For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 19, 2021

1. Healthier Meals

Food in school cafeterias is often criticized, but it may be the healthiest food many kids eat each day. A new study has found that “poor nutritional quality food consumed from schools” declined from 55 % to 24 % between 2003 and 2018 — a much greater drop than in food children eat at home. Most of the improvement in school food occurred after 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed, CNN News reported. The act, which set new nutrition standards for schools, was promoted by former First Lady Michelle Obama and signed into law by President Barack Obama. For the new study, researchers examined the diets of more than 21,000 children and 40,000 adults over a 15-year period. One of the goals of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was to get children to eat balanced meals that included more fruits, fresh vegetables and grains and fewer meats and dairy products. Pretend you are going to prepare healthy, balanced meals for your family or friends. Use the Internet to find an illustration of the food pyramid and then search newspaper or Internet ads for foods you could use in your meals. Plan three meals and list the foods in the style of a restaurant menu. Share and discuss.

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

2. ‘Lost Golden City’

The north African nation of Egypt is famous for its Great Pyramids, the mysterious Sphinx and other ancient treasures. Now a “lost golden city” has been found that archaeologists say may be the most significant discovery since the tomb of the boy King Tut nearly 100 years ago. The 3,000-year-old city, known as Aten, is believed to have been founded by King Amenhotep III, the grandfather of King Tut. The “lost city” is located in the southern city of Luxor and contains many artifacts of ancient life. In addition to buildings, archaeologists unearthed rooms full of tools, a bakery, a large kitchen complete with ovens, pottery to store food and a workshop containing casting molds to produce amulets, jewelry and ornaments for temples and tombs, officials said. The materials were dated through hieroglyphic inscriptions found on wine vessels, as well as rings, pottery and mud bricks bearing the seal of King Amenhotep III. Archaeological digs often unearth ancient communities that offer new information about the way people lived or worked in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a dig. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing the two most important things discovered in this dig.

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. Female Arab Astronaut

In most Arab nations in the Middle East, women have fewer rights and opportunities than men due to religion, custom or social heritage. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), however, has been ranked as a “leader in promoting gender equality in the Middle East” in the World Economic Forum's annual Global Gender Gap Report. This month, women in the UAE marked another milestone when Noura Al-Matrooshi was named the first female astronaut in the nation’s history. She and Mohammed Al-Mulla were chosen over 4,000 candidates to become the two newest astronauts in the UAE space program. Al-Matrooshi, who is 28, is an engineer at the National Petroleum Construction Company and holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the United Arab Emirates University. Al-Mulla, who is 33, is a commercial pilot and works as a pilot for Dubai Police. The two will train with America’s NASA space agency for future missions. Across the Middle East, women are striving to achieve equal rights and opportunities with men. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read articles about women doing this in one or more Middle Eastern countries. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, outlining obstacles women in these countries face in their quest for equal rights or opportunities. Include ways the United States or other nations could pressure government leaders to advance women’s rights in these countries.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Love Letters to Trees

The famous poet Joyce Kilmer once declared “I think that I shall never see … a poem lovely as a tree.” In the city of Melbourne, Australia, residents have taken Kilmer’s message even further, and made it more up to date. Residents have been celebrating trees in emails, and many of them are downright poetic. The emailing began when the city assigned an email address to each of the 70,000 trees it owns to help citizens report damage and upkeep needs. Soon, however, the city experienced what officials are calling “an unintended but positive consequence,” according to the Guardian newspaper. Instead of reporting damage like broken or fallen limbs, residents began sending fan mail and love letters to different trees, complimenting their leaves or looks and expressing how much they add to city life. The messages may not have been as “lovely as a tree,” but they were pretty close. Residents of Melbourne, Australia have been using emails to tell city officials how much they appreciate the trees in the city. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of natural features you appreciate in your community or state. Write emails to local or state officials telling why you appreciate one or more natural features, how they make you feel and how they improve the quality of life of the community. Share your emails with family or friends. Did other people like the same features as you?

Common Core State Standards: Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; demonstrating understanding of figurative language.

5. Candy Land

Pop-up theme parks have become popular in many communities to give residents outdoor fun during the coronavirus epidemic. In the state of California, a pop-up in the city of Los Angeles is giving residents a real Sugar Rush. It’s a candy-themed park with giant unicorns, giraffes and kangaroos, mirrored corridors and colorfully costumed cast members. Best of all it gives the experience of candy without the calories! Located on a 50,000-square-foot parking lot at a shopping mall, the Sugar Rush park is designed to appeal to kids, of course, but also to adults who are still kids at heart. “I’m in love with this place,” one young visitor told Reuters News. “The minute I stepped in here I felt like I’m having a sugar rush without eating any sugar!” Pop-up parks can provide creative fun for people in a community. With a friend or classmate, search the newspaper and Internet for ideas that could be turned into a pop-up park in your community. Use what you find to write what your park would be called, what it would contain and why people would find it fun or interesting. Give your park a name and brainstorm a place in your neighborhood or community where it could be located.

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.