1. Ice Is Nice
In the winter months many people look for ways to have fun when it is snowy or cold. A city in the Asian nation of China loves winter so much it has created the biggest snow and ice celebration in the world. The yearly Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival features elaborate ice sculptures shaped like buildings, statues and monuments and light displays that show the sculptures in bright and varied colors. The sculptures were built with 220,000 blocks of ice, each one-meter-by-one-meter in size and cut from the nearby Songhua River. The festival, which runs through February 25, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from China and the rest of the world. To have fun in winter, many communities offer celebrations, festivals or activities for residents. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebration featuring winter activities. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend describing which activities you would like to try — and why.
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.
2. Record-Setting Collection
Collecting sports cards is a popular hobby for many kids, and even for many adults. But no one has built a bigger collection than a 34-year-old man in the state of Idaho. Since he began collecting at the age of 10, Paul Jones has acquired a total of 2.7 million baseball cards! That’s the biggest private baseball card collection on Earth, according to the Guinness World Records organization. Jones, who has Asperger’s syndrome and a learning disability, was drawn to collecting because he liked counting and organizing the cards he acquired. “It taught him how to count. It taught him how to read. It … helped his reading and spelling and everything,” Jones’ father Barry told local TV station KHQ. “It was a tool.” Asperger’s syndrome is a condition that makes it difficult for people to interact and communicate with others. Many people collect things as hobbies. As a class, discuss things you and your classmates collect. Then use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about things other people collect. Finish by writing a personal column describing things you would like to collect, or are already collecting. Explain what appeals to you about these things.
Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
3. Legal Snowballs?
Snowball fights have been popular among kids for almost as long as there has been snow. In the city of Wausau, Wisconsin, however, kids who throw snowballs can be charged with a crime. For 58 years, it has been illegal to throw snowballs in Wausau, thanks to a local ban on throwing objects that could cause damage or harm. Snowballs were included in a ban passed in 1962 that cracked down on throwing rocks or other dangerous items. That could soon be changing, however. City officials are considering a move to take snowballs off the list of items people are not allowed to throw. The police department, which has rarely enforced the ban on snowballs, is all for the change. “In our community, a fun snowball fight is a fun snowball fight, and that's not something [on which] we enforce this ordinance,” Deputy Chief Matt Barness said in a video posted to the department website. He then threw a snowball at Mayor Robert Mielke in the video. Many communities have odd rules or laws. In teams or pairs, find and closely read a story about an odd rule in a community. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report explaining why you think the rule was passed, and whether it is still needed. Finish by discussing rules in your school or community that you think are not needed.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives.
4. Fast Justice
In the police world, there’s an old saying that warns criminals that “you can’t out-run the law.” That proved true in the European nation of Spain last month, and for a very good reason. A police officer in the city of Seville was able to run down a pair of robbers because he is a record-holding sprinter. The officer, who was identified only as Sergio, ran down crooks who had robbed a man of 3,000 euros ($3,300) outside a bank. The officer had picked up the chase after the crooks abandoned their getaway car and easily caught up to the robbers. After catching one of them, Sergio informed him that “You’ve had a bit of bad luck, mate!” Police officers often catch criminals in dramatic or unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a police officer doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, thanking the officer for his/her unusual actions.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.
5. Christmas Trees for Fish
Every December millions of Christmas trees are put up for sale at stores, shopping centers and neighborhood lots. But what happens to trees that don’t get sold? In the state of Ohio, wildlife officials are using these Christmas trees to improve fish habitats in lakes and reservoirs. The trees provide places for fish to lay their eggs and hide from predators, wildlife officials said. “The fish will actually look for these little spaces in between the branches,” fishery biologist Matt Wolfe said in a local TV interview. “This is great for fish to hide out.” The placement of Christmas trees in lakes will continue through March in counties in northeast Ohio. In every community, people and government agencies do things to help wildlife or the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about people helping in this way. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your opinion on why the effort is good for the community.
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.