For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 15, 2024


In dozens of countries, puberty in girls has started 3 months earlier on average every decade since the 1970s. The medical community doesn’t have a clear explanation for why that has happened or why the change over time is similar but less extreme for boys. Some theories include chemicals in certain plastic products, stress, and obesity. Most likely, several factors combine to create the new trends. Some doctors around the world even noticed an increase in early puberty during the Covid-19 pandemic. Going through puberty earlier can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, so scientists want to understand what’s driving the changes. Read about the signs of puberty and make a chart of the different changes one can expect, both physically and mentally.


ESPN issued an apology last week to the organization that facilitates the Sports Emmy Awards. Some of the on-air personalities appear to have won Emmy Awards for their sports they were ineligible for, thanks to fake names being submitted. The Emmys have a category for “outstanding weekly studio show,” which are meant to recognize the behind-the-scenes production teams. Hosts and reporters could win individual awards for their work but aren’t supposed to be included in the group awards. However, an investigation showed that ESPN team members had submitted fake names that had the same initials as on-air hosts as part of the group they nominated as far back as 2010. There was no evidence that the on-air winners knew about the scandal. Read at least 2 accounts of this story online from different sources. Then, write your own summary of the facts based on what you read.


Employees at the online retailer eBay earned the company a $3 million fine from the federal government. A couple in Massachusetts run an online newsletter about e-commerce that upset eBay executives, so six employees at the company mailed live spiders, cockroaches, a Halloween mask, inappropriate magazines, and other disturbing things to the couple’s home. The harassment campaign resulted in criminal charges but the company agreed to meet certain conditions in order to have the charges dismissed. Under the conditions, the company will have an independent monitor overseeing its conduct for three years in addition to the $3 million fine. The harassment occurred n 2019 and the six employees are no longer with the company, but it took until now for the agreement between the federal government and the company to be reached. Read more about this case online, then write your own article with a summary of the facts.


Covid-19 levels are rising again, but the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the presence of the virus in the US has changed. Rather than hospitalizations and deaths, which are far lower now than previous years, the agency is using data from wastewater, or human sewage. Samples are collected from treatment plants and tested for the virus RNA, and the data is adjusted based on many factors, like population. While it doesn’t show exactly how much of the virus is circulating, testing wastewater shows when there’s an increase in its presence, and it includes people who are asymptomatic and don’t know they carry the virus. The CDC collects the data from across the country to determine national trends. Consider the creativity of testing wastewater as a way to see how much of the virus is out there when fewer people are testing for Covid or going to the hospital because of it. Then, write a summary that explains how this method of testing is different from what was used in years past and why it’s necessary.


For the first time, a large city in the United States has an all-female city council. St. Paul, Minnesota, elected a group of women, all seven of which are under 40 years old and six of the seven are women of color. They come from varied professions, including civil engineering and nonprofit directing. City Council President Mitra Jalali noted that the group is a good representation of the city’s demographics: “The median age of our community is 32.5. We are a majority person-of-color city. We have many major racial and ethic groups, many of which are now represented on this council.” Why do you think it’s important that people who hold political offices are representative of the population they serve? Write at least one paragraph on your answer.