For Grades 5-8 , week of May 03, 2021

1. Census Changes

The U.S. Census was set up by the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and has been taken every 10 years since 1790. The Census counts the U.S. population and provides wide-ranging information on everything from how many seats each state should have in the U.S. House of Representatives to how the ethnic makeup of the nation is shifting. The first numbers are out from the 2020 Census, and researchers have found again that states in the South and West are gaining most in population while growth in states in the Northeast and Midwest is slow or non-existent. As a result, the states of Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas gained seats in the U.S. House, with Texas gaining two. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia lost seats. Overall, the Census found that the population of the U.S. on April 1 was 331.5 million people, an increase of just 7.4 percent between 2010 and 2020. The state of Utah had the greatest population growth at 18.4 percent over the last 10 years, followed by Idaho (17.3) and Texas (15.9). Eleven other states had a population growth of more than 10 percent. Just three states lost population in the last 10 years, led by West Virginia at 3.2 percent. The U.S. Census offers information on many aspects of American life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about findings of the 2020 Census. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing what you think are the most significant findings.

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.

2. Nice to Meet You (Again)

Sometimes real life events can be stranger than fiction. Consider the experience of two Liberty University students who met on a bus in Lynchburg, Virginia recently. Sophomore Ally Cole and freshman Ruby Wierzbicki didn’t know each other before Cole sat down next to Wierzbicki on the bus taking students across campus. They began making small talk and discovered that they both had been adopted from the Asian nation of China. Then things got really interesting. They discovered they were both from an orphanage in the city of Jinan and when they compared cell phone photos, they realized it was the SAME orphanage! Even more amazing, they had photos from the orphanage in which they were posed together! “One of the photos was one that we both had, with us standing next to each other,” Cole told local TV station WFXR. “I hadn’t known who the girl next to me was, but now I know.” Ally Cole and Ruby Wierzbicki made an unusual discovery when they sat next to each other on a bus at Liberty University. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a discovery made by another person. Write the word DISCOVERY down the side of a sheet of paper. Use each letter to start a word or phrase describing how the person would feel after making the discovery. Read your list aloud, as if it were a poem — with expression!

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

3. New Number One

Air travel dropped dramatically due to the coronavirus epidemic last year, and as a result the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia is no longer the busiest airport in the world. Traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson dropped 61 percent in 2020, opening the way for Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China to take the top spot, according to statistics compiled this year by the Airports Council International. The Guangzhou airport also experienced a drop in traffic — of 40 percent — but attracted 43.8-million passengers in 2020 to edge ahead of Atlanta’s 42.9-million passengers. The Atlanta airport had been the world’s busiest for 22 consecutive years. Seven of the world’s 10 busiest airports in 2020 were in China, which experienced the coronavirus earlier than other nations but also moved toward recovery earlier. Among American airports, Dallas/Fort Worth in Texas ranked fourth in the listing with 39.4-million passengers in 2020 and Denver International in Colorado ranked seventh with 33.7-million passengers in 2020. The drop in air travel had a huge effect on business in the airline industry in 2020. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about efforts by airlines to recover and bounce back. Use what you read to write a business column outlining steps different airlines are taking and which you think are the most important.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. No Pony Swim

For the second year in a row, the annual wild pony swim at Chincoteague Island in the state of Virginia has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The swim, which began more than 90 years ago and inspired the children’s book “Misty of Chincoteague,” raises money for the local fire department. This year, however, fire officials said the risks are too high that the swim could become a “super spreader event” for the virus or its variants. The event draws up to 40,000 people in July each year. To raise money for the fire department foals are rounded up from the herds of wild ponies on the Chincoteague and Assateague islands and sold to horse lovers at an auction. The yearly auction keeps the herds from overpopulating the protected islands where they live. “Misty of Chincoteague” is based on the real-life wild pony swim in Virginia. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read an article about a person or event that you think would make a good story or movie for kids your age. Write a paragraph telling what the story/movie would be about. Then write the opening scene. Share with family or friends.

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

5. Sharing Shots

As the United States pushes to vaccinate its entire population against the coronavirus, the U.S. is facing pressure to share doses it has stockpiled for future use. Of particular interest are vaccine doses made by AstraZeneca that the U.S. has in reserve, even though the AstraZeneca shot has not been approved for distribution by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now U.S. officials say they will share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as soon as they are approved for safety. The U.S. is said to have purchased 300 million doses of AstraZeneca, though it has not received delivery of all the shots. Releasing the AstraZeneca stockpile could have huge impact in the nation of India, which is facing a devastating virus crisis, and in Mexico and Canada in North America, which have a shortage of vaccines. A spokesperson for President Biden said the U.S. has enough vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to meet the nation’s needs and can afford to share stockpiles with others. Nations around the world are facing great challenges getting their populations vaccinated against the coronavirus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these problems and challenges. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining some of these problems and ways the United States or other nations could help solve them.

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.