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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 13, 2020

1. Monarchs at Risk

The migration of monarch butterflies is one of the great wonders of the nature world. The famous black-and-orange insects migrate from northern North America to the American South to the forests of Mexico, where they stay in winter months. Scientists and visitors flock to Mexico to see the monarchs’ winter gathering, which turns forests orange from millions of butterfly wings. At every stage of their migration, monarchs face dangers and risks. And climate change is making their journey even more perilous. Warmer temperatures and pesticides are killing off the milkweed plants the monarchs feed on and severe weather — both hot and cold — can wipe out thousands of monarchs at a time. “At every stage in their migration, they are threatened by climate change,” said Eduardo Rendón, the monarch butterfly coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico. In 2019, wildlife officials for the United Nations listed monarch butterflies among 1 million species of plants and animals that could face extinction “within decades” from climate change. Global warming and climate change are affecting wildlife species all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species being affected in this way. Use what you read to design a poster showing how this species is being affected and what could be done to help it. Share posters as a class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

2. That’s Deep

The surface of the Earth has many highs and lows — from great mountains like Mount Everest to deep valleys like the Grand Canyon. When it comes to valleys, however, none can compare to a newly discovered area on the continent of Antarctica. Scientists say this natural “trough” under the Denman Glacier in East Antarctica is the deepest point on land on the Earth’s surface. While surrounded by land, the trough extends two miles below sea level, scientists report in a new study. It was discovered using radar equipment, new mapping technologies and measurements from satellites orbiting above the Earth. All told, the trough covers an area more than 60 miles long and 12 miles wide. Scientists who study the Earth are always making new discoveries about its formations or history. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a recent scientific discovery about the Earth. Write a paragraph explaining what has been discovered, how the discovery was made and why it is important.

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. Art for Good

Art can bring beauty or emotion into the world. It also can do a great deal of good. An artist in the state of Washington has found that out through an unusual program she started to support charities. Through her Facebook page, Lynn Colwell gives her paintings away to anyone who will donate at least $25 to a charity. In the last five years, Colwell has raised more than $57,000 for charities, and given away more than 1,000 paintings, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Her approach is simple: Each day she posts a painting to her Facebook page and awards it to the first person who explains in the comments why they want it. There is only one condition: each person has to agree to contribute $25 to a charity or an individual in need. All kinds of charities have benefited — animal causes, homeless shelters, food pantries, immigrant services. And that has given her special satisfaction. When she worked in the corporate world, she said she was often frustrated that “I’m not changing the world.” She is now — through her paintings. Charity organizations help communities in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about charities and the help they provide. Pick one and write a short editorial telling why people should support it.

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. Ebola Vaccine

The Ebola virus is one of the most feared and deadly health risks in the world. It can damage the body’s organs, cause uncontrollable bleeding and lead to a painful death. An outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa has killed more than 2,000 people in the last year and more than 11,000 died in West Africa in 2014. Now there has been a breakthrough in the battle against Ebola. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for the first time a vaccine designed to prevent infection from the virus. The vaccine developed by the Merck pharmaceutical company can protect people 18 and older from Ebola, the FDA said in an announcement. “While the risk of Ebola virus disease in the U.S. remains low, the U.S. government remains deeply committed to fighting devastating Ebola outbreaks in Africa, including the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” an FDA deputy commissioner said. U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar called the new vaccine “a triumph of American global health leadership.” Finding a vaccine for the Ebola virus is a major breakthrough in medicine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another breakthrough in medicine. Use what you read to write a letter to a relative, telling why this breakthrough is important and whom it will affect most.

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.

5. Tumbleweed Trap

Tumbleweeds are plants that break off from their roots when they grow large and roll around in the wind. They are common in flat, dry areas throughout the American West, and sometimes they can be a problem. In the state of Washington, they caused a massive traffic jam that closed a state highway for 10 hours on New Year’s Eve. The tumbleweeds piled up and trapped cars in a tangled mess that reached 20 to 30 feet high in some areas, UPI News reported. Highway crews had to use snowplows to break through the piles and free the vehicles that had been brought to a standstill in the southeastern section of the state. “In a million years, [this] was not something I expected to start the year,” one official said. Natural events can cause problems for people in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a natural event doing this. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips showing how the event affected people and how they responded.

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