Yak’s Corner

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 19, 2012

Grades 6-8

1. The Birth of a Party

As Republican candidates stump from state to state trying to get enough votes to win the nomination for president, the party itself is celebrating its 158th anniversary. The Republican Party was founded on March 20, 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin. The Whig party had petered out, and its former members met to form a new party that would strongly oppose the spread of slavery in the nation’s western states. The new party gained followers rapidly in the North, and by 1856 it had supported its first presidential candidate. Democrats in the South threatened secession if the Republicans gained power because of the party’s anti-slavery stand. In 1860, Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election, and six weeks later South Carolina seceded. Another five states followed suit six weeks later. Find newspaper articles about the political platforms of the Republican candidates this year. Discuss them as a class. Which positions do you agree or disagree with?

Core/National Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Spring Is Here

Spring officially starts this week with the Vernal Equinox. As a class, start by discussing what causes the Vernal Equinox. Then find five examples of spring festivals or traditions in today's newspaper that mark the arrival of spring or incorporate the symbolism of spring. Pick one and write a one-paragraph summary of how the festival could be used in an episode of a TV sitcom.

Core/National Standard: Describing and discussing the shared human experiences depicted in literature and other texts from around the world. Examples include birth, death, heroism and love.

3. March Madness

Basketball teams from colleges across the United States are battling for the Division I NCAA national basketball championship during March Madness. One of the teams, the University of Kentucky, has a long history of participating in the NCAA tournament – as both a winner and loser. Forty-six years ago, Kentucky played in a historic NCAA game, when the team faced Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso). The Texas team, which was the first to start five African Americans, beat the all-white Kentucky team for the national title. Texas Western coach Don Haskins had actively recruited African American players, while Kentucky refused to play them. The story of Texas Western and its championship team later was told in the movie “Glory Road.” Find newspaper stories about March Madness. Using a variety of statistics, make a prediction as to who will bring home this year’s Division I men’s trophy.

Core/National Standards: Using modeling with mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations

4. Mascot Madness

Being a team mascot isn’t all fun and games. Just ask the guys and gals inside the furry suits. It is often a hot, uncomfortable and demanding job. It’s so tough, in fact, that there are boot camps to prepare people to be mascots. While Major League Baseball players are doing their drills in spring training this month, the mascots are participating in their own training, learning the nitty-gritty of representing their teams and entertaining fans. The camp is led by Dave Raymond, who played the Phillie Phanatic in Philadelphia for many years. Trainees learn how to dance, deal with children, express themselves with actions (since mascots can’t talk) and keep their costumes smelling good, among other things. They also learn how to stay hydrated in unbelievably hot conditions. In the newspaper or online, find a story or photo of a mascot for a team in your city or state. Think like an art critic and write a review of the mascot as if it were an artwork. Talk about its color and form and the emotions it makes you feel. Then in groups, come up with an idea for a mascot to represent your class and draw an illustration of it.

Core/National Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience; using illustrations and details to describe key ideas.

5. The Not-So-Unsinkable Titanic

Historians and everyday people love the tale of the Titanic. The storied ship has become legendary since it sank after hitting an iceberg in April 1912. Nearly 100 years later, a new chapter has been written in the story of the Titanic. More than 100,000 underwater photographs have been taken of the area where the Titanic went down, and for the first time, the site of the famous wreck has been completely mapped out. The debris field covers an area three miles wide and five miles long, and scientists are hoping the new mapping will provide more clues as to what happened that fateful night. As a class, talk about different ways that people observe the anniversaries of events. Then write an opinion column offering your ideas on how the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic should be marked.

Core/National Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience