1. Presidents Day
On Monday this week, the nation celebrated Presidents Day to honor the memory and achievements of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington, who was the nation’s first president, was born on February 22 in 1732. Lincoln, who was the nation’s 16th president, was born on February 12 in 1809. Before becoming president, Washington led the American army in the nation’s War of Independence. Lincoln was president during the American Civil War, which led to the Emancipation Proclamation freeing African American slaves in southern states. In honor of Presidents Day, think about life in the United States during the times of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. As a class, use today’s newspaper or the Internet to find 20 things Washington or Lincoln would never have seen in a newspaper. Then discuss how these things have changed life in the United States since Washington and Lincoln lived.
Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
2. Chimp Medicine
Chimpanzees are among the most intelligent animals in the world. Now a discovery in the African nation of Gabon may indicate they are even smarter than scientists thought. Wildlife scientists have observed chimpanzees in Gabon’s Loango National Park “practicing” medicine by catching insects and applying them to wounds they have — and to the wounds of other chimps. This is the first time that animals have been observed applying animal matter — the insects — to open wounds, CNN News reported. And chimps’ applying insects to the wounds of other chimps may mean they have the human ability to identify with others and be helpful. The behavior was observed dozens of times at Loango in a study lasting more than 15 months. “This is … breathtaking,” one scientist said. “Suddenly we have a species where we really see individuals caring for others.” Animals and other wildlife species demonstrate intelligence and skills in many ways. In the newspaper or online, find and study a story or photo showing an animal demonstrating intelligence or a special skill. Use what you find to write a paragraph telling how this intelligence/skill helps the animal and how it may have acquired or developed it.
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. Diaper Road
In families that have babies or young children, one of the messiest questions is always what to do with dirty diapers. For families that use disposables, the diapers usually go out with the trash, taking up valuable space in landfills. In a town in the European nation of Wales, officials have come up with another solution that could prove to be a big benefit for the environment. The town of Llanarth is using dirty disposable diapers to pave a road. The pilot project could provide an answer for communities around the world for how to effectively get rid of disposable diapers, the Washington Post newspaper reports. And there are a lot of disposables to get rid of: 140-million a year in Wales and 18-billion in the United States. In the Wales project the diapers are washed and then shredded into fiber pellets that are mixed with the traditional paving material asphalt. The mixture is then heated, laid on roads and flattened with steamrollers. The result looks just like regular paving. And no, it doesn’t smell like diapers. “It smells like road,” one official said. The diaper road in Wales is an example of a community finding a creative way to recycle. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another community recycling materials in a creative way. Use what you read to write an editorial for the newspaper telling how this effort could inspire other communities to do more recycling.
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.
4. Smell the Potatoes
The state of Idaho is widely known for growing potatoes, and it takes a lot of pride in its most famous crop. This month, just in time for Valentine’s Day, it came up with an unusual way to show its love. The Idaho Potato Commission created and released a perfume that smells like America’s most famous potato product — French fries! The perfume was called “Frites by Idaho” (“frites” is the French word for “fries”), and it was a huge hit with fast food fans. And with everyone else, for that matter. It sold out quickly on the Potato Commission website, UPI News reported. “This perfume is a great gift for anyone who can’t refuse a French fry,” the head of the Potato Commission said. People are always inventing unusual products. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an unusual invention. Use what you read to write a short consumer column, describing this invention, who might use it and how likely it is to be a success.
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.
5. Tall and Talented
When you come from tall parents, you might expect to grow up to be a tall teenager. But THE TALLEST teenager in the world? Canadian Olivier Rioux of IMG Academy in the state of Florida has had unbelievable growth spurts in his life, and at age 15 he has been declared the world’s tallest living teenager at 7-feet, 5.33-inches, according to the Guinness World Records organization. At that height, he would be the second tallest player in the NBA this season, and one of the tallest players ever. And yes, he plays basketball, with skills that could take him to the pros some day. He is a great passer, can shoot threes and finish at the rim, according to his IMG coach. Growing up in a suburb of Montreal, Canada, Rioux had height in his family. His mother is 6-foot-2 and his father 6-foot-8. “When I was 10, 11, 12, I started growing and it was getting fast,” Rioux told a TV interviewer in Florida. “Every week, I was like getting height, getting bigger. … I was taller than every kid in my school.” Students often make news in unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about such a student. Then pretend you are going to invite the student to an assembly at your school. Write a paragraph or two to introduce the student to those at the assembly. Read your introduction to your class with good expression.
Common Core State Standards: Reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.