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For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 24, 2023

1. Living on Plastic

Plastic pollution is a problem all over the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Garbage Patch, which is twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas, is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. It covers 620,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean between the U.S. states of California and Hawaii and is held together by swirling ocean currents. For years scientists have cited the Garbage Patch as a huge environmental problem. But new research has found that there may be some environmental benefit. Scientists have found that the Garbage Patch may be creating its own ecosystem that supports hundreds of species of marine life. Surprisingly, the system is supporting species that ordinarily live in the coastal areas of countries and continents, not in the open ocean, CNN News reports. The species include tiny crabs and anemones, which are organisms related to jellyfish and sea corals. Because plastic doesn’t break down easily, debris can float in the oceans for years, giving creatures the opportunity to survive and reproduce, researchers said in a new report. States, communities and whole nations are looking for ways to reduce plastic pollution. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different efforts. Use what you read to write a short editorial detailing approaches you think could be effective models for other communities.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

2. ‘Terminating’

In the movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger is most famous for playing the villain — and later hero — of the “Terminator” movies. In real life, the action hero star has done some “terminating” of another sort. Fed up with a “giant pothole” in his neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, Schwarzenegger went out and got a bag of street-repair material, grabbed some tools and filled the pothole himself. Not surprisingly, the movie star took a movie of himself repairing the hole, the Washington Post newspaper reports, and it has been viewed more than 10-million times online on Twitter. The video shows Schwarzenegger dumping a 50-pound bag of Quikrete repair mix into an opening on the street, leveling it off and tamping it down with tools. At the end of the video, Schwarzenegger dusts off his hands and the video fades to black. “I always say, let’s not complain, let’s do something about it,” he wrote in a Twitter tweet. “Here you go.” People in communities and neighborhoods sometimes take action on their own to solve problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one example of people doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, telling what the people did, why they did it and how it benefited the community. Share and discuss as a class. Are there problems people could solve on their own in your community?

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; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

3. New Population Leader

For thousands of years, the Asian nation of China has had one of the world’s largest populations — and since at least 1950 it has had the largest population of all. Sometime this year, however, the neighboring nation of India will pass China to claim the lead in world population. The U.N. World Population Report for 2023 estimates India will have 1.4286-billion people by midsummer, 2.9-million more than China’s 1.4257-billion, CNN News reports. The United States is a very distant third, with an estimated population of 340-million, the U.N. reports. The overall population of the world is expected to hit 8.045-billion by mid-year, the U.N. said. Countries with large populations also have large challenges and problems. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about challenges facing China or India. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media report on the challenges, their history and what can be done to address them.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

4. Record NFL Contract

Jalen Hurts had a phenomenal season in the National Football League last year, passing for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns, running for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns and leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl. In that game, which the Eagles lost by just three points 38-35, Hurts passed for 304 yards and one touchdown and ran the ball for 70 yards and three touchdowns. Now the Eagles have rewarded the 24-year-old Hurts with a contract that will make him the highest paid player in the history of the NFL. Hurts has agreed to a five-year, $255-million deal that includes $179.3-million in guaranteed money, a $51-million a year average salary and a no-trade clause, ESPN Sports reported. It is the first time in Eagles history that a player has gotten a no-trade clause in his contract. “We’ll be working with Jalen for a long time,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. Top professional athletes are paid enormous amounts of money. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one athlete and what he or she is paid. Use what you read to write a sports column, analyzing what value the athlete brings to the team, fans and the community for such a large salary. Share and discuss columns as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Headline Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, and this week the nation will wrap up celebrations for 2023. The month-long observance gives people a chance to celebrate all forms of poetry and the things that inspire poems. Sometimes news events inspire poets, and when that happens people say their poems are “ripped from the headlines.” Scan the newspaper or a news website and copy down a headline that catches your attention. Then write a poem using that headline as the first or last line (or both). For further fun and challenge, copy down 10 headlines and assemble them into a poem of their own! Read poems aloud, in groups or as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; reading prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate and expression on successive readings.