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For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 26, 2012

1. Reaching Out to Veterans

As the war in Iraq winds down and the president says he wants to bring troops home from Afghanistan, many veterans are returning to the country with injuries or psychological problems. Randy Price is one of those veterans. Thanks to the Soldier’s Best Friend program in Glendale, Arizona, however, Price does not have to deal with the effects of his war experience alone. The Soldier’s Best Friend program teams soldiers with dogs for service and therapeutic reasons. Price’s dog, Titan, has been training to become a full-service dog that can help Price in situations in which he feels uncomfortable. Being with Titan lowers Price’s stress levels. So far, the program has graduated three veterans and their dogs, according to an Arizona Republic story. About 10 soldiers are in the program and 30 more will soon start training. Find a newspaper article about groups working with veterans returning from the war. Or find an example online. Write a summary of the story and draw an illustration or poster to go with it.

Core/National Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task, purpose and audience; adding drawings or visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

2. Where's Harry?

Harry Houdini was born on March 24, 1874. He was a magician who was famous for his amazing death-defying escapes. People are still fascinated by his craft and his bravery. Find an article in today's newspaper about a contemporary celebrity. Write a persuasive essay discussing whether or not you think this person will still be famous in 100 years. Be sure to give at least three reasons to explain why you think the way you do.

Core/National Standard: Demonstrating the ability to write clear and grammatically correct sentences, paragraphs and compositions.

3. Don’t Fail!

Get all A’s. Don’t misspell a word. Don’t forget to write the remainder as part of the quotient. Students hearing messages that say “don’t fail” may often be more likely to fail, scientists have found. According to a Yahoo! News article, French researchers found that students who obsess over success are much less likely to tackle difficult material, but children who are told that failing is a natural part of learning actually perform better on tests. Students were given both math and reading comprehension tests during the study. During each test they were divided into two groups. The group that was told learning could be difficult not only performed better on the test, they also reported feeling more confident. Search the newspaper for a story on a topic that you don’t totally understand. Work with a partner and do a short research project on that topic to see if you can increase your understanding. Don’t be afraid to fail!

Core/National Standard: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Don’t I Know You?

Imagine looking at a picture of your mother and not recognizing her, or even worse, looking into a mirror and not recognizing yourself. This condition is known as prosopagnosia, or face blindness. About one in every 50 people suffer from this problem, including world-renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. He said he has found himself apologizing to someone for not recognizing him — and then realizing he was looking in a mirror! Patients who suffer from face blindness are not able to distinguish facial characteristics of people, according to a CBS news report. Other people have the exact opposite response to people’s faces. They are called “super recognizers” and can recognize people with just a few visual clues. Conduct your own facial recognition experiment with your class. Find pictures of well-known people in your newspaper and print them out. See who can recognize them and chart the results.

Core/National Standards: Using modeling to recognize the relationship between explanation and evidence.

5. Robot Hoops

Even if you aren’t a star athlete, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in sports. Students from more than 40 Detroit-area high schools in Michigan recently gathered for a basketball competition in which they didn’t even play. Instead, robots they created hit the court and their creators had them picking up basketballs and shooting them. The program is run by FIRST, a group established For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Find a newspaper article about organizations or businesses using robots or other technology to perform tasks. Or find examples online. Draw a model of a robot you would like to create and write specifications on its intended use.

Core/National Standards: Increasing understanding of technology through tasks in which students design something and by studying technological products and systems; using illustrations and details to describe key ideas.

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.

Perhaps no time in our history has it been more important to know what our youth are thinking, feeling and expressing.

The Sentinel is proud to spotlight some of their endeavors. Read on to see how some thoroughly modern students are helping learners of all ages connect with notable figures of the past.

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