps mountains has revealed relics from an army camp that dates back more than 100 years to World War I. The relics were found in cave barracks carved out of rock and snow by Austro-Hungarian troops that were fighting Italian soldiers on Mount Scorluzzo, the New York Times newspaper reported. The relics included letters, weapons, booklets, cups, and bones with the inside marrow sucked out for food. Experts said discovery of the artifacts was like “sort of a time machine” shedding light on how soldiers 100 years ago lived, worked and died in harsh conditions. The Italian forces were allies of the United States in World War I. The melting of glaciers has revealed much about the past for scientists, archaeologists and historians. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a melting glacier. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend or relative telling what the melting has revealed, what is most interesting or important, and what impact the melting is having on the environment.

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.