For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Oct. 31, 2022

1. Groundbreaking Leader

The European nation of Great Britain is one of the oldest in the world, with a form of government that goes back more than 300 years. Yet it continues to make history in new ways. Earlier this month Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after just 45 days in office, making her the shortest serving prime minister in history. Last week, Rishi Sunak became prime minister, earning a place in the history books as the first person of color ever to hold the position. Sunak is from a family whose roots are in the Asian nation of India and his parents immigrated to Great Britain from East Africa in the 1960s. At age 42, Sunak is the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years and the first who practices the Hindu religion. He became prime minister on the holiday of Diwali, a festival of lights that is one of the most important days of the year for Hindus. Before rising to prime minister, Sunak became extremely wealthy as a banker and served as Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer – the nation’s chief finance minister. Like Truss, he is a member of Britain’s Conservative Party. People of color are gaining influence in politics all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these politicians. Use what you read to write a political column detailing what people of color add to political debate and policy-making.

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. World Series Action

The World Series is the crowning event in Major League Baseball, with teams from the National and American Leagues going head-to-head to determine the year’s overall champion. This year’s opponents are the Houston Astros of the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League, and the competition heats up this week with five games scheduled. The journeys of the two teams in the Series couldn’t be more different. The Astros were a dominating team in the American League, winning 106 games in the regular season and earning the top ranking in the American League playoffs. The Phillies are a scrappy underdog squad that barely made the playoffs before getting hot to advance to the final round. The Astros are led by star pitcher Justin Verlander who had 18 wins against just 4 losses during the regular season and Yordan Alvarez, who hit 37 home runs and drove in 97. The Phillies’ leaders are Bryce Harper, whose dramatic home run against the San Diego Padres put the team in the World Series, and Kyle Schwarber, who hit 46 home runs in the regular season. Every World Series features standout players for both teams. Sometimes they are expected, but at other times they are not. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the players who are standouts in this World Series. Use what you read to write a sports column, predicting which could be the overall standout by the end of the Series.

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.

3. Slavery Votes

Across the United States, many Americans believe slavery was outlawed either by the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War or by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Neither is entirely true. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the southern states of the Confederacy, and the 13th Amendment made one exception to its ban on “involuntary servitude.” The historic amendment approved in 1865 allowed for forced work by prisoners who had been convicted and imprisoned for crimes. The penalty has remained on the books in more than a dozen states, but in next week’s election voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee will be given the opportunity to remove the punishment from their states’ constitutions, according to CNN News. The proposed amendments would either explicitly rule out slavery and involuntary servitude as punishments or remove the terms from state law entirely. Supporters of the proposals hope that approval will lead to a national ban through removal of the “slavery clause” from the 13th Amendment. The rights and living conditions of prisoners often cause debate across America. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these rights and conditions that are drawing attention. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor analyzing debate on one of these rights or conditions and what people of different views feel about them.

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.

4. ’Mosquito Magnets’

Are you one of those people who feel mosquitoes have it in for you? Or do you know someone like that among your family or friends? A new study by researchers has found that it’s not a folk tale that mosquitoes like some people better than others. Researchers led by a professor at Rockefeller University studied people and mosquitoes for three years and found that molecular compounds found on human skin may be the attraction for the pesky bugs. Of particular interest was a chemical known as carboxylic acid, which is found in the natural oils that help keep human skin moist. The researchers found that people who were “mosquito magnets” had much higher rates of carboxylic acid on their skin than people who didn’t attract mosquitoes, CNN News reported. Body heat and the carbon dioxide that people release when they breathe also may play a role determining which humans attract mosquitoes the most, the researchers said. Researchers are always trying to learn more about different species of wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about research on one wildlife species. Create a poster showing what researchers have learned, and why it is important. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Returning Looted Artifacts

In the 19th and early 20th centuries European nations sought to colonize and control large areas of the continent of Africa. They had done this before in the “new world” of North and South America, and were attracted to the natural resources found in Africa’s different regions. They also were attracted to the cultural artifacts of African societies and often seized them and transported them back to their homelands in Europe. One of the most notorious examples occurred in the Kingdom of Benin, which was located in what is now the nation of Nigeria. In 1897 British soldiers responding to an attack by Benin fighters, launched a retaliation attack on Benin City, destroyed the palace of the ruling “oba” (king) and made off with more than 10,000 cultural artifacts. For more than 100 years Benin (and now Nigerian) officials have sought the return of those looted artifacts, which have been distributed throughout the world. Now three museums of the United States have taken a bold step to “repatriate” 31 culturally precious objects from Benin and return them to Nigerian authorities, CNN News reports. “We cannot build for the future without making our best effort at healing the wounds of the past,” one museum director said. Many museums are assessing what to do with artifacts in their collections that were acquired in ways that would be considered unethical today. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about such situations. Use what you read to write a short editorial offering guidelines on what museums should do with such artifacts.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.