For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Feb. 22, 2021

1. Sniffing for the Virus

Dogs have a sense of smell that is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than that of humans. Their noses have up to 300 million smell detectors compared to just six million for humans, and the part of a dog's brain that is devoted to smells is about 40 times greater than humans’. That enables dogs to track people and animals, detect drugs and explosives and even determine if a person has cancer or an infectious disease. In the European nation of Germany, scientists are putting dogs’ sense of smell to work detecting the coronavirus in people, and they report that early results show dogs can do it with 94 percent accuracy. A German veterinary clinic has trained dogs to detect the virus by smelling the saliva, or spit, of people. “Dogs can really sniff out people with infections and without infections,” one researcher told Reuters News. Best of all they can detect coronavirus in people who don’t have symptoms. Animals can be trained to do many things to help people. 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 documentary movie on the skills this animal has learned. Write an outline for your movie, including images you would use. Then write the first scene. For added fun, pick a celebrity to narrate your movie and explain your choice to family and friends.

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

2. Arab American First

Florida's Daytona International Speedway is one of the most historic auto racing tracks in America. This month it witnessed history that had nothing to do with winning times or racing strategy. In the Lucas Oil 200 race, 21-year-old Toni Breidinger became the first Arab American female driver to take part in a NASCAR national series competition. Breidinger didn’t win, finishing in the middle of the pack in the 34-car, 200-mile race. But she achieved her main goals: “To finish the race and stay out of trouble.” A native of Hillsborough, California, Breidinger has wanted to be a race-car driver since she first got behind the wheel of a go-kart at 9 years old. “As soon as I got into a go-kart, I really just knew,” Breidinger told CNN News. “I’ve always had so much passion for it. I love the competition, the adrenaline rush. I’m hooked on it.” Women and members of different ethnic groups are breaking new ground in a variety of careers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who is doing this. Pretend you are going to interview this person for a newspaper or news website. Write out five questions you would ask. Then write why you would want answers to those questions.

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. ‘Yardi Gras’

In the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, Mardi Gras is the biggest holiday celebration of the year. It is held on “Fat Tuesday” on the day before the start of the Christian observance of Lent, which leads up to Easter. In most years, Mardi Gras features wild parades and celebrations, but not this year. Because of coronavirus restrictions, official Mardi Gras celebrations were canceled last week. But that did not stop some New Orleans residents from sharing the holiday spirit. Instead of decorating floats for parades, they decorated their homes and celebrated “Yardi Gras” in their neighborhoods. More than 3,000 homes joined the celebration, and a local hip-hop and rap celebrity signed on as grand marshal. “New Orleans doesn’t know how to do anything halfway,” one organizer told the Washington Post newspaper. Coronavirus restrictions are forcing many communities to change how they approach local traditions and celebrations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about communities that are doing this. Then think of a tradition or celebration your community observes. Write a letter to the editor outlining an alternative way to celebrate this tradition that would be safe for participants and spectators.

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.

4. Survival!

For year and years, books and movies have explored what it would be like to be stranded on a desert or tropical island. This winter, three people from the Caribbean nation of Cuba got to see what that was like first hand after their boat was wrecked in a storm. They survived for 33 days on an uninhabited island in the Bahamas before they were spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard plane and rescued. They had survived by eating coconuts, conch seafood and rats, the Coast Guard said. The stranded people — two men and a woman — got the attention of the Coast Guard by waving a makeshift flag when the plane passed overhead, the New York Times newspaper reported. They were taken to a hospital in Key West, Florida and then turned over to U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs authorities. They did not have any injuries. The people stranded on the Bahamas island had to be resourceful to survive in a difficult situation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or group facing an emergency or another difficult situation. Use what you read to write a paragraph outlining ways the people could be resourceful dealing with the situation without the help of others. Share ideas with family, friends or classmates.

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

5. Big Gift from MJ

Michael Jordan has made millions of dollars in his career as a basketball star and team executive. Now he is giving back to the city where he grew up. Jordan, who is owner of the Charlotte Hornets team in the National Basketball Association, has announced he will donate $10-million to open two new medical clinics in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. The clinics will serve uninsured or underinsured residents of New Hanover County where Jordan grew up, according to a news release from Novant Health, a regional health care system. “Everyone should have access to quality health care, no matter where they live, or whether or not they have insurance,” Jordan said in a prepared statement. “… It’s truly gratifying to be able to give back to the community that supported me throughout my life.” Jordan has given millions of dollars to support health care in North Carolina and has an estimated net worth of more than $1.6-billion. Wealthy people often give back to their communities with large donations. Use the newspaper or Internet to find a cause or program you would like to support or a problem you would like to solve. Pretend you have great wealth and write a proposal detailing how you would use your money to address the situation.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.