For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 15, 2022

1. Number 6

When basketball legend Bill Russell died last month at the age of 88, he was hailed for winning an unprecedented 11 NBA championships, and for being a champion for civil rights and racial equality. Now the former Boston Celtics star has been honored by the NBA in a way that is also unprecedented. The NBA has announced that Russell’s Number 6 will be retired for all 30 teams to ensure “that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way.” Starting with the 2022-2023 season, no NBA team will be allowed to issue Number 6 to any player. Additionally, NBA players will wear a patch on their jerseys next season displaying a clover-shaped logo with Number 6. Russell is the first NBA player to ever have his number retired across the league and one of the few in all of sports. Major League Baseball permanently retired Number 42 in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Like Robinson, who broke the Major Leagues’ color barrier, Russell was a pioneer in his sport, becoming the NBA’s first African American head coach and winning two championships as player-coach of the Celtics. Off the court he marched for civil rights with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., stood with boxer Muhammad Ali when he opposed the Vietnam War and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama as “someone who stood up for the rights and dignity of all men.” Bill Russell was an athlete who also worked to make America a better place. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about an athlete from today who is working to make the nation a better place. Use what you read to write a personal or political column, detailing what this athlete is doing and how that could be a model for others,

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.

2. Problems at the Poles

Global warming is having severe impact all over the world — but especially at the Earth’s North and South Poles. Two new scientific reports demonstrate how severe the problems are that those areas are facing. In the Arctic region around the North Pole, new research shows that temperatures are rising four times faster than the rest of the Earth. At the South Pole, research indicates that the world’s largest ice sheet in East Antarctica is thinning and more vulnerable to melting that could raise sea levels. The new report on the North Pole region echoes last year's annual Arctic Report Card, which found that the Arctic is rapidly losing ice cover and is now greener and browner than it was just 10 years ago. The Antarctic report found that the East Antarctica Ice Sheet, which is about the size of the United States, is more in jeopardy from warming than previously believed. “It isn’t as stable and protected as we once thought,” one researcher said. The Earth’s North and South Poles are being closely watched as scientists study the effects of global warming. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about new developments that concern scientists. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor about one development, why it is significant and what can be done about it.

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.

3. Return of a ‘Sacred Place’

When European settlers came to America to start new lives, they displaced hundreds of Native American tribes and forced them off their land. One of the places that occurred was in the state of Virginia, where Captain John Smith had founded Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement in 1607. This month, in a long-sought victory for native peoples, the Rappahannock Tribe re-acquired a sacred place on the Rappahannock River from which it had been displaced nearly 400 years ago. The 465-acre site known as Fones Cliff is the ancestral home of the Rappahannock people in northeastern Virginia. The river is 90 miles north of the James River, where Jamestown was founded. The acquisition of the land from private owners was announced by the tribe and the U.S Interior Department, which oversees the nation’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. With bountiful wildlife, including bald eagles, native leaders called it a “sacred place” for the tribe. “With eagles being prayer messengers, this area where they gather has always been a place of natural, cultural and spiritual importance,” said tribal chief Anne Richardson. In states across the nation, Native American leaders are looking for ways to address past injustices against their tribes by European settlers or the U.S. government. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about one such effort. Use what you read to prepare an oral report or PowerPoint presentation about the effort, what events it seeks to address and what is the likelihood for success.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Football Therapy

Much has been written about how to help teen and pre-teen girls deal with stress, bullying, anxiety and depression. A new film examines a different approach beyond counseling and support groups — tackle football. The documentary film “First Down” explores how a team in a girls’ football league in the state of Utah helped girls work through family problems, body image and other issues by giving them an outlet to release their anger, pain and emotions. The 11-minute film focuses on a team called the West Granite Quakes, whose nickname was “the Underdogs” because they were constantly losing, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Though concerns have been raised nationally about the risk of head injuries in youth football, the Quakes became more than a football team for the girls who signed up. The team provided support, community and even a kind of therapy for players. In the film, one girl revealed she cried after her first practice because she had finally found a place where her weight and body were accepted. Another said the team helped her deal with family issues. “I had a lot of hardships,” she said, “but football became my therapy. When I was on the field, I didn’t need to worry about what was going on at my house.” Many programs and organizations seek to help teen and pre-teen girls deal with the issues, problems and emotions they experience in their lives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one program and what it does. Use what you read to design a newspaper or Internet ad informing teen or pre-teen girls about the program and how it could help them face personal problems. Give your ad an eye-catching headline that will get the attention of readers.

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.

5. Oh, Those Ears!

When people talk about special people or athletes, they often argue about who is the Greatest Of All Time, or GOAT. An actual goat may be the GOAT for one unusual reason — longest ears. A goat named Simba had 19-inch ears when he was born in the Asian nation of Pakistan June 4, and in less than two months they have grown to 22 inches. His ears are so long his owner created a special velvet pouch and harness to keep them out of the way when Simba runs or plays with other goats, Reuters News reported. His owner has written to the Guinness World Records organization to see if the tan-colored Simba qualifies for a world record. If not, Simba and his owner will enjoy their moment of fame. “He is just a … goat with celebrity status,” his owner said. No kidding. Unusual animals are often in the news. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story or photo of an animal like this. Use what you find to brainstorm an idea for an animated movie for younger students featuring this animal. Give your animal a fun name and write an outline for the story. Then 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.