For Grades K-4 , week of June 11, 2018

1. No Homework?

Many students get stressed by homework, but in a New York school district two of them decided to do something about it. They petitioned school leaders to eliminate homework for elementary students — and the district is considering their proposal! Fifth-graders Christopher DeLeon and Niko Keelie said they made their request because they and other classmates felt homework created extra pressure on them at Farley Elementary School in Stony Point outside New York City. The school district listened and is considering their ideas as it rethinks its homework policy. Across the nation, schools have eliminated or significantly reduced the amount of homework assigned to elementary students, following studies that show it may not be the most effective way for them to learn. Students of all ages can bring about changes if they get involved. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about students taking action to bring about change. Then talk as a class about changes you would like to see occur in your school, community or the world. Pick one idea from those discussed and write a letter to students in your school explaining a way they could take action to make a change in the community or world.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Huge Plastic Problem

Plastic pollution is a problem all over the world — and it is growing. “Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” said United Nations Secretary General António Guterres last week on World Environment Day. “Microplastics in our seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy.” The international United Nations organization is so concerned about the plastic problem that it made “Beat Plastic Pollution” the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. And it released some amazing statistics to show how big the problem is. According to the U.N., one million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute; 500 million disposable plastic bags are used worldwide each year; it takes 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment and it never breaks down completely, turning into tiny microplastic pieces. To help correct the problem, the United Nations urges people to stop using plastic items that get used just once and to choose reusable plastics or non-plastics instead. The United Nations reports that half of all plastic products used by people are used just one time. In the newspaper or online, study ads and stories and make a list of products that are made of plastic or come in plastic containers. Mark how many get used just one time. Then write an idea for a reusable item that could be used instead. Discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Actor in Action

In “Avengers: Infinity War,” British actor Benedict Cumberbatch learned a thing or two about superheroes. And after taking action to stop a mugging in the City of London, Cumberbatch has become a superhero to a local bicyclist. While riding to a nightclub with his wife Sophie Hunter in an Uber taxi, Cumberbatch saw a cyclist working for the Deliveroo company being attacked by four muggers. They were beating the man and trying to steal his bicycle. According to witnesses, Cumberbatch leaped out of the Uber, confronted the muggers and pulled them off the bicyclist. “The cyclist was lucky,” said Uber driver Manuel Dias. “Benedict’s a superhero. … If he hadn’t stepped in, the cyclist could have been seriously injured.” People often do unexpected things to help others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing a sudden or unexpected thing to help. Use what you read to write a short editorial thanking the person for his/her action and giving your opinion on how it could be a positive example for others.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Bald Black Bears

In most natural environments black bears are “alpha” or “apex” predators that hold a place at the top of the food chain. But in the state of Pennsylvania, black bears are under attack. Their enemy is not another animal, however, but a disease that makes their hair fall out. The disease is a skin problem called mange, which can weaken and even kill black bears. Wildlife observers say Pennsylvania has become a center for black bear mange cases this spring, with a growing number of reports of bears that appear bald on their heads and other body parts. They often are underweight and weak, as well, experts said. Mange is caused by a microscopic parasite that burrows into an animal’s skin. Healthy animals usually can recover from mange on their own but weaker ones can die. Outbreaks of diseases can threaten whole populations of wild animals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a disease threatening a wildlife species in large numbers. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining how the disease spreads, what effects it has on the species, and how a “die off” within the species could affect other species and the balance of nature in the area.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. A Giant Pearl

The world’s largest freshwater pearl has such an unusual shape and size that people named it for the King of Beasts. Now the pearl known as “The Sleeping Lion” has changed hands for the first time in 240 years. The pearl was sold for a whopping $374,000 earlier this month at an auction sale in the European nation of the Netherlands. The sale adds a chapter to a history that includes royalty and some of the wealthiest people in Europe. Experts believe the pearl was formed naturally between the years 1700 and 1760 in the Asian nation of China. Eventually it grew to a size more than 2.7 inches long and took on the shape of a lion lying down. It was sold in Europe in 1778 and eventually became the property of the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great. The new owner is a Japanese gem trader. Pearls form in mollusks like clams, oysters or mussels when sand or parasites infect the flesh and are coated with a special material called “nacre.” The “Sleeping Lion” pearl has a long and interesting history. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an item owned by a museum or person that also has a long and interesting history. Pretend the item could talk and write a creative story telling what the item might say about its life and history.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.