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For Grades K-4 , week of Feb. 10, 2020

1. Women’s Space Record

Since Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel in space in 1983, female astronauts have achieved great things for America’s NASA space program. Now Christina Koch has recorded what may be the greatest achievement yet. Last week Koch returned to Earth after spending a record 328 days aboard the International Space Station orbiting 200 miles above the Earth. Her mission is the longest single spaceflight ever recorded by a woman. During her time aboard the Space Station, Koch participated in six spacewalks, and paired up with Jessica Meir to perform the first ever all-female spacewalk. Koch’s time in space broke a record set in 2017 by U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, who spent 288 days in space on a single mission. Koch, a 41-year-old scientist from North Carolina, joined the astronaut corps in 2013. Every year, women are achieving new things in space or other careers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a woman earning attention for her achievements or success. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how this woman’s achievements could be a role model and inspiration for girls considering future careers.

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.

2. A Mummy Speaks!

For scientists who study ancient life, mummies have provided a great deal of information about how people looked and lived thousands of years ago. Now a mummy from the northern African nation of Egypt has revealed what mummies may have sounded like. Mummies were created by drying and wrapping the bodies of people after they died. The process preserved the bodies incredibly well, and that has led to the breakthrough in what mummies sounded like. Working with a 3,000-year-old mummy of a priest, scientists created a model of the mummy’s well-preserved “vocal tract,” the Washington Post newspaper reported. When they forced an electrical signal through the model, they were able to re-create a sound the priest might have made. Scientists said the sound was a vowel sound halfway between the “e” in “bed” and the “a” in “bad.” To create other sounds, the shape of the vocal tract would have to be changed, they said. Scientists used new technology to re-create the sound an ancient mummy might have made. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about a new technology being used to do new things. Write a paragraph explaining how this new technology is an improvement over the ways things were done in the past.

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.

3. Threat to a Glacier

Global warming and climate change are affecting environments all over the world. Nowhere is that seen more than in the ice-covered regions of the Earth’s North and South Poles, where the melting of glaciers and sea ice has speeded up rapidly in recent years. A new study of a glacier in Antarctica near the South Pole has revealed a new melting risk that is causing concern among scientists. Examination of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica has revealed that warm water has collected beneath it and is melting it from below. “There is very warm water there, and clearly, it could not have been there forever,” one scientist noted. “That is really, really bad.” The Thwaites Glacier is huge — bigger than the state of Pennsylvania — and could cause huge problems if its ice broke off and fell into the sea. The ice and melting could eventually raise the sea level by 10 feet, scientists said. Global warming and climate change are having big effects all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an area being affected this way. Use what you read to design a poster showing how warming is affecting the natural habitat, wildlife and people in this area.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

4. Vote and Be Heard

In the state of Maine, students at an elementary school in the city of Brunswick got a lesson in democracy this winter. But first they got a lesson of how democracy SHOULDN’T work. At issue was a mascot for the new school that students will be moving into next year. The students held a school vote to decide if the mascot should be a chickadee, a dragonfly or a bumblebee. The students voted overwhelmingly for the chickadee, which is Maine’s state bird. The School Board had other ideas, overruling the student vote and choosing the dragonfly instead. Board members said they wanted to keep mascots consistent from school to school, but parents weren’t happy. “Why let the kids vote, if you’re going to make your own decision?” they asked. Pressured by parents, the School Board took a second vote. This time they backed the chickadee. “It’s important to teach the children that their vote matters and their voice matters,” one parent said, happy about the change. In America, people vote to make decisions about many things. As a class, discuss some of things Americans vote on. Find different examples of voting in the newspaper or online. Make a master list of them. Then vote on which you think is the most important use of voting. Discuss results.

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

5. Singing in the Snow

People who plow the roads in the winter have to put up with a lot from drivers. Some try to pass, some tailgate, some text while navigating snowy and icy conditions. So how do you tell people to slow down and be safe? A plow driver in the state of Montana turned to music. Justin Horak recorded a song called “County Plow Guy” and uploaded it to the YouTube site on the Internet. Based on a popular old-school song called “Wichita Lineman,” Horak’s version details what plow drivers put up with and urges people to not take chances in snowy weather. The song quickly got more than 13,000 views on the Internet and was being played on radio stations across the state. “I just have been so amazed with the response,” Horak said. “… I think people like to just see a normal guy go out there and do something different.” Justin Horak wrote a song to get people to pay attention to safety when snowplows are working. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another safety issue that is important to the community. Take the tune of a song you like and re-write the words to tell why this safety issue is important. Then share or perform it for the class. Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.