For Grades 5-8 THE WEEK OF Mar. 01, 2021

1. Touchdown!

The landing of the Perseverance rover space craft on Mars was billed as one of the big events of the year for America’s NASA space agency. When it happened on February 18, it more than lived up to expectations. Perseverance made a flawless landing on the surface of the so-called Red Planet next out from Earth in our solar system. Even before touching down, it took a first-of-its-kind video of the landing and followed up by taking a 360-degree, high-definition photo of the landing site in the Jezero Crater, an ancient Martian lake. Perseverance also will test a small helicopter it carried to Mars to see if it can fly in the planet’s thin atmosphere. Its main mission, however, will be to use state-of-the-art, high-tech equipment in an effort to determine if life ever existed on the planet in the past. Perseverance is the fourth rover that the United States has landed on Mars. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004 and Curiosity in 2012. The spacecraft Perseverance continues to make news and send back images from Mars. In the newspaper or online, find and closely study stories and photos that have been sent back. Write an editorial celebrating the things you think are the most impressive.

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. ‘Hero Pay’

In the fight against the coronavirus, front-line workers like nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers have been widely hailed as heroes. Now another kind of hero is getting recognition: low-wage workers in grocery and drug stores. In the county of Los Angeles, California, which has more people than any other county in the nation, the governing Board of Supervisors wants to give those workers “hero pay” for keeping people supplied with necessities. The Board has voted to give those workers a $5 an hour pay increase, even as stores say the move could lead to stores closing or hours cut back. Passed by a 4-1 vote, the measure went into effect last week and will benefit about 2,000 workers in unincorporated parts of the county, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The pay raise would last for 120 days. As the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus epidemic, many government and private agencies are taking steps to help workers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of the approaches being tried. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor discussing the most important things workers need and how communities could provide help.

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. Furniture Relief

When a deadly winter storm knocked out heat, electricity and water across the state of Texas, residents got relief from an unexpected source in the city of Houston. The owner of Gallery Furniture stores opened his showrooms to residents seeking warmth and shelter when their homes lost heat and power. Jim McIngvale put the word out on social media that he was opening his stores as warming shelters and within hours, people began showing up to escape their cold homes. “We have lots of beds, lots of sofas and lots of recliners,” McIngvale said he told them. “Come on in and make yourself at home.” To keep people safe and healthy, McIngvale made sure that everyone had masks and required that they stay socially distanced from each other. He even sent out for food to feed the families who came to stay overnight and provided snacks like chips and doughnuts, the Washington Post reported. Recovery from the deadly winter storm will take a long time in the state of Texas. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about challenges people in the state still face. Use what you read to write a message to your community suggesting ways private groups and individuals could help the people of Texas. Share with friends, family and classmates and discuss ways you could help.

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

4. Six Flags Fun

The first day of spring is less than a month away, and that has people thinking of warm-weather fun. Among the most popular activities for students and families are amusement parks, and last week fans got some great news. The Six Flags company announced it is planning to open all of its 26 amusement and water parks for the 2021 season. Last year the parks had to modify operations due to the coronavirus epidemic, and five were not able to operate at all. For 2021, the company says it has been working with disease experts to develop a reopening plan that “meets or exceeds federal, state and local guidelines for sanitization, hygiene and social distancing.” Guests will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked, and the number allowed in at one time will be limited. They also will have to make reservations before visiting. Businesses, institutions and entertainment sites are slowly beginning to reopen after the coronavirus shutdown. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some that are re-opening. Use what you read to write a summary of steps being taken to re-open safely.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

5. Free the Cranes

Grey crowned cranes are among the most beautiful birds on the continent of Africa. Standing more than three feet tall, they have a mix of gray, white and sometimes blue feathers topped by a crown of spiky golden feathers on their heads that look like a punk-rock haircut. Most interesting of all, they perform elaborate and spectacular courtship dances to attract their mates. The beauty and dancing of the cranes made them enormously popular as pets across Africa and in other nations. So popular that their numbers have declined to dangerously low levels in the wild. The African nation of Rwanda, however, has developed an innovative program to return the cranes to the wild, and it is being viewed as a model for other nations, CNN News reports. In 2014 the Rwandan government launched an effort to get owners to surrender their pet cranes with no penalty, and last year wildlife leaders said they believed no cranes remained in captivity. Healthy birds were released to a rehabilitation site in Akagera National Park, while birds that could not survive in the wild were taken to a protected crane sanctuary. Rwanda’s effort to return grey crowned cranes to the wild is an example of people working to help wildlife. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about another effort to help wildlife. Use what you read to prepare an oral report for classmates, friends or family describing this effort and the results it is getting.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.