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for Grades 5-8

Aug. 10, 2020
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Oct. 14, 2019

For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 14, 2019

1. Changes in the Amazon

The election of a new president in the South American nation of Brazil has called into question the future of the Amazon rain forest. New President Jair Bolsonaro is a conservative who favors opening up natural areas to logging, mining, agriculture and other development. One of his first acts was to give the nation’s Agriculture Ministry power to decide which areas of the Amazon should be protected, and he has also pledged to review protections granted to areas populated by indigenous native peoples. The moves are supported by Brazil’s powerful agriculture industry, which has long sought access to protected lands for logging, farming, cattle ranching and other projects. Environmentalists fear Bolsonaro will roll back years of efforts to protect the Amazon forest, and have nicknamed him the “Trump of the Tropics.” The Amazon rain forest is hugely important to Brazil, but also to other nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about why the Amazon is important to other nations and the world. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation for the class outlining the importance of the Amazon. Present your report to the class.

Common Core State Standards: 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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Saturn’s Rings

The planet Saturn is famous for its rings, but they may not last forever. New research by America’s NASA space agency has found that the rings around Saturn are breaking up and may disappear in 100-million years or so. Information gathered by NASA shows that the water-ice formations that make up the rings are being broken apart by the planet’s gravity and pulled toward the surface in the form of “ring rain.” The research builds on information gathered by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft as it plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere at the end of a 20-year mission in 2017. Cassini found that the “ring rain” fell like a “downpour,” NASA officials said. “Water-ice … is falling out of the rings way faster than anyone thought,” one told CNN news. NASA missions are helping scientists learn more and more about planets in our solar system. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a mission shedding new light on these planets. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper, outlining what new information the mission is giving scientists and why that is important.

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.

3. Jellyfish ‘Epidemic’

Jellyfish can be fascinating creatures to look at, but their stings can be painful if you get too close. In the southern Pacific nation of Australia, a LOT of people have gotten too close in the last month. A jellyfish “bloom” forced officials to close beaches all across the Queensland region. The bloom of “bluebottle” jellyfish has caused more than 22,000 stings since the start of December in Australia’s northeast corner, and the problem continues at “epidemic” levels, officials said. Because Australia is located in the Earth’s southern hemisphere, it is summer there in the months of December, January and February and beaches are crowded. Officials are not sure what has caused this year’s jellyfish bloom, but some suggest that warmer ocean waters, climate change and pollution may play roles. Unusual events in nature often make news. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an unusual nature event. Use what you read to design a poster illustrating the event, what scientists think caused it and what lasting effects it will have.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Across Antarctica

With ice, snow and brutal winds, the continent of Antarctica is one of the most challenging places on Earth if you want to make history. A 33-year-old American man has done just that, however. He has become the first person ever to cross the continent alone on skis, unsupported by others and unaided by wind power. Colin O’Brady made the 932-mile crossing in 53 days, and completed the journey just ahead of British Army Captain Louis Rudd, 49, who was attempting the crossing at the same time. To finish first, O’Brady pushed the last 77 miles in just 32 hours, stopping just once to eat. On his record-setting journey he covered 20 to 30 miles a day, while dragging a sled packed with a tent, food and other equipment. All over the world, people challenge themselves to achieve difficult goals. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone doing this. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column, telling why you admire him or her for taking on the challenge.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Sports Stars from Cuba

The Caribbean nation of Cuba has a long history for producing talented baseball players. But after the Cuban revolution of 1959, Cuban players were prohibited from playing in America’s Major Leagues, and had to travel illegally to the United States if they wanted to. If they did that, the Cuban government blocked them from returning home. At long last, that situation is changing this year, due to a historic agreement between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation. Under the agreement, Cuban players will be allowed to play in the Major Leagues and also retain their Cuban residency. In return, the Cuban government will be paid a fee by any Major League team that signs a Cuban player. In recent years, relations between Cuba and the U.S. government have been changing. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about changes in the relationship between the two countries. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining what you think are the most positive changes that have occurred.

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.