1. ‘Planetary Parade’
For people who love the night sky, it is a thrill to see planets along with stars and the Earth’s moon. For the next several weeks, star gazers will get to see not one or two planets, but five lined up with the moon just after sunset. The unusual arrangement is called a “planetary parade” and will feature Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus, CNN News reports. The parade will be visible looking west just after sunset in most of the United States. Astronomers say much of it should be visible to the naked eye, even in urban areas that have significant light pollution from buildings. Viewed from the Earth, the celestial objects will appear in a diagonal line, from top to bottom in this order: Mars, the moon, Uranus, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury. The easiest planet to spot will be Venus, which is often referred to as the “evening star” because it’s the brightest object in the night sky after the moon. The second easiest planet to see will be Mars, because of its red color. America’s NASA space agency is always looking to learn more about the planets in our solar system, and planets elsewhere in space. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about something NASA has learned recently about a planet. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend telling what has been learned and why that is important to scientists.
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.
2. ‘Potcake’ Pups
It’s a safe bet that when people go away on vacation, they don’t plan on coming home with a puppy. Unless they happen to be traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the U.S. state of Florida. There, they may meet a “Potcake Puppy,” get to take it walking on a beach, fall in love and feel they just have to give it a home. That makes the Potcake Place K9 Rescue shelter very happy. Potcake Place rescues stray and abandoned dogs that roam the streets of the islands, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The dogs are called “potcakes” because residents put out cooking pots caked with leftover food to give the dogs something to eat. Most are mixed breeds, and they have become a tourist attraction for visitors who come to the islands to enjoy beaches and shore attractions. Sometimes lines stretch down the street with people wanting to take a puppy for a beach walk. Even if tourists don’t take a puppy home, they help the puppies get adopted by socializing them and helping them get comfortable with people. “Not everyone can do everything,” says the founder of Potcake Place. “But everyone can do something.” Individuals and organizations like Potcake Place do many things to help animals. And they often need the support of others to do it. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person or organization helping animals. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, describing what the person or group is doing and how they could benefit from the help of others.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
3. Preserve Your Memories
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he made history as the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office. He also inspired thousands of children of color, including a 5-year-old African American boy who visited him in at the White House in Washington, DC. The visit resulted in one of the most famous “kids moments” of President Obama’s eight years in office. When 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia met the President, he had only one question: “Is your hair like mine?” President Obama bowed down from his 6’2” height and said “Go ahead, touch it.” When the little boy did, the moment was captured by the White House photographer and became one of the most memorable photos of Obama’s time in office. Last spring, Philadelphia re-connected with the President, 13 years after their famous meeting. And the moment still inspires them today. “That was a pretty big highlight of my life,” Philadelphia said of the photo. The former President added: “I think this picture embodied one of the hopes I had when I first started running for office. Folks who maybe always didn’t feel like they belonged, they’d look at themselves differently.” Philadelphia is now a student at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. When people do unusual things, they create wonderful memories to enjoy in the future. As a class, discuss some of your favorite memories. Then find and closely read a story about someone doing something that will give them a great memory in the future. Write a paragraph telling why this person’s experience will be a great memory later.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific visual or textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Hair-Freezing Experience
The nation of Canada is America’s colder neighbor to the north, and they have a lot of winter traditions there. There is hockey, of course, and skiing, and outdoor skating, and sledding and then … hair-freezing. Yes, hair-freezing is a real tradition at the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs attraction in the far-north Yukon Territory next to the U.S. state of Alaska. People jump in the natural hot springs pools and then fling their heads into the freezing winter air to create wild designs and formations (click here). They quickly snap pictures while their hair is frozen and compete to see who can create the craziest look, the Washington Post reported. For maximum effect, the temperature must be at least 4 degrees below zero Fahrenheit for the hair to freeze quickly in weird shapes. This winter, however, the tradition was limited by warm temperatures caused by global warming. There were not enough days when the Yukon temperature was low enough to get the quick-freeze effect, and fewer people entered the hair-freezing competition. “Unfortunately, the contest is very dependent on the weather,” the general manager of the Springs said. Many places have unusual or odd traditions or competitions. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one of them. Use what you read to write a humorous, rhyming poem describing the tradition and why people like it. Read poems aloud, with feeling!
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.
5. Snow in August?
The state of California has been suffering for years from heat, lack of rain, and long dry periods that increase the risk of wildfires. This winter, however, California got tremendous amounts of rain and snow, and that is causing celebration all over the state. Especially happy are people who love to go skiing and snowboarding, because mountain areas have gotten record or near-record amounts of snow. That has caused a “snowpack” so deep that ski resorts say they will be able to stay open beyond the Fourth of July and well into the summer, CNN News reported. Mammoth Mountain, a resort located in the Eastern Sierra mountains, came within 5 inches of breaking its snowfall record of 668 inches (an amazing 56 feet!) and could offer skiing and snowboarding “into August this season,” a spokesperson said. The heavy rain and snow in California created unusual problems and challenges for many communities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another place where winter weather caused problems. Use what you read to write and design a “How To” handbook, telling people how to stay safe when they experience this kind of winter weather. Choose photos from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your handbook. Share with the class.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.