For Grades 5-8 , week of June 14, 2021

1. Mega-Concert

Cities all over the country are re-opening, after activities were shut down for more than a year due to the coronavirus epidemic. New York City will celebrate getting back to normal in a big way with a “Homecoming Week” this summer, highlighted by a mega-concert on the city’s famous Great Lawn in Central Park. The concert will take place in August, and while performers have not been announced they will include at least eight major stars, organizers say. To ensure top-level entertainment, the city has hired a highly regarded and successful music producer to put it all together. Producer Clive Davis, who is 89, has been a top figure in the music world for 50 years and has worked with talents like Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston. He said he is looking to sign up eight “iconic” stars to perform a three-hour show for 60,000 attendees and a worldwide television audience, the New York Times reported. Communities are making plans to re-open with both big and small celebrations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these celebrations. Use what you read to write a personal column calling attention to celebrations you would like to attend — and explain why. If you like, include a celebration you would like your community to host.

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.

2. Imposter

The mother of a middle school girl in the state of Texas said she was just trying to prove a point about school security. But when Casey Garcia impersonated her daughter for almost a full day before being detected, she wound up being arrested. Garcia, who is 30 years old, stands 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 105 pounds, so she didn’t stand out among the students. She dyed her hair and tanned her skin to more closely resemble her daughter, the Washington Post newspaper reported, and was given full access to the school after writing down her daughter’s identification number. She greeted teachers and even the principal during her “experiment,” which she recorded on her cell phone. She even ate lunch in the cafeteria without a mask. She made it to the last class period, when a teacher realized she was not a seventh-grade student like her daughter. She was charged with criminal trespass, but said she just wanted to call attention to school security. “We need better security at our schools,” Garcia said in her video. “This is what I tried to prove. … I kind of feel like I proved it.” Officials in the San Elizario Independent School District outside the city of El Paso said they would review the district’s security measures after Garcia’s arrest. School security and safety are concerns for all parents. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about parents communicating these concerns to school officials. Use what you read to write a short editorial assessing some top concerns and how they should be addressed.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Forgotten Trailblazer

Fifty years ago, Cheryl White made history in the world of horse racing, but few people today know what she did. Now her family wants to call attention to her achievements as the first African American woman to become a licensed jockey (or rider) of race horses. White was just 17 years old when she first made her mark in racing. Over a 20-year career she won 750 races, appeared in newspapers and on TV and even made the cover of the legendary Black magazine Jet, the New York Times newspaper reports. The headline on the Jet cover declared “Teen-Aged Girl Cracks Barrier on Race Track.” Though she had great skill and ability, she experienced the kind of historic discrimination that the Black Lives Matter movement seeks to call attention to. “It was not lack of talent — her talent was huge,” said the curator of collections at the horseracing Kentucky Derby Museum. “It was lack of opportunity.” The Black Lives Matter movement continues to call attention to systemic racism and discrimination against individuals and groups in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effort. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper describing the effort and what could be done to correct this example of discrimination from the past.

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.

4. Billionaire in Space

Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of nearly $190-billion through last week. Like other billionaires, he has had a great many achievements while amassing his fortune, including the founding of the Amazon online company. Next month, if all goes according to plan, Bezos will do something no other billionaire has done. He will fly into space. Bezos will make his historic flight on a spaceship made by his Blue Origin company — the first human spaceflight the company has ever tried. The 57-year-old Bezos will be accompanied by his younger brother Mark, 50, the founder of a private financial firm. In February, Jeff Bezos announced he would step down as chief executive of Amazon to pursue other “passions.” Space is one of them. “Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos, said on Instagram. Private companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are now doing things that were only done by America’s NASA space agency in the past. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one thing a private company is doing. Use what you read to make a short oral presentation explaining what the company is doing and how that will affect exploration and travel in space.

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

5. Turtle Dogs

Dogs have many talents to help people. In Montana and other states, a group of Boykin spaniels are helping by finding turtles. The spaniels are owned by John Rucker, and he has trained his dogs to find box turtles and other turtles in their habitats and bring them unharmed to his feet. Scientists and wildlife experts now hire him to count turtle populations and to keep track of their health and movements. It all started when Rucker lived in North Carolina, and he had two dogs that naturally would go out and find turtles for him. Now, he has seven dogs, and every spring and summer he takes them on the road to places where scientists want to evaluate the population of turtles that live there. The turtles are checked out for diseases and fitted with GPS devices that track their movements. For the dogs, it’s just fun to find turtles. “They hunt for me out of love,” Rucker told the Washington Post newspaper. “And I love them. I love turtles and grasslands. It’s a perfect match.” John Rucker’s dogs have been trained to perform a specific helpful task. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about dogs being trained to perform other helpful tasks. Use what you read to write the outline for a short creative story about what it would be like to train one of these dogs. Give your story a title that would make people want to read it and write the opening scene.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.