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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 10, 2020

1. Drug Tunnel Unearthed

For nearly 50 years, the United States has waged a “War on Drugs” to reduce the sale of illegal drugs in the nation and block the smuggling of drugs from other countries. The effort has faced huge challenges from drug dealers and smugglers, who constantly come up with new ways to avoid law enforcement. Now, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has announced a major victory in the drug war — the discovery and shutdown of the “longest ever” drug smuggling tunnel at the U.S. border with Mexico. The tunnel was hidden 70 feet underground and stretched the length of almost 12 football fields, the Washington Post newspaper reported. It ran from the city of Tijuana, Mexico to the city of San Diego in the United States and was equipped with a railroad, plumbing and a sophisticated ventilation system. At a length of 4,309 feet, it was one-and-a-half times longer than the longest drug tunnel built before. Law enforcement agencies are constantly working to break up drug smuggling operations or confiscate illegal drugs. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one successful operation by law enforcement. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing how this operation has benefited the community and the challenges that still remain battling illegal drugs.

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.

2. Invasion of Locusts

In the religious world, one of the worst natural disasters described in the Bible was a plague of locusts that descended on the northern African nation of Egypt. “They covered the surface of the soil till the ground was black with them,” the Book of Exodus declared. “They devoured all the greenstuff in the land.” Biblical history is repeating itself in East Africa this year. The region around the eastern Horn of Africa has been hit by the worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years, according to United Nations agriculture officials. The invasion is threatening food supplies across a region where more than 19 million people are already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity. Officials are trying to control the invasion with insecticides, but new swarms enter the region daily. Locusts are a kind of grasshopper, and the desert locust is the most destructive of all food-eating locust species. Heavy rains between October and December are believed to have sparked the outburst of locust swarms, officials told CNN News. Farms and agriculture operations are often threatened by invasions of insects or other destructive pests. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about this kind of invasion somewhere in the world. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor explaining the damage that has been caused, what is being done to deal with it and what other steps could be taken by government agencies or private organizations.

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. Battling Coronavirus

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly all over the world, and health officials are scrambling to control the disease that got its start in the Asian nation of China. In an effort to control the disease in the United States, aviation officials will route all flights from China through just seven U.S. airports equipped to give passengers enhanced health screenings. The U.S. also said Americans returning from China’s Hubei province and the city of Wuhan will be subject to mandatory quarantining, and those who visited other areas will be required to self-quarantine. Foreign citizens who have been in China within the last two weeks will be blocked from entering the United States.The seven airports chosen to accept China flights are Los Angeles International in California, San Francisco International in California, John F. Kennedy International in New York City, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International in Georgia, Honolulu International in Hawaii, Chicago’s O’Hare International in Illinois and Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington State. The spread of the coronavirus is having wide impact on the world, and not just in terms of health and medicine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the wider impact of the virus on travel, business and other activities. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation for the class, detailing the different effects the coronavirus is having on people, businesses and nations around the world.

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; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. How Witchy!

Superstitions about evil spirits have been around for a long time, and may even have played a role at a campsite for soldiers during America’s Civil War. An excavation near Williamsburg, Virginia has turned up an artifact that archaeologists think could be an example of a “witch bottle” used to ward off evil. The artifact was a glass bottle filled with nails, which scientists say could fit the profile of “witch bottles” found in the European nation of England and other parts of the United States. “Witch bottles” were often filled with bent pins, hair, urine, nail clippings and other items to ward off witches or evil spirits, CNN News reports. Superstitious people believed the contents could draw in and trap an evil spirit. In Virginia, the bottle was found next to the remains of a fireplace hearth built by Union troops between 1862 and 1865. Witch bottles often were placed near hearths and chimneys, archaeologists said, in the belief that the heat of the fire would heat the nails and trap bad spirits. “Witch bottles” are an example of superstitious beliefs that affect how people behave. Such superstitious beliefs still exist in many parts of the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a superstitious belief in another part of the world. Use what you read to write an opinion column telling why people hold this belief, how they practice it, what benefits they think it gives and what risks it could pose to those who follow it.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. A Man of Integrity

Character, a congressman once said, is doing the right thing when no one is looking. A man from the state of Michigan demonstrated that early this year and now is getting wide praise for his character and integrity. It began when Howard Kirby of the city of Owosso, bought a couch for his “man cave” at a second-hand furniture store for $35. When he got it home, he found it was a little lumpy and uncomfortable. His daughter discovered why. When she opened up one of the cushions, Kirby found there was $43,170 inside! Kirby could have used the money — his house needs a new roof — but he didn’t feel right keeping it. He contacted the store and tracked down the woman who had brought the couch in. Kim Fauth-Newberry said the couch had belonged to her grandfather, who died last year. She was stunned to find what it contained. “It’s completely awesome,” she said, when Kirby returned the money. People often do things that show good character or integrity. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person doing something like this. Write the word “INTEGRITY” down the side of a sheet of paper. Use each letter of the word to begin a sentence or phrase describing how having integrity benefits the person who has it, or others. Discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.