For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Oct. 12, 2020

1. The Last Weeks

It’s just over three weeks until Election Day on November 3, and the race for president is heating up. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are attacking each other’s positions on issues ranging from the coronavirus epidemic, to law enforcement, to appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court — and other issues may bubble to the surface before the votes are counted. The last weeks of a presidential campaign always focus on issues the candidates think will energize their supporters or put their opponent in a bad light. Trump, the Republican incumbent, is defending his record, while Biden, the Democratic challenger, is calling Trump’s record into question and outlining what he would do differently. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about what issues Trump and Biden are stressing in the presidential race this week. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing which issues the two candidates are stressing — and why. Discuss with family, friends and classmates.

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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Big Bucks for Rex

Tyrannosaurus rex has long been one of the most popular species among dinosaur fans. It’s also become the most expensive. A nearly complete specimen nicknamed Stan has just been sold at an auction for nearly $32-million, setting a new record for the sale of a dinosaur fossil. The price paid at the auction sale was nearly four times the record paid for a T.rex skeleton named Sue, which sold for $8.4-million in 1997. Stan is one of the most complete T.rex fossils ever found, with 188 bones, 11-inch teeth and a head that is in perfect condition. It stands 13 feet high and is 40 feet long and lived about 67-million years ago in the state of South Dakota, according to dinosaur experts. It gets its name from the amateur dinosaur hunter who found it in 1987, Stan Sacrison. Stan the dinosaur is one of only about 50 T.rex fossils ever discovered. Millions of years after dinosaurs lived on Earth, they continue to make news. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a dinosaur discovery or an event involving dinosaurs. Use what you read to design a poster showing people the most important things they need to know about this discovery or event. Be sure to give your poster a headline that will catch people’s attention. Use original drawings or photos from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your poster.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

3. Young and Old

Breanna Stewart is 26 and a star in the Women’s National Basketball Association. Sue Bird is 39 and has been a star in the WNBA for 18 years. Together they teamed up this month to capture their second WNBA title in three years for their Seattle Storm team. Their young-and-old combination easily dispatched the Las Vegas Aces in the championship game, 92-59. The Storm’s 33-point win was the greatest margin of victory in WNBA Finals history. Stewart scored 26 points in the championship game and was named Finals MVP for the second time as the Storm swept the Aces 3 games to none. Bird earned her fourth WNBA title, all with the Storm. Both Bird and Stewart were stars at the University of Connecticut and Number 1 picks in the WNBA draft. Breanna Stewart has said she has learned a lot by playing with Sue Bird, whom she sees as a mentor and role model. Young people often benefit in jobs and life from having mentors. In the newspaper or online, find an example of a young person benefiting from a mentor. Use what you read to write an essay or personal column detailing what the younger person gained from the relationship and what the older person gained by being a mentor. If you have benefited from a mentor, include that in your column.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

4. Desks for Students

Students across the country are returning to school, but due to the coronavirus many are only attending in person part of the time. The rest of the time they are taking classes remotely on computers at home. This “distance learning” has caused problems for students who don’t have desks or study space in their bedrooms or other rooms of the house. A self-taught woodworker from the state of California is trying to remedy that. Since the end of April Chai Hansanuwat has been building simple desks for students who need them — for free. Hansanuwat got started on his project when he noticed several of his son’s fifth grade classmates didn’t have desks and were working on sofas or the floor, the Washington Post newspaper reported. He posted on social media that he would build desks for free for students who didn’t have them, and when a local TV station picked up the story his project took off. Soon he had to sign up 10 other builders to keep up with demand, and his crew has now made hundreds of desks. He’s even started an online GoFundMe account to raise money for materials, and he’s raised nearly $10,000 so far. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. “We’re talking about 12 hours a day, sometimes more,” he says. “… I’m tired, I’m worn out, but I’m so happy.” Distance learning and home schooling present many challenges for students and families. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of those challenges. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining the biggest challenges and how schools and communities can address them.

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.

5. ‘Hero rat’

Land mines are deadly explosive devices buried during wars to destroy enemies and their equipment when they come in contact with them. If they don’t go off, they remain dangerous for years after the fighting ends. In the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia, land mines are still a problem, decades after the last conflict in the nation. Now efforts to detect them have been given a boost — by a rat. Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has helped clear more than 35 acres of land mines and has earned a gold medal for his efforts, CNN News reports. Magawa has been trained to detect the smell of explosives and is credited with discovering 39 land mines and 28 other explosive items over the last seven years. “Magawa is a hero rat,” said the head of the animal welfare group that awarded the gold medal. Animals can be trained to do many unusual or useful things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one such animal. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a creative story based on the skills this animal has learned. Tell the story from the point of view of the animal. Give your story a creative title.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic