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For Grades K-4 , week of Nov. 28, 2016

1. Up in the Air — for 10 Months!

The bird known as the common swift can spend up to 10 months in the air without landing, scientists have found. According to a new study, the bird can even mate during flight and comes to Earth only for making a nest. Of 19 birds outfitted with tiny data loggers and later recaptured, three had never rested at all, the data showed, and all had stayed in the air the entire time they weren’t nesting. Scientists are always seeking to learn more about wildlife. As a class, find and closely read a story about scientists studying a wildlife species. Use what you read to write a paragraph explaining what they are studying, what they have found out and why that is significant for understanding the species or its habitat.

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. Museum-Hopping

It’s not the same as being there, but a new Internet app can take you on museum visits from a distance. The app allows users of the virtual reality headsets called Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear to wander through museums and galleries all over the world with electronic programming. So far, about 30 cultural institutions have signed up to offer the virtual reality tours. Eventually the platform will be expanded to allow users to choose from a wide array of artworks or artists. The app for touring museums is an example of technology being used in new ways to help people do new things. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of technology. Or find an ad for a product that uses new technology. Write the words “NEW TECH” down the side of a sheet of paper. Then use each letter of the words to start a sentence or phrase describing one benefit or effect of the new technology.

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; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs.

3. Astronauts Return to Earth

Three astronauts are back on Earth after a 115-day mission aboard the International Space Station orbiting 200 miles above the Earth. The returnees — an American, a Russian and a Japanese — landed in the Asian nation of Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. After getting out of the capsule, they sat still on the ground while readjusting to the forces of gravity. They then were taken to a nearby medical unit for a health check-up and examination. The returning astronauts were replaced on the space station by an American and two Russians transported by another Soyez space capsule. Two other Russians and an American make up the rest of the six-person space station crew. The astronauts serving on the International Space Station perform a variety of experiments and activities to learn more about living in space. In groups or teams, use the newspaper or Internet to find and closely read stories about some of these experiments and activities. Use what you read to create a poster showing how these are helping the astronauts learn more about space. Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your poster.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

4. Largest Marine Reserve

Twenty-four nations and the European Union have reached a unanimous agreement to establish the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea next to the continent of Antarctica. The area near the Earth’s South Pole is “the last great wilderness area on Earth,” according to the United Nations Environment Programme, and is “… known as the polar Garden of Eden.” The agreement follows years of negotiations over the 600,000-square-mile sanctuary — an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas. It is home to half the world’s ecotype-C killer whales, 40 percent of its Adelie penguins and 25 percent of its emperor penguins. The U.S. and New Zealand have been urging that the reserve be protected for years, as the area is popular with commercial fishermen. The creation of the Ross Sea marine reserve is an example of nations working together to achieve a goal. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about nations working together. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, giving your view on how the cooperation of these nations helped them achieve a goal — and how that could be a model for other nations.

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.

5. Egypt Water Unsafe

It may not be safe to drink water from the faucet in the northern African nation of Egypt. That’s because the Nile River has been turned a murky brown-yellow color, after heavy rains swept soil and silt into the water. About 92 million residents are almost entirely dependent on the Nile for drinking water and for watering their crops. The heavy rains and flooding forced the closing of several main water stations, causing disruption of water supplies in some areas. “Change of color to yellow is a disaster,” a water expert told Egyptians, “and we should be cautious until water filtering takes place.” Safe drinking water is an important public health issue. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another public health issue that is important to children or families. Use what you read to give a short oral report to the class, highlighting the most important things families should know about the issue.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.