For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 18, 2021

1. ‘Biggest Health Crisis’

The world may be battling the coronavirus epidemic, but according to the World Health Organization, climate change is the “single biggest health threat facing humanity.” In a new special report, the WHO is calling for governments and policymakers to “act with urgency” on the climate and health crises. “Protecting health requires action well beyond the health sector, in energy, transport, nature, food systems, finance and more," the WHO director-general wrote in the report. Recommendations in the WHO report include building climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable health systems, and promoting sustainable food production, urban design and transportation systems. Climate change is affecting the wellbeing of people all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways that climate change is affecting people’s lifestyles, jobs, health and communities. Use what you read to write an editorial examining the most significant effects and how people could address 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.

2. NBA Milestone

This week the regular season starts for the National Basketball Association, and it marks a milestone for the league. This season is the 75th in league history, and it will feature a wide variety of special celebrations. Throughout the season, the league will feature 75 Classic Matchups to celebrate the teams, players, coaches and moments that have defined 75 years of NBA basketball. And of course there will be top competition, as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks seek to defend the championship they won last year by defeating the Phoenix Suns in the NBA finals. Three teams competing this year hold the distinction of having played every year in NBA history – the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors (who began as the Philadelphia Warriors). And which teams have won the most championships? The Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are tied with 17 championships each. Fans always look forward to the start of a new sports season. In the newspaper or online, follow stories about outstanding NBA games this week or performances by individual players. Think like a sportswriter and write a column highlighting top performances and predicting what fans can look forward to this season.

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.

3. Northern Lights

The aurora borealis — or Northern Lights — are a light show in the night sky that occurs when charged particles shot out by the sun collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Last week North America got an early taste of the Northern Lights when auroras put on a show along the northern tier of the United States from the West Coast state of Washington, to Nebraska and North Dakota in the Midwest, to the state of Maine in the East. The dancing display of light was triggered by a solar flare that erupted on the sun, combined with an emission of sun particles that that energized the Earth’s magnetic field, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The display was seen farther south than usual and may signal the start of a period of solar activity that could produce more light displays in the weeks ahead. The Northern Lights are a natural event that inspires awe in people with their beauty. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another natural event that inspires people with its beauty or power. It can be a seasonal event or a one-time thing. Use what you read to write a poem celebrating this event and why people are inspired by it. Your poems don’t need to rhyme but they should employ colorful language to express how the event inspires people. Read your poems aloud to friends or family, or make a video to share online.

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

4. ‘Captain Kirk’ in Space

Actor William Shatner is most famous for playing Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” space-travel TV show in the 1960s. Last week, at the age of 90, he traveled into space for real. Shatner was one of four people who blasted off aboard a rocket ship built by the Blue Origin company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to take private citizens into space. The flight aboard the spacecraft named New Shepard took passengers just past the boundary line that scientists say marks the beginning of space. The automated flight lasted just over 10 minutes, but it included four minutes in which the passengers experienced weightlessness. At age 90, Shatner is the oldest person ever to fly on a space mission. And he waxed poetic describing the experience. “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine,” he told Bezos. “I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. … I hope I never recover from this.” With the completion of Shatner’s flight, 21 private citizens have been to space so far this year, and more than a dozen other private astronauts could reach space by the end of 2021. With more and more private space flights, the world is entering a new era of space travel and exploration. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about companies that are leading the way in private space flights. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a documentary film about private space travel. Write an outline for your documentary, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene. 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.

5. Taller Chinese

The Asian nation of China is expanding its influence as a world economic and political power. Yet at a patriotic celebration this month, it celebrated more than the achievements of its factories, military and political leaders. It called special attention to the increased height of its men. CNN News reported that during the weeklong celebration of the 72nd anniversary of Communist Party rule, a spotlight was cast on a study by the Lancet medical journal that found Chinese men had experienced the greatest height increase in the world between the years 1985 and 2019. The average height of 19-year-old men in China increased by nearly 3.5 inches in that time period in what officials saw as a reflection of better nutrition and efforts to reduce poverty. Chinese women also grew taller in that period, though they didn’t top the Lancet list for female growth worldwide. The Lancet study circulated widely online during the celebration, with the topic going viral on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site. China is growing in influence as a world power. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Chinese achievements and advances. Use what you read to write a political column examining how the United States and other nations should respond to China’s growing influence.

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.