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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 24, 2020

1. Online Schooling

The outbreak of the coronavirus has disrupted life all across the Asian nation of China. Millions of people are quarantined or restricted from leaving their homes, public gatherings are banned, and schools are closed indefinitely. But that doesn’t mean learning has stopped for the 200-million kids in China’s schools. The government has launched a massive online learning program so that students can do schoolwork at home. The Ministry of Education has introduced a “national Internet cloud classroom” designed to cater to 50-million elementary and middle school students at the same time, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Lessons cover 12 academic subjects, including Chinese and English lessons, math and science, “moral education” and “epidemic education.” “The ongoing war against the virus is a great class for students and real-life training for adults as well,” China’s state media declared. Online learning is being tried all over the world as an alternative to classroom learning in schools. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about online learning programs for elementary, middle or high school students. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper discussing the benefits and shortcomings of online learning.

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.

2. $10-Billion for Climate

With a net worth of about $130-billion, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. Now the founder of the Amazon online empire has decided to commit $10-billion of his money to fight climate change. Bezos has announced he is forming an organization called the Bezos Earth Fund to provide grants to scientists, activists and organizations around the world that are seeking climate change solutions. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in his announcement of the program. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.” Amazon has drawn criticism for its impact on the environment and climate change in delivering more than one-billion packages a year. Critics have noted it consumes a huge amount of energy and fossil fuels, creates great volumes of greenhouse gases and uses huge amounts of natural resources to make its cardboard boxes. Businesses contribute to global warming in a variety of ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about businesses whose activities have an impact on global warming and climate change. Pick one and write a business column detailing how the business affects climate change and how it could reduce its impact.

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.

3. ‘Ghost Ship’

An unoccupied “ghost ship” that had drifted thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean washed up on shore in the European nation of Ireland this month during a furious storm. The ship had no crew on board when it went aground at the bottom of cliffs near a fishing village on Ireland’s southern coast, officials said. The 2,400-ton vessel named the MV Alta had been abandoned at sea 17 months ago due to engine trouble and had drifted with ocean currents from the Americas to Africa to Europe. It was sailing under the flag of the African nation of Tanzania, but it was unclear who actually owns the ship. The grounding of the “ghost ship” in Ireland was an unusual story that got a lot of attention around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another unusual story making news. Use the article as the jumping off point for a creative story of your own. Write an outline for your story. Then write the opening scene. Give your story a title that would make people want to read it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Banking on Harriet

OneUnited Bank is the largest black-owned bank in the United States, and for Black History Month it wanted to honor Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman. But when it put her image on a new credit card, it caused nothing but controversy and confusion. First, critics said her crossed arms and balled fists looked like the “Wakanda Forever” salute from the “Black Panther” movie. Then they asked whether it was appropriate to picture the Black History hero with a gold chip above her right shoulder and the Visa logo on her left. And finally they questioned the wisdom of using her image on a commercial credit card in the first place. “Who thought this was a good idea?” one Internet critic asked. In its defense the bank noted that the crossed arms image was not the Wakenda salute but the sign for “love” in American Sign Language. “Harriet Tubman is the ultimate symbol of love — love that causes you to sacrifice everything,” the bank said on Twitter. “… It’s so important that we love ourselves.” Businesses try many promotions to attract customers and gain attention. Some are successful and some draw criticism. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about promotions different businesses have tried. Write a personal opinion column analyzing one promotion you think was successful and one you think was not. Use evidence from your reading to support your views.

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

5. Snake Venom

Bites from poisonous snakes can be deadly unless victims are treated with “anti-venom” that neutralizes the poisonous venom snakes produce. Antivenom is made from the venom itself in a complicated process that is both slow and expensive. Now scientists using stem cell technology have produced snake venom in laboratories that could be used to produce antivenoms faster and more efficiently. Researchers from the European nation of the Netherlands have created venom-producing glands from nine poisonous snake species in the lab, CNN News reports. The venom produced by these glands is identical to venom produced in the wild, making it possible to make limitless amounts of antivenom. That could save thousands of lives a year, because snake bites kill 200 people a day around the world, researchers said. Science and medical breakthroughs are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one breakthrough. Use what you read to design a poster showing how this breakthrough was achieved, why it is important and whom it will affect most. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your poster and write copy blocks to explain key points. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.