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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 23, 2022

1. Equal Pay for Soccer

In the last 30 years, the U.S. women’s national soccer team has won four world titles, four Olympic gold medals and eight championships in the tournament that qualifies teams for the World Cup competition. This month, it won something it could never achieve on the soccer field: equal pay with the U.S. men’s team. Under a milestone agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation, the women’s and men’s national teams will receive the same pay and prize money for competing, including in the prestigious World Cup tournament. In addition to getting the same paychecks for international matches, the teams will pool the unequal payments they receive for participating in the World Cup, the New York Times newspaper reported. From this year on, that money will be shared equally among the members of both teams. “No other country has ever done this,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said of the deal to equalize World Cup payments. “I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished here. It really, truly is historic.” Equal pay is not just an issue affecting women’s sports. It is an issue that affects many career fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about fields where women and men are compensated unequally. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining ways inequality in pay could be addressed in different fields.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Moon Plants

America’s NASA space agency is planning to land astronauts on the moon again in 2025, with the goal of eventually establishing a permanent space station there. One question scientists are studying is whether it would be possible to grow food on the moon’s surface. At the University of Florida, researchers have taken an important step toward finding the answer to that question. For the first time they have grown plants in soil collected on the surface of the moon by NASA astronauts. A plant called “thale cress” successfully sprouted when planted in a lab in a small sample of soil collected by the Apollo 11 moon mission more than 50 years ago, the researchers reported in the science journal Communications Biology this month. Thale cress is considered a weed here on Earth, the Associated Press news service reported, but the fact any plant could grow in the coarse moon soil was a milestone achievement. “Holy cow!” one researcher said. “Plants actually grow in lunar [moon] stuff!” The next step, according to another scientist not involved in the study, “is to go and do it on the surface of the moon.” NASA is moving ahead with plans to land astronauts on the moon again. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this effort and how it is progressing. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor detailing what important steps NASA has taken so far and what important steps need to be taken next.

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 to support conclusions.

3. No-Animal Circus

For 146 years, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus attracted millions of fans around the country as “the Greatest Show on Earth.” For many of those years, animal acts featuring lions, tigers, elephants and more were a featured part of the entertainment. Five years ago, however, public opposition to animal acts forced Ringling Brothers to shut down. Now the circus company has announced it will return to touring and staging shows in different cities, but with one big difference. There will be no animal acts in the “new” circus, only acts featuring human performers performing on trapezes and high wires and in acrobatic routines. That pleases animal rights activists. The “decision to bring the circus back without animals sends a very clear message to the industry that the circus can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal needs to be exploited,” said an official of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Animal rights and protections have gotten more and more attention around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people advocating for animal rights in some way. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your opinion on how animal rights should be addressed in the situation detailed in your story.

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.

4. Clean the World

All over the world people have discovered the benefits of recycling such things as paper, glass and aluminum cans. Now a nonprofit organization has turned its attention to a new material — soap. The non-profit called Clean the World recycles used soap left behind by guests at hotels. It purifies it, re-forms it into new bars and distributes it to people in need around the world, the New York Times newspaper reports. Since starting as a do-it-yourself effort in a home garage in Florida, it has grown to an operation that has delivered 70 million bars of soap to refugees from Ukraine and other nations, to victims of natural disasters and to people living in poverty in developing parts of the world. Through partnerships with Marriott International and other hotel chains, it is now able to provide soap for needy people in more than 120 countries. Smaller hotels and hospitality businesses that want to be part of the Clean the World program can sign up online. People are always looking for new ways to use recycled products. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about new approaches to using recycled materials. Use what you read to write a science or environmental commentary detailing the benefits of one or more of these efforts, and how they could be a model for others.

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

5. Pushy, Pushy

Talk about pushy parents. A couple in the Asian nation of India are so desperate to have a grandchild they are suing their son and his wife to produce one. Sanjeev Ranjan Prasad, a 61-year-old retired government officer, and his wife Sadhana Prasad sued their son in an Indian court demanding a grandchild or compensation of 50 million rupees ($675,675). “We want a grandson or a granddaughter within a year or compensation, because I have spent my life’s earnings on my son’s education,” Prasad told reporters. He said his expenses included about $47,300 for his son’s training in the United States to become an airline pilot, the New York Post newspaper reported. “The main issue is that at this age we need a grandchild, but these people have an attitude that they don’t think about us,” Prasad said. “… It has been six years since their marriage. It feels as if despite having everything we have nothing.” The dispute over grandchildren in India is the type of family issue that advice columnists are often asked to comment on. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another family dispute or disagreement. Pretend you are an advice columnist and write a column commenting on the dispute and offering a possible solution. Share and discuss as a class.

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; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

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