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For Grades K-4 , week of June 27, 2016

1. Making the Seas Less Noisy

Many species that live in the world’s oceans rely on sound to communicate, find food, locate each other and avoid predators. But in recent years, that has gotten harder and harder, due to man-made sounds introduced by commercial fishing boats. To reduce the harmful effects of underwater noise from fishing boats, an Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap has been proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The goal is to reduce commercial noise that has interfered with the oceans’ natural rumblings and the sounds used by ocean species like whales and dolphins. Before the plan goes into effect, the public will have a chance to comment on the proposal from now until July 1. Human behaviors often have an effect on natural habitats and wildlife species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species or habitat. Or closely study a photo of a natural habitat. Use what you read or study to write a letter to the editor, describing human actions that could have an effect on the habitat. The effects can be positive or negative — or both.

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.

2. Move Preakness Race?

Every year, the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, plays host to one of the three historic horse races that make up the Triple Crown. But as Pimlico prepared to host the 141st Preakness Stakes this year, the Maryland Stadium Authority was starting a study on whether to keep the race at that track. While traditionalists say the Preakness should never leave Pimlico, other racing leaders say the neighborhood has become downtrodden and is no longer attractive to wealthier fans. Backers of moving the race have suggested it be re-located to the Laurel Park racetrack located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Laurel Park has three times as much space for Preakness activities and offers opportunities for development and investment in the area. In this year’s Preakness, the horse Exaggerator upset the favorite Nyquist, which had won the Kentucky Derby. Where businesses and events are located often has an effect on their success. As a class, use the newspaper or Internet to find ads or stories about businesses in your community. Study the ads and closely read the stories and discuss where some of the businesses are located — and why. Then pretend you are going to open a business. Write a paragraph describing where you would want to locate it — and why.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. New Name for a Nation

When the European nation of Czechoslovakia split in two in 1993, the Czech Republic found itself with an awkward, two-word name — the “Czech Republic” (pronounced “CHECK”). After years of debate, however, Czech leaders have adopted a shorter name that people may use — “Czechia” (pronounced CHECK-ee-uh). The change was not made without opposition. Opponents said it would add cost and confusion to the process of renaming things in the nation located east of Germany. The new name also could be confused with the name of the Russian republic of Chechnya, whose recent history has been unsettled. Finding a shorter name was an important issue to people and leaders of Czechoslovakia. In the newspaper or online, closely read a story about an issue that is important to another nation (other than the United States). Write a short paragraph, explaining why this issue is important to people of the nation.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; 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. Obamas Choose New Home

The Obama family will not join the homeless when the President’s term expires and they must leave the White House in January 2017. They will rent a nine-bedroom, 8,200-square-foot mansion two miles away, in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The Obamas still own a house in Chicago, Illinois, but had disclosed earlier that they plan to stay in Washington at least until their daughter Sasha graduates from high school in 2018. Her older sister, Malia, graduated this month from the same school, Sidwell Friends, and will enroll at Harvard University after taking a year off to do other things during a “gap year.” The Obamas are renting a large house because they expect to have many visitors after they leave the White House. As a class, discuss what kind of people might want to visit the Obamas, in addition to family and friends. Then use points from the discussion to draw a series of comic strips showing what it would be like visiting the Obamas and what people might talk about.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

5. Spare Room in Space

America’s NASA space agency has successfully enlarged the International Space Station by inflating an expandable, add-on room. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was activated when U.S astronaut Jeff Williams released short blasts of air into the room’s walls from the space station orbiting 250 miles above the Earth. Williams used a hand-controlled valve to inflate the walls and then opened eight air tanks to pressurize the pod-like room. The room was tested to make sure it did not leak air before astronauts were allowed to enter it. The expandable room is a breakthrough for space habitats, because it takes up little space while being transported, but provides more living and working space when inflated. The astronauts living on board the International Space Station are constantly trying and doing new things. Use the newspaper or the website to closely read a story about something astronauts have done on board the space station. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme telling what the astronauts have done and why it is important or new.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.