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For Grades K-4 , week of May 29, 2023

1. Outdoor Learning

For years and years, parents have been telling their children that it’s good for them to “go outside and get some fresh air.” Now schools are saying the same thing. In more and more states, outdoor pre-schools are being tried, and they have been growing in popularity with both teachers and parents. Long common in European countries like Denmark, Sweden and Germany, outdoor and nature preschools have more than tripled in number in the United States in the last five years, the Washington Post newspaper reports. At the same time, five states have introduced laws to support outdoor learning as an alternate to indoor preschool and childcare programs. With outdoor learning, children spend most of their time outside, where they get to learn from nature experiences, wildlife and changes in weather. Outdoor learning can lead to lower levels of stress and improve traits like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, grit and perseverance, experts say. It also can improve academic performance, increase emotional health and boost motor skills and physical activity, among other things. “I see these kids thriving,” said the director of an outdoor pre-school run by the Recreation and Parks Department in Baltimore, Maryland. “We let them play and respect the fact that they are learning through play.” Outdoor learning has many benefits. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to find and study a photo of an outdoor scene. Use what you see to brainstorm a list of things students your age could learn by studying the outdoor setting. Stretch your thinking to include how you could use outdoor activities to improve math or language skills as well.

Common Core State Standards: Closely reading written and visual texts to make logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. ‘Super Fan’ Journey

America’s 63 National Parks are among the most popular natural attractions in the world. They have fans in every state and even have developed a following of “super fans” who seek to visit every single one. Two of the most recent people to achieve that milestone are a 93-year-old woman from the state of Ohio and her 41-year-old grandson. It took Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad Ryan seven-and-one-half years to complete their journey, but they finished it this month with a visit to the National Park of American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. The park is the most remote of America’s National Parks and the only National Park south of the Earth’s equator, CNN News reported. It is located on a group of islands halfway between the U.S. state of Hawaii and the nation of New Zealand and features tropical scenery, rain forests, beaches and ocean reefs. “It was a long road to get here, but we couldn’t have chosen a more epic place to conclude … Grandma Joy’s Road Trip!” Brad Ryan wrote on the Instagram Internet site. In completing their National Park journey, Joy Ryan became the oldest living person to visit every U.S. National Park. They were honored by the National Park of American Samoa when they arrived and received gifts and certificates of achievement from the National Park Service. “Their story is amazing, and we are grateful to be part of it,” the Park Service said. Relatives and families often do unusual things that bring them closer together. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about relatives doing something unusual together. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend describing what the relatives did together, why they chose to do it and how it made them feel closer to each other. Share with the class and discuss things you would like to do with relatives that would bring you closer together.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. Pop-Up Libraries

It’s often said that reading can take you anywhere, because books allow you to travel to places close to home and far away. In the city of Boston, Massachusetts, books themselves are doing some traveling, thanks to a new pop-up library program offered through the city’s Transportation Authority. The program makes electronic books from the Boston Public Library available at bus stops throughout the city at no charge — and users don’t even need a library card. The “Browse, Borrow, Board” program allows bus riders at 20 stops to download books for free with electronic QR codes displayed on the sidewalks at bus stops of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The codes allow bus riders to download up to five titles at a time for two-week periods. After two weeks, people can re-scan the QR code to register again and check out more materials. “This program builds on our efforts to make public transportation more enjoyable, while also connecting our residents to the resources that the Boston Public Library … offers,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said. Public libraries offer a wide range of books and materials for young readers, and they are a great resource for building reading skills during vacations and the summer months. As a class, discuss the types of books you like to read for fun or information. Then search the newspaper or Internet for new books of the types you like. Pick three books you would like to read this summer and write a paragraph for each explaining why. Then use the Internet to find the website of a public library and find more books of the type you like to read. Can you download and read any of them electronically?

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.

4. No ‘Frozen’ Photos

The “Frozen” movies are among the most popular in the world — and that has made a tiny village very popular in the European nation of Austria. That’s because the village of Hallstatt looks very similar to the scenery in the “Frozen” films, and thousands of people want to go there to take selfie pictures of themselves. Before the coronavirus epidemic, more than a million people a year would come to Hallstatt to take pictures in front of the sloping hills, wooden houses and the spire of the church in the middle of town. Now Hallstatt officials are worried there will be too many visitors this summer and want to prevent “over-tourism.” In response to complaints from the village of 750 people, the town has taken an unusual step to reduce the number of visitors. It has erected wooden barriers blocking the most popular view of the town for taking selfie photos, the AFP News group reported. “The only thing that would help” reduce the number of tourists “is if the photo point is no longer a photo point,” Hallstatt’s mayor told a local newspaper. Where would you like to go if you could visit a place featured in a movie you have seen? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this movie and real-life places connected to it. Use what you read and additional resources to make a chart of photos you would like to take of things or activities in this place if you visited. Share with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Walking Record

Power walking is not just something people do around the neighborhood to get in shape. It’s also a competitive sport that has been part of the Olympics for nearly 120 years. Competitive power walking — known officially as race walking — has special and exact rules for competition. In race walking, athletes must always have one foot in contact with the ground, and the athlete’s leading knee cannot not bend until the body passes over it. Both men and women can compete in race walking, and one woman set a new women’s world record this month. Actually, Maria Perez demolished the world record in the women’s 35-kilometer (22-mile) race by an astonishing 29 seconds. On top of that, she finished more than 8 minutes ahead of her nearest challenger. Perez, a 27-year-old from the European nation of Spain, set the record at the European Race Walking Team Championships held in the nation of Czechia, CNN News reported. In winning, Perez traveled at a rate of nearly 8.5 miles per hour. People set new records in sports every year in the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person setting a new sports record. Pretend you are a sportswriter and write out five questions you would like to ask the athlete about what it took to set the record. For fun, write out answers that you think the athlete might give to your questions.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

Step onto any school campus and you'll feel its energy. Each school is turbocharged with the power of young minds, bodies, hearts and spirits.

Here on the Western Slope, young citizens are honing and testing their skills to take on a rapidly changing world. Largely thanks to technology, they are in the midst of the most profound seismic shift the world has ever seen.

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