For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 21, 2022

1. Happy Birthday

On Monday, the nation observed Presidents Day, a federal holiday that was created to celebrate the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In the newspaper or online, read about ways people acknowledged Presidents Day this year. Then pair off or divide into teams and pick a U.S. president who is not Washington or Lincoln. Make sure every group in the class has a different president. Use the newspaper, Internet and other resources to learn about your president. Write a skit that talks about his life and accomplishments and perform it for the class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.

2. Really Inefficient

Inventors are always looking for the fastest and most efficient way to do things. But what if the task were just the opposite — to do something as INEFFICIENTLY possible. That’s what middle school students in the state of Oregon had to do this month in the first Rube Goldberg Challenge at Ashbrook Independent School in the city of Corvallis. Rube Goldberg was an American engineer, inventor, sculptor and author, but he is best known for drawing cartoons depicting complicated gadgets performing simple tasks in round-about ways. The gadgets operate through chain reactions, with each part of the gadget causing an action by a different part to eventually perform such simple things as breaking an egg, turning on a light or putting a bottle in a recycling bin. (To see an example, search online for #RubeGoldbergMachine.) In the Ashbrook Independent challenge, teams from different schools competed to come up with the least-efficient way to squirt a bubble of hand sanitizer onto a paper towel. The competition, which involves math, science, engineering and physics, was divided into two parts. In the first, students had three hours to assemble and test their gadgets, and in the second they demonstrated their creations for the judges. Rube Goldberg cartoons are fun, but they also use science to create complicated operations for simple things. In the newspaper or online, find and study a photo of someone doing something simply for fun or work. Think like Rube Goldberg and draw a cartoon showing a complicated way to perform this simple task. Make sure your process has at least five steps. Share drawings with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Some Sneakers!

Everybody likes a good pair of stylish sneakers, but most people don’t go high-style the way buyers did at a Sotheby’s auction sale this month. About 200 pairs of sneakers created by world famous fashion designer Virgil Abloh went up for auction and sold for a “record breaking” total of $25.3-million! The special edition Louis Vuitton and Nike “Air Force 1” sneakers were designed for the Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2022 collection and were released for sale for the first time at the auction. The sneakers were made of calf leather and ranged in size from 5 to 18, CNN News reported. The Size 5 pair sold for the highest price at the auction — $352,800, or more than 23 times its $15,000 high estimate. Sotheby’s said it received 10,000 bids in total and more than two thirds of bidders were under age 40. Abloh, who was the artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear and the first Black artistic director, died in November at age 41 after battling a rare form of cancer. Sneaker companies are always designing new styles that they hope will become “the next big thing.” In the newspaper or online, find and study ads for some of the newest styles of sneakers. Think like a fashion critic and write a review of two styles that appeal to you and explain why you think they are, or will be, popular.

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. Sailing the Sea

The oceans of the world are always on the move. Driven by currents and winds, they can carry boats and other items thousands of miles. Students at a middle school in the town of Rye, New Hampshire got a first-hand lesson on ocean movements this winter from a project that began nearly a year and a half ago. In October 2020 the students from Rye Junior High School built a 6-foot-long boat, filled it with photos and natural items that would shed light on their community and launched it into the Atlantic Ocean. Four-hundred-sixty-two days later it was found 8,300 miles away on an island in the European nation of Norway, CBS News and the Associated Press reported. Best of all, it was found by a student the same age as the students who had launched the small craft. The boat had been battered by the wind and waves, but its deck and cargo hold were intact when student Karel Nuncic found it on a small island near the town of Dyrnes. He took it to school where he and classmates excitedly opened it to reveal the contents. The Norwegian students plan to contact the American students in a Zoom call. “I was surprised the boat actually made it somewhere,” one Rye seventh grader said. “… It was really, really cool and surprising.” Students often make news by conducting experiments to learn about oceans, winds or other features of nature. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a nature experiment. Use what you read to write a letter to a teacher telling what students learned from the experiment and why experiments can be more effective than just reading textbooks. Finish your letter by suggesting a nature experiment your class could conduct.

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.

5. Protect Older Trees

Across the nation and around the world, scientists are looking for ways to reduce global warming. Many solutions involve new kinds of technology, but one doesn’t involve technology at all: Trees. Recognizing this, a group of environmental organizations is urging President Biden to protect all mature, old-growth trees on federal lands to take advantage of their ability to combat warming of the atmosphere. Trees are important because they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which is the leading cause of global warming on Earth. And older trees absorb more carbon dioxide than younger ones, the Washington Post newspaper reports. “We often call it the climate solution you don’t have to invent,” said Ellen Montgomery, head of one of the 70 environmental groups urging the President to take action. “Trees are literally standing right there in front of us.” Nations, organizations and individuals are all looking for ways to slow or reduce global warming. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different efforts being tried or proposed. Use what you read to write a science or environmental column highlighting which ideas have the most promise for success.

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.