For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 01, 2021

1. Afghan Food Crisis

With the return to power of the extremist Taliban group, the Asian nation of Afghanistan faces many challenges. Students, teachers, women and political leaders all have seen their rights reduced with the Taliban’s belief in harsh Muslim sharia law. And now another crisis is looming that will affect even more Afghan residents. According to two United Nations food organizations, more than half of Afghanistan’s population of 42-million people will face an “acute” food crisis this winter due to lack of rain in farm areas, little snowfall in the mountains and a “drying up” of aid from other countries unwilling to support the Taliban government. The drought began in 2020, depriving farmers of water needed to grow food and may not end until next year, the Washington Post newspaper reports. As a result, some 22.8-million people will experience “high levels of food insecurity,” between November and March unless Taliban leaders take action. Some families are already experiencing high levels of insecurity, which means they are short of food and starting to skip meals. “It’s terrifying,” said a spokesman for the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. “I think it confirms our worst fears.” The world is watching to see how Taliban leaders deal with problems in the Asian nation. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different issues the Taliban government is dealing with. Pick one and write a political column detailing why the problem is important, how the Taliban might deal with it and how the United States or other nations might influence the Taliban’s approach.

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. Kindness

Random acts of kindness can heal sadness, spread joy and bring communities together. At a high school in the state of Mississippi this fall, one kind act did all three at a high school homecoming ceremony — and brought the audience to tears. The act came just after Nyla Covington had been crowned homecoming queen at Forrest County Agricultural High School. Seconds later she stunned the audience by walking over to another queen finalist, Brittany Walters, and placing the winning tiara on her head. Brittany had lost her mother to cancer that very morning and was attending homecoming with her father to fulfill a promise she had made to her mom, who worked as an administrator at the school. “I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart,” Covington told CNN News. “I was telling her that she was her mom’s queen, and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me.” Acts of kindness can have a huge effect on how others feel. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people being kind to each other. Pick one and use what you read to write a thank you letter to the person who acted kindly as if you were the one who benefited. Finish by discussing ways you or your classmates could perform acts of kindness for people in your community.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing textual or visual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Otters on the Loose

Otters are popular animals in zoos and the wild because they love to play and have long slinky bodies that make them great swimmers. In the Southeast Asian city of Singapore, they are putting on a show this fall — and causing controversy at the same time. More than 10 otter family groups — fittingly called “romps” — have chosen to live in the bustling, modern city and they have achieved a big fan following. They play in swimming pools, drink from fountains and turn up in unexpected places by traveling through the city’s drainage system. Among the spaces they have turned up are a hospital lobby, local boardwalks and busy intersections where they stop traffic when they cross, the Washington Post newspaper reports. Otters once lived naturally in Singapore, but they were forced out by water pollution and development. When the city cleaned the pollution and provided green space, the otters returned. Not everyone is happy, however. They fight for territory, bother people walking outdoors and kill fish like koi, which are cousins of goldfish used to decorate garden ponds. “They are becoming a nuisance,” one resident said. When their habitats are diminished, wildlife often move into populated areas. That can be both a benefit and a problem to people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species moving into a populated area. Use what you read to create a chart or graphic organizer outlining the benefits and problems caused by the species inhabiting the populated area.

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.

4. Banksy Bonanza

The artist known as Banksy is known as much for the stunts and pranks he plays as for the artworks he creates. Three years ago, for example, he shredded a painting he had created of a “Girl with Balloon” just seconds after it had sold for $1.4-million. He had installed a secret shredder in the bottom frame of the painting and triggered it from a distance, explaining later that “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Now the buyer of that work has gotten the last laugh. At a second auction sale in London, England, the painting — retitled “Love Is in the Bin” — sold for a Banksy record of $25.4-million. The sale price was more three times what had been predicted and more than 18 times what the painting had sold for before shredding. Artists often seek to create unusual or “one of a kind” works. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about works created by Banksy or other artists who are working today. Pick one artwork an write an art review telling why it would be desirable to collectors. Share and discuss with friends or classmates. Would you like to own this work?

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. What Kind of Weather?

The official start of winter is less than two months away, and already people are wondering what kind of weather America will be having. Some people turn to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been making predictions for 230 years (with 80 percent accuracy). Others turn to the scientists at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. government. When the Almanac weighed in earlier this year, it predicted a “Season of Shivers” with “bone-chilling, below-average temperatures across most of the United States.” Now the NOAA has released its predictions, based on atmospheric models. It anticipates warmer than average temperatures for much of the country, drier, warmer temperatures in the South, a wetter North and drought likely to persist across the West. La Nina, a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide, will further dry out parts of an already parched American West and boost moisture in the East, North and Midwest, the NOAA says. Long-term weather predictions can help businesses and individuals plan ahead. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about the operations of three businesses located in your community or state. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing what long-term weather information would be most important to each business, and why.

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