For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 28, 2022

1. An ‘Act of War’

On the continent of Europe, the invasion of Ukraine by the neighboring nation of Russia has prompted condemnation from other European nations, from the United States and from international organizations like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The head of NATO, which represents 28 European nations plus the United States and Canada, called the invasion “a brutal act of war” and “a grave breach of international law.” The head of the United Nations said the invasion had thrust the world into “a moment of peril.” And President Biden bluntly declared the United States would seek to end the invasion through severe economic sanctions and diplomacy. “America stands up to bullies, we stand up for freedom,” Biden said in a White House address. “This is who we are.” The invasion of Ukraine continues to dominate the news in Europe and the United States. Use the newspaper or Internet to follow the coverage this week. Use what you read to write a political column outlining how the United States and other nations have responded to this invasion so far, what effect their actions have had and how they should respond going forward.

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. History-Making Judge

Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is poised to make history, and the nation has been waiting 233 years for her to make it. Jackson, 51, was nominated to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court last week, and if confirmed by the U.S. Senate she would be the first African American woman ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. She also would be just the third African American overall. In choosing to nominate Jackson, President Biden fulfilled a campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the High Court if given the opportunity. If confirmed, Jackson would replace Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has announced he is retiring at the end of the Court’s term this summer. A former public defender, Jackson would be the first justice since Thurgood Marshall to have experience as a defense attorney. She also would give the High Court four women justices to go with five men, the closest thing to equal representation in the Court’s history. “For too long, our government and our courts haven’t looked like America,” Biden said when announcing the nomination. “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation.” To become a member of the Supreme Court, Jackson must be confirmed by the deeply divided U.S. Senate, which currently has equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the confirmation process and Jackson’s prospects. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining what issues, opinions and experiences are Jackson’s strongest “selling points” for winning confirmation.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Drive Those Trains

In the Middle East nation of Saudi Arabia, great restrictions are placed on the rights of women. They have had to battle to attend sports events and drive cars, and they still must obtain permission from a male guardian to marry or start certain businesses. So it was not surprising that an overwhelming number of women applied recently when given the opportunity to work for the first time as train drivers. More than 28,000 women applied for just 30 positions, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Under Muslim law women have been restricted in what jobs they could take in Saudi Arabia and have been largely confined to professions such as teaching and health care. The train positions for lines between the Saudi holy cities of Mecca and Medina would be an advance for women’s opportunities in the nation. In many nations, women do not have the rights they have in the United States or other developed nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about nations that restrict women’s rights. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor outlining ways the United States or other nations could help women in this nation gain more rights.

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. What an Upset!

Even before you learn what Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa can do on a chess board, the 16-year-old from the Asian nation of India makes an impression. His name takes 24 letters to spell! But what he can do playing the game of chess is even more impressive. This month he stunned the international chess community by defeating the Number 1 chess player in the world in a rapid-chess competition in the Airthings Masters online tournament. Praggnanandhaa, who is nicknamed Pragg, defeated five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen by keeping his cool and taking advantage of mistakes made by an opponent who is almost twice his age. By winning, Pragg became the youngest player to beat Carlsen since the champion took the world title in 2013, CNN News reported. Pragg is no stranger to international attention. Chess experts have been watching his career since he became the youngest international chess master in history at age 10. Teens and pre-teens often make news by doing extraordinary things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one teen/pre-teen doing this. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film examining this person’s extraordinary achievement and how he or she achieved it. Give your film an eye-catching title and write an outline for how it would tell the story. Include ideas for images you would use in your film.

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.

5. ‘Favela’ Dangers

In the South American nation of Brazil, “favelas” are illegal slums where poor people live in handmade houses or apartment buildings. They often are built on steep hills or mountains, and they have become a symbol of the dangers of climate change and global warming. Heavy rains, which scientists say are occurring more often due to warming temperatures, have caused mudslides on the hills, sweeping away favelas and the people who live in them. This month in the favela of Petropolis outside the city of Rio de Janeiro, a particularly heavy rain sent mudslides rushing down the mountainside, killing nearly 200 people, the Washington Post newspaper reported. “This is a ticking time bomb,” said a geography expert at Brazil’s Institute for Technological Research when asked about the climate risks to the favelas. “And it’s already beginning to explode.” Global warming can have great effects on the way people live. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about ways that warming are affecting one community or group of people. Pretend you are a member of this community. Use what you read to write a letter to government leaders asking for help dealing with problems caused by global warming.

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.