For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Feb. 08, 2021

1. Pioneer President

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has made a lot of history in the 101 years it has been in operation. This month, as the nation celebrates Black History Month, it is writing a new chapter. For the first time ever, the civil liberties advocacy group has elected an African American as its president. Deborah Archer, a law professor who is director of the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law, will lead the national board of the ACLU and direct the policy of the organization that is committed “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Archer has been a member of the ACLU’s board of directors since 2009 and a member of its executive committee since 2017. Black History Month celebrates the achievements of African Americans in all career fields. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about five Black Americans who have achieved success in their field. List them on a sheet of paper. For each, write out obstacles the person faced to become successful, how they overcame the obstacles and how their success could inspire others.

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

2. Air Force Hair

The U.S. Air Force is letting its hair down — literally. The military flying force has announced it will loosen hair rules for women to allow braids and ponytails instead of requiring hair to be maintained in tight buns that would fit beneath a helmet. The change, which takes place this month, will allow single braids, double braids or ponytails that extend to the level of the armpit. Women will also be allowed to wear longer bangs than in the past, as long as they are not longer than the eyebrows. The change was made after a review by Air Force members of all ranks. Women had complained that tight buns damaged their hair and also caused migraine headaches. “We remain committed to removing barriers to service,” said Lieutenant General Brian Kelly, the personnel chief for the Air Force. Many organizations are taking steps to remove obstacles that have limited inclusiveness and diversity in their work forces. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some steps that are being taken. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering your views on one or more of these efforts and how they will make organizations more inclusive or diverse.

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.

3. Shots in the Storm

The United States is racing to deliver as many coronavirus vaccines as possible — and to not waste a drop. So when health-care workers got stuck in snowstorm traffic with six unused doses in the state of Oregon, they took unusual measures to make sure the vaccines didn’t go to waste. They got out of their vehicle on the snow-stalled highway and went car to car asking for volunteers to take the doses of the Moderna shots. The workers were returning from a vaccination clinic when the highway was closed due to an accident, the Washington Post newspaper reported. The Moderna vaccine, which has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, had to be used within six hours or it would go bad. It took the workers about 45 minutes to find six volunteers, and one man was so excited he took his shirt off right on the highway to get the shot. Getting Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus is a huge challenge for health officials. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how the vaccine effort is going. Use what you read to write a short editorial, spotlighting the biggest challenges and suggesting how they might be addressed. Share and discuss with family, friends and classmates.

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.

4. Chocolate, Chocolate Everywhere

Next Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and a lot of people will be celebrating with chocolate. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, where Hershey’s Chocolates are made, they’re celebrating with chocolate not just on the holiday but for a whole month! At the Hershey Hotel, visitors can sample chocolate treats and desserts, or take a “chocolate treatment” at the hotel Spa. They can learn about the history of chocolate at The Hershey Story museum or experience chocolate themed meals at local restaurants. With a partner, use the newspaper or Internet to brainstorm two fun and unusual ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day — with or without chocolate! Design an ad for the newspaper or Internet letting people know about your ideas!

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5.‘Doggy Daycare’ Rescue

Smart-phone tracking apps can be really helpful letting people know where they are in unfamiliar surroundings. In Portland, Oregon one also proved essential rescuing 12 dogs inside a van stolen from a “doggy daycare” company. The pooches were “dognapped” when a thief jumped into the van while owner Sunni Liston was delivering a pet to its owner, the Washington Post reported. Liston had left the keys inside because she was only going to the rear door but the thief quickly locked the driver’s door and drove off. Desperate to recover the dogs, Liston borrowed a cell phone to call co-workers. One of them used quick thinking to log into an iPhone-tracking app to try to locate Liston’s cell phone, which was inside the van. Sure enough, the tracker showed the phone moving through Portland streets until it stopped when the van was parked. One of Liston’s co-workers had a friend in the neighborhood and the friend raced to the van and blocked it with her car until police arrived. The dogs were uninjured and police are using surveillance videos in an attempt to find and identify the thief. Smart-phone technology is being used in many new ways to help people and deliver services. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the newest smart phones. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend, highlighting one or more features you like or use. Draw an illustration to go with your letter, if you like.

Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.