1. Backwards River
Hurricane Ida was a strong and powerful storm when it hit land in the state of Louisiana late last month. With winds of 150 miles per hour, it pushed ashore a huge “storm surge” of ocean water from the Gulf of Mexico that damaged homes, businesses and whole communities. How powerful were those winds and waves? So powerful that they caused the water in the Mississippi River to flow BACKWARD! At the height of the storm, the river level rose about seven feet due to the storm surge pushing upriver from the Gulf waters. “During that time, the flow of the river slowed from about 2 feet per second down to about half a foot per second in the other direction,” water expert Scott Perrien told CNN News. Ida dumped up to 10 inches of rain across Louisiana, causing widespread flooding. Louisiana and other states continue to recover from Hurricane Ida and the flooding it caused later as a tropical storm. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about one community’s recovery efforts. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what the community needs most and how other people or communities could help provide it. Use the Internet to look up ways people can help or contribute money for recovery efforts.
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; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
2. Real-Life SpongeBob
Wildlife and sea life come in some amazing shapes and sizes. In the Atlantic Ocean off America’s East Coast, for example, scientists have discovered an unusual sponge and starfish living a mile beneath the surface. Why are they unusual? They look just like SpongeBob Square Pants and his starfish friend Patrick! The discovery of the real-life characters from the world of cartoons was made by scientists aboard America’s Okeanos Explorer ship. “They’re just a dead ringer for the cartoon characters,” one scientist told National Public Radio. Scientists often discover new things about wildlife or sea life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a new discovery. Write a paragraph describing the discovery, how it was made and what is unusual or important about it. Draw a picture to go with your paragraph, if you like.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
3. One Hairy Record
The Guinness World Records organization keeps track of records in all sorts of categories. Some are serious, some are silly and some are for things that help other people. In the state of Virginia, a 30-year-old woman set a record this summer in a new category for helping people — by cutting her hair. Zahab Kamal Khan cut her hair for the first time in 17 years and donated 6 feet, 3 inches of hair to a charity for children, UPI News reported. Khan, who hadn’t had a haircut since she was 13, donated her hair to a charity that makes wigs for children who have lost hair due to cancer treatments or other causes. Her record is in the category for “most hair donated to a charity by an individual.” People often do unusual things to help children or others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely a story about someone doing this. Pretend you are a photographer for the newspaper or an Internet site. Plan a “photo page” to tell the story of the person without using words. List five photos you would take and describe how each would contribute to the story.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Flying Cars
In science fiction stories about the future, writers often wonder what it would be like to have flying cars. Well, those airborne autos may be closer to reality than you think. Several car companies are experimenting with flying cars, and in the European nation of Slovakia this summer a flying car made a 35-minute test flight between two cities. The Klein Vision company’s AirCar flew between the cities of Nitra and Slovakia’s capital city of Bratislava, officials said. It is powered by a BMW engine and can transform from an aircraft to an automobile for road travel in less than three minutes, CNN News reported. Other companies working on flying cars include many familiar names in the auto industry: Hyundai, Volkswagen, Porsche and Toyota. Businesses are constantly working to invent new products or cars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a product that has recently been invented. Use what you read to design a newspaper or Internet ad for this product. Give your ad a headline that will get people’s attention and write a paragraph telling what makes it special. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your ad.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
5. Cows Moooooove
In the European nation of Switzerland, farmers often let their cows graze high in the mountains during the summer months. But sometimes the cows go so high up for the lush green grass that they have trouble getting back down. That happened in the Klausenpass region in the middle of the country this summer, and farmers got creative to get the cows off the mountain. They enlisted a helicopter to “airlift” about a dozen cows that had been stranded or injured, using a mesh harness and strong wire cables, Sky News reported. The cows’ journey was short and uneventful, and they were met by their owners at the bottom. “It was … a short calm flight,” said farmer Jonas Arnold. “I didn’t ask a cow how it feels after such a flight as it couldn't answer.” Some of the airlifted cows will move on to the village of Urnerboden, which hosts a parade at the end of each summer in which cows march through the streets of town wearing wreaths of greenery and flowers. People are often doing unusual things to help animals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people doing this. Use what you read to write a thank you letter from the point of view of the animal to the person or people who helped it.
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.