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For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 12, 2022

1. Underwater Slave Search

From the United States to Africa, and from Europe to South America, nations are taking a new look at the cruel legacy of slavery. Both governments and private institutions are re-examining their role in the African slave trade, and deciding how to acknowledge their participation in the past. In the West African nation of Senegal, that re-examination is taking an unusual form — it’s happening under water! In a program supported by America’s Smithsonian Institution, African scuba divers are being trained to find, map and explore wrecks of slave ships that sailed from African ports to slave-holding states and regions in North and South America. Thousands, if not millions of slaves, were shipped out from West African ports such as Senegal’s Gorée Island, and more than 1,000 slave ships are thought to have been wrecked, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Documenting those wrecks will give archaeologists a better understanding of the role that African ports played, as well as the actions of slave traders that used them. Governments and institutions are re-examining their roles in the slave trade and deciding how to address past actions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a government or institution that is doing this. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining what you think should be done to acknowledge or make amends for past involvement with the slave trade.

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.

2. Illegal Mining

In the South American nation of Venezuela, the Cerro Yapacana is a flat-topped mountain that is sacred to native peoples in the Amazon Rain Forest. For thousands of years, the 4,415-foot-tall mountain has supported a wide range of wildlife and plant species, while playing a spiritual role in the lives of native people. Now, however, the Yapacana is being threatened by gold miners illegally cutting down trees and vegetation to dig for the precious metal on and around the mountain. The illegal mining is taking place even though the Yapacana is located within the protected area of a national park that is supposed to be off limits to development, the Washington Post reports. Government officials are doing nothing to stop the mining in an area locals call a “House of God” and may even be taking a share of the profits. With a wide range of plants and animals, the Amazon Rain Forest is hugely important to the Earth’s environment. It is also facing ongoing challenges due to human activities like mining, land clearing and development. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an environmental challenge being faced by the Amazon. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing the threat, what has caused it and what can be done.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. One Heavy Crown

Great Britain’s King Charles III waited longer than anyone in history to become head of the European nation’s royal family. Now, at age 73, he is getting ready for his coronation next spring after the 70-year reign of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Preparations are already under way for the May 6 event, including adjustments to the crown Charles III will wear. That crown is St. Edward’s Crown, which was first worn 361 years ago by Britain’s last King Charles, Charles II. This month the crown was quietly removed from its display case at the Tower of London and taken to a crown jeweler for adjustments so that it will comfortably fit Charles III’s head. Even with alterations, it may not be all that comfortable. Made of solid gold, it is 12 inches tall, 26 inches in circumference and set with 444 precious and semiprecious stones. It weighs close to five pounds, which is about the weight of a two-liter bottle of soda, a half-gallon of milk or a gallon of ice cream. Britain’s royal family no longer runs the European nation, but it still plays a significant role in the heritage and customs of the nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the role of Britain’s royal family in the 21st century. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media or PowerPoint presentation on the role of the royal family and how the British people feel about it. Be sure to include differing points of view.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Wedding on Aisle 8

If there’s one thing people learn over a long life, it’s that you never know when good things will happen. For a pair of 70-year-olds in the state of Arizona, love came along in Aisle 8 of a local grocery store. The man and woman each had lost a long-time spouse and just “felt a spark” when the man cracked a joke about wearing masks for the coronavirus. A year later, Brenda and Dennis Delgado got married in the same spot they met — next to the lunch meat section and condiment shelves on Aisle 8. “It was my idea to get married there,” Brenda said. “I’m kind of weird, okay? I’m 72, he’s 78 now. We don’t have that many more years to do something dumb and stupid.” Or maybe not so stupid. “You never know when you’re going to walk down the condiment aisle … and meet someone that you didn’t know you needed in your life,” Dennis said. People often experience good things unexpectedly. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone who has had this happen. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend, telling how the unexpected event changed the person’s life and how they benefited from it. Include unexpected good things that have occurred in your life, if you wish. Share with the class.

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. Money on the Wall

In the holiday season, many people do special things to help others in need. In the city of North Canton, Ohio, a restaurant owner is taking money off the walls to do it. Rudy Diotale is the owner of Eadies Fish House, and for 14 years customers have been pinning dollars to the walls with special messages or drawings. Now Diotale is putting those dollars to work to help victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida. In particular, he wants to help residents of the community of Matlacha on Pine Island off Florida’s west coast. He has visited the island many times over the years and liked it so much he bought a retirement home there with his wife. After Ian hit, he toured the region and was overwhelmed by the “unbelievable” damage. “I think my mouth was hanging open when I saw the destruction,” he told the News 5 TV station in Cleveland. He wanted to do something to help and immediately thought of all the money tacked on his restaurant’s walls. He went back to Ohio and with the help of friends removed about 5,000 dollar bills to donate for hurricane recovery. About 15 percent of the bills are damaged by customers’ markings but he’s donating the rest. He’s even looking for a way to clean and recover the marked bills. “We’re trying to figure out some ways to clean them so we can use them,” he says. People often help others in unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about someone who has done this. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme called “That’s Unusual” about what this person has done. Read or perform your poem or rap for the class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.