Resources for Teachers and Students

For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 07, 2022

1. ‘Maus’ Pushback

When a school board in the state of Tennessee banned a graphic novel about the Holocaust from middle schools, the move had a lot of impact this month. But not the kind the board may have expected. The unanimous decision to ban the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “Maus” drew protests from all over the nation, calls to reverse the decision and even offers from bookstores in other states to provide the book free of charge to any student in the McGinn County district who wanted to read it. It also pushed “Maus” back onto best-seller lists more than 30 years after it was first published. “Maus” tells the story of the Holocaust in an unusual way, representing the Jews killed in the Holocaust as mice and the Nazis who killed them as cats. In banning “Maus,” the school board did not object to teaching the Holocaust but cited the book’s “unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide.” The work “was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools,” the board said. Supporters of the book sharply disagreed. “It should be required reading for everybody,” one bookstore owner said. “If we don’t show them what the Holocaust was, the next generation may think it wasn’t so bad.” The National Holocaust Museum endorses teaching about the Holocaust in Grades 6 and above. Over the last year there has been a rise in efforts to ban books in schools and libraries across the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial or political column addressing how communities should deal with books that some parents or leaders object to.

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. Living Black History

February is Black History Month, a time when communities across the nation celebrate the history and achievements of African Americans. But Black History is not just something that happened far in the past during the days of slavery. Black History is made every day by things African Americans do in their lives and ways they preserve their heritage. In the city of Washington, DC, a woman from the neighboring state of Maryland is doing that by collecting and preserving Black Lives Matter protest signs. Nadine Seiler is taking care of the signs erected on a fence in Washington’s Lafayette Square during and after protests over the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has preserved the signs in a storage locker and with the help of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore is scanning them to create a digital history of the protests, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Eventually she wants to take the signs on the road for pop-up exhibits that will tell the story of the events following Floyd’s death. “All of it told a story,” she said of the living art gallery that grew on the fence. “It is our voices.” African Americans write new chapters of their history every day with their actions, voices and opinions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an African American who is making history in some way. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor pointing how this Black American is making history and why it is important.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. Super Bowl Geography

Geography is the study of the physical features of the Earth, boundaries, natural resources, the way people develop communities and the institutions that help them succeed. When the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals earned spots in pro football’s Super Bowl next Sunday, they created great opportunities for studying geography, because they come from two very different states in the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about these two teams and the cities where they play their home games. Then use the newspaper, Internet, maps and other resources to answer the following geography questions: A. How many miles apart are Cincinnati and Los Angeles? B. Which team’s city is farthest west in the nation? C. Which is farthest north? D. Which city is located near a river? E. Which is near an ocean? F. Which city has the greater population? G. What business/industry is Los Angeles most famous for? H. What is the biggest company based in Cincinnati? I. What other National Football League teams are located in the states where the Rams and Bengals play? Compare answers as a class and check them against the answer code below. Then make up three geography questions of your own based on the cities the Super Bowl teams play their home games.

Common Core State Standards: 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. ‘Mama, Hot!’

One of the first things parents teach young children is what the word “hot” means. That valuable lesson can keep kids from touching stoves, heaters, candles and other dangerous items. In the town of Alvord, Texas, the lesson did way more than that — it saved a family’s life when the parents were recovering from the coronavirus. Because they had come down with the disease, parents Kayla and Nathan Dahl had lost their sense of smell. And that meant they didn’t smell smoke when their home caught fire in the middle of the night. But one person did: Their two-year-old toddler Brandon. He came into his parents’ bedroom, tugged on his mother’s foot and kept saying “Mama, hot!” the Washington Post newspaper reported. At first Kayla thought he wanted his pajamas taken off, but quickly she realized Brandon’s message was far more important. The Dahls’ home was engulfed in flames and they only had minutes to get themselves and their five children out to safety. “It’s a miracle” no one was hurt, Brandon’s mom said later. “If it wasn’t for my son’s guardian angel that morning, I don’t know where we would be.” Rescue stories often involve people doing unusual or extraordinary things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a rescue. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short video telling the story of the rescue. Write the script for your video highlighting the most dramatic things that were done. What images would you use to illustrate your report?

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. ‘Imping’ for Hawks

For birds of prey and other birds, feathers play a much bigger role than providing color and markings. The way they are shaped and fit together help birds fly. In the state of California, two big red-tailed hawks found that out the hard way when they broke tail feathers in accidents. They were rescued by wildlife experts, but were still unable to fly because of their broken feathers. The rescuers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals got them back in the air by giving them new feathers in a process known as “imping.” Imping replaces key broken feathers on wings and tails and replacing them with feathers from other birds, or birds of the same species. The process is possible because the key feathers on birds are hollow. The broken feather is cut off just inside the break, a small piece of rounded wood is inserted in the hollow space and a new feather is attached by pushing a new hollow feather over the wood and gluing it. Imping requires great precision because each replacement feather must be just the right length and attached at just the right angle. The two California hawks required a lot of imping to repair their feathers: one needed 10 new tail feathers and the other seven. The replacement feathers will fall out when the birds molt (shed) old feathers and grow new ones in the summer and fall. The feathers of birds play a special role in their ability to fly. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another species with a body part that helps it live or survive. Use what you read to draw a series of illustrations showing how this body part works to benefit the species. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

Super Bowl Answers: A. 1,900 miles by air. B: Rams. C. Bengals. D. Cincinnati. E. Los Angeles. F. Los Angeles. G. Hollywood entertainment. H: The Kroger supermarket company. I. Rams (California): San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers. Cincinnati (Ohio): Cleveland Browns.