1. Rocks on Mars
When America’s Perseverance space rover landed on the planet Mars last February, one of its goals was to recover and study rocks from the so-called Red Planet. This month, Perseverance successfully collected its first rock and drilled out a core sample for future study by scientists. The sample, which is about the thickness and shape of a pencil, will be an analyzed and stored in the belly of the space rover for collection by a future space mission. For decades scientists have wanted to study rocks from another planet. The sample collected by Perseverance is the first for which scientists know exactly where it came from and from what kind of rock. In addition to collecting rocks, Perseverance is the first rover to carry a helicopter to Mars. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, has had more than a dozen successful flights. The United States is paying a lot of attention to Mars because it would like to send a manned flight there. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about plans for a human trip to Mars. Pretend you are a science teacher and use what you read and prior knowledge to prepare a short lesson explaining the biggest challenges to sending astronauts to Mars.
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.
More than a few people have dreamed of finding hidden treasure as they go about their everyday lives. Three workers in the European nation of France actually did. The workers discovered a stash of 239 gold coins at a home they were renovating, and experts say they may be worth more than $350,000! The workers were restoring a house in the Brittany region of France when they made the find in a metal box inside a wall and on a beam over their heads, CNN News reported. The oldest of the coins dates back nearly 400 years to a time just after the Pilgrims landed in America. The newest were minted about 50 years later. The coins will be sold at an auction sale at the end of this month, and the money received will be split 50-50 between the workers that found the coins and the owners of the property. Gold and silver are not the only kinds of “treasure” people can find. Many other items are also treasured by people. In the newspaper or online, find and list things people from the future might treasure if they found them in an indoor or outdoor place. For each item, write a sentence telling what it would tell people from the future about how we live today — and why they would be excited to find 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 written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.
3. Europe’s So Hot
States in the United States have experienced record hot temperatures this summer. But the U.S. is not alone dealing with extreme weather. Scientists on the continent of Europe have just announced that this summer has been the hottest on record, and temperatures along the Mediterranean Sea toppled records by large margins. The scientists, who work for Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, said last week that temperatures from the end of June to the start of August were 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1991-2020 average, demonstrating the long-term effects of global warming caused by humans. The nation of Italy recorded a temperature of 119.8 degrees Fahrenheit on August 11 on the Mediterranean island of Sicily, which would be the hottest day ever recorded in Europe if verified by the World Meteorological Organization. Extremely hot temperatures have caused problems in many parts of the world this summer. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about some of these problems. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor suggesting ways people or nations could reduce how often these problems happen.
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.
4. Beaver Battle
In many places in the world, the return of a wildlife species that had vanished from an area is a cause for celebration. In the European nation of Scotland, the return of beavers has gotten a very mixed reaction. Wildlife lovers are excited that beavers have returned to make their homes in the countryside north of the city of Edinburgh. Farmers and landowners are not as happy and want to be allowed to kill them when they gnaw down trees and make dams that put farmlands under water. Four-hundred years ago, beavers were hunted nearly to extinction in Scotland for their fur, the New York Times newspaper reports. In the last dozen years, wildlife lovers have worked to re-introduce beavers to the Scottish landscape. That has sparked conflict with farmers, who feel the beavers damage valuable farmlands by creating “beaver ponds” that flood low-lying fields. Environmentalists say that the ponds create habitats that support a variety of species. Many people love wildlife, but sometimes wildlife cause conflict with human activities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a conflict wildlife have caused with humans. With family or friends, use what you read to discuss ways to resolve the conflict.
Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
5. Tree-mendous Pothole
In many neighborhoods in the United States, a big frustration for residents is getting roads repaired. In a neighborhood in Fort Meyers, Florida this summer, two men took an unusual step to call attention to a giant pothole. They planted a banana tree in it! Drivers said the road has many potholes that can damage cars, and the men wanted to draw attention to the need for repairs, UPI News reported. The banana tree makes it easier to see the monster pothole, but it caused another problem. “The tree makes it harder to get around the next pothole that’s right next to it,” one driver said. While the tree succeeded in drawing attention to the condition of the road, it won’t get the road fixed. Lee County officials said the road is privately owned, so fixing the potholes is the responsibility of the owner, not the county. People often do unusual things to protest or call attention to issues. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about people who have done something unusual. With a partner, read a story about an issue or problem that needs attention in your state or community. Brainstorm an unusual way to call attention to the issue. Write an “open letter” to the community asking people to join your effort and telling why it would be effective.
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.