For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Nov. 29, 2021

1. Dr. King’s Farm

Long before he became a civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spent two summers working on a tobacco farm in the state of Connecticut earning money for college. The experience had a huge effect on him, because it was the first time he had lived in a place that was not racially segregated like his home state of Georgia. The town of Simsbury was overwhelmingly white, but the Black farm workers could attend integrated dances, sit next to white residents at the movies, attend church with them and eat alongside them at restaurants and lunch counters. “I had never thought that any person of my race could eat anywhere, but we ate at one of the finest restaurants in Hartford,” young Dr. King wrote to his mother from the farm. For years the farm called Meadowood got little attention, but thanks to a complicated deal between the town of Simsbury and a developer, it will be preserved as green space and nominated for historic designation, the New York Times newspaper reported. Dr. King said later that his experience there opened his eyes to the possibilities of a desegregated, mixed-race world. It gave him an “inescapable urge to serve society,” he would write later. “I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.” People serve others, the community or society in many different ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has chosen to do this. Use what you read to write a personal column detailing why the person chose to serve others, how that person helped individuals or the community and how it could inspire other people to serve others. Include ways you or your classmates could serve others, now or in the future.

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. Vaccinations for All

All over the world, government mandates requiring that people get vaccinated have caused debate and controversy. This month the European nation of Austria became the first country on the continent of Europe to require that all its people get vaccinated against the Covid 19 virus and its variants. Austria’s edict came as it re-imposed a nationwide lockdown in the face of a surge of virus infections. “We have to undertake hard measures, otherwise the health-care system will collapse,” said Günther Platter, the governor of Austria’s Tyrol region. About 64 percent of Austria’s 8.9-million people are fully vaccinated (a percentage about 5 points higher than the 59 percent rate in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Getting more people vaccinated against the coronavirus has been a challenge for government leaders around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches governments are taking. Use what you read to write a TV news report about which approaches have been most successful and what are the greatest obstacles to getting more people to agree to get vaccinated.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Heartwarming Tradition

One of America’s great holiday traditions started with a wrong number. In 2016, Wanda Dench of Mesa, Arizona texted her grandson to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner. Except her grandson had changed his phone number and the message went to Jamal Hinton at his high school in the city of Phoenix, 20 miles away. They quickly straightened out the mix-up by exchanging photos. But Hinton, an African American youth who was 17 at the time, asked if he could still come over. Yes, responded Dench, who is White. “That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone." Every year since then, Hinton and Dench have repeated the tradition, and this year they recorded Thanksgiving Number 6, with Dench inviting Hinton, his girlfriend Mikaela and his family over. “We are all set for year 6!” Hinton wrote on Twitter just before the holiday. Each year they get caught up on each other’s lives, share joys and laughter and even sadness (Dench lost her husband to the coronavirus in 2020). “We’re … extended family and, best of all, friends,” Dench told the Arizona Republic newspaper. The holiday season is a time of family traditions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about families observing traditions. Write a letter to a friend telling about family traditions you have during the holiday season, why they are important to your family and how they add to your enjoyment of the holidays.

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

4. Rock Carving Mystery

Petroglyphs are rock carvings depicting people, animals, objects and symbols on cliffs, valleys or desert surfaces. Most are believed to have been created by prehistoric humans to tell stories or represent beliefs. In the Middle East nation of Qatar, a collection of desert petroglyphs (PET-ro-gliffs) has mystified scientists for years since they were first discovered. The petroglyphs carved in desert site known as Al Jassasiya include cup marks arranged in a variety of patterns, and most mysterious of all, sailing ships that can only be viewed from above. Despite years of study, scientists have not been able to determine who carved them, what they mean or even how old they are, CNN News reports. “Although rock art is common in the Arabian Peninsula, some of the carvings in Al Jassasiya are unique and cannot be found anywhere else,” a spokesman for Qatar Museums said. "These carvings represent a high degree of creativity.” Petroglyphs, cave paintings and other artifacts shed light on the beliefs and lives of ancient peoples. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a discovery that has given scientists new information about the lives of people long ago. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what was discovered and why it is important.

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.

5. Goats and Good Feelings

Goats are smart, funny and cuddly, and just being around them can put a smile on people’s faces. In the city of Portland, Oregon, workers for a healthcare network got some one-on-one quality time with goats this month as a way to de-stress from months of caring for coronavirus patients. At an event called “Goats, Garden and Gratitude,” medical staff at Legacy Emanuel Hospital were given a chance to take a breather from the stresses of dealing with the coronavirus — and reconnect with each other in the hospital’s garden courtyard. “Having the ability to get outside the hospital units [into] the outside air and embrace warm, fluffy goats brought tears to their eyes because they realize how much they needed [it] in the face of loss and difficulty this year," one staff member told local KPTV news. Everybody needs to be cheered up at times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who could use some cheering up. Use what you read to write a proposal for a way this person could be cheered up by your class or others. Then write out a way you could cheer up someone in your class or family.

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