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For Grades 5-8 , week of June 21, 2021

1. Vaccine Support

As America recovers from the coronavirus epidemic, one of the biggest goals for communities is to reopen schools for face-to-face learning. A big concern, however, is how to do that safely. A new poll from the respected Gallup organization has found that a majority of U.S. adults want schools to require Covid-19 vaccinations for students to attend school in person. In the survey, 51 percent of adults favor vaccinations for middle school students, 56 percent for high school students and 61 percent for college students. Many states and school districts have long required student vaccinations for diseases such as polio, hepatitis, chicken pox and measles. In that sense, requiring a COVID-19 vaccine would be no different, Gallup said. However, unlike those vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines do not yet have full approval for all age groups. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents as young as age 12. Moderna is currently seeking FDA approval for use of its vaccine on this age group. Families and individuals do not all agree on whether students need to be vaccinated to go back to in-school learning. Some say vaccines are unnecessary while others feel that children are at a low risk for getting the virus. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about discussions on whether to require COVID-19 vaccinations for in-school learning. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your view on whether vaccination shots should be required for middle, high school and college students.

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.

2. Swallowed by a Whale

In the Bible there is a famous story about a man named Jonah who was swallowed by a whale. In the state of Massachusetts this month, a lobster fisherman got to play a real life Jonah and lived to tell about it. Michael Packard was diving for lobsters off the coast of Cape Cod on June 11 when suddenly “I felt this truck hit me and everything just went dark,” he said in an interview with a local TV station. It was a humpback whale, and it had taken Packard into its mouth while it was fishing for schools of small fish. It quickly realized Packard was much too big for a piece of prey. It shook its head violently and headed for the surface. At or near the surface, it spit Packard out, according to his fishing partner Josiah May, who witnessed the event. “I was inside it. I was inside its mouth,” the 56-year-old Packard told Mayo. “It tried to eat me.” Whales, which are described by scientists as “gentle giants,” rarely attack people — and if they do it is by accident. That is what whale experts think happened to Packard, who fortunately had bruises but no broken bones from his encounter. Michael Packard had a “close call” when he was taken into the mouth of a whale. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another person who had a close call with injury or even death. Use what you read to write a personal human-interest column detailing how you think the person felt during and after the close call, and how you would have felt if it had happened to you. Discuss any ways people could avoid such close calls in the future.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Photo Tribute

College graduations often are a time when students thank the people who helped them succeed and earn their degrees. In the state of California, a graduate of the University of California at San Diego is drawing attention for honoring her parents in a highly unusual way. Jennifer Rocha took her graduation pictures in the farm fields where she worked with her parents from the time she was in high school. Rocha included her parents in the photographs to thank them for teaching her the importance of getting an education. She said her parents told her and her siblings to work hard in school so they wouldn't have to work in the fields as they had to. This month Rocha graduated with a degree in sociology with an emphasis on law and society. She eventually plans to go into law enforcement. To see Jennifer Rocha’s special graduation pictures, click here. She says she hopes they inspire other immigrant students and families to work hard to pursue their dreams. Photos often tell more about people and situations than words alone. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo that interests you. Write out three things the photo tells you about the person or situation shown in the picture that words alone could not. Share ideas and photos with friends and classmates and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. Music to Their Ears

The emergence of red-eyed cicada insects after a 17-year sleep has brought excitement — and a lot noise — to 15 states across the nation. But rather than be annoyed by the noise, a group of musicians in the state of New Jersey are playing their instruments along with them! The “cicada jam sessions” were organized by clarinetist David Rothenberg, a professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Reuters News reports. Rothenberg sees it as a unique opportunity for collaboration between people and nature. “We’re combining human musical ideas with nature’s musical ideas,” he explained recently at a gathering of musicians at a nature reserve. While some people may consider that “a gimmick,” he says, it’s something that has been going on for generations among artists. “Nature has inspired humanity and all artforms … for centuries,” he says. Nature inspires artists in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo of a natural setting or habitat that you find inspiring. Think like an artist and write a paragraph telling what kind of artwork you would create based on the scene. Would it be music, a painting, a movie or something else? Be sure to explain why you would choose that art form.

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.

5. High-Priced Parking!

People who live and work in cities often complain that it’s difficult to find a place to park. Some are willing to pay enormous sums of money to ensure they have a place to park that is all their own. In the Asian city of Hong Kong recently, a person wanted a parking place in the Mount Nicholson residential complex so much they paid a record $1.3-million for it. That comes out to about $9,500 per square foot for the 134.5 square foot space, UPI News reported. The buyer was not identified, but the price easily topped the previous world record for a parking spot —$969,000 for a space at the 79-story Hong Kong office tower called The Center. The very wealthy sometimes pay huge amounts for items that are rare, unusual or in great demand. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wealthy person doing this. Then pretend you have great wealth. Write a paragraph about a rare or unusual item you would pay a great deal for — and why.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.