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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 24, 2018

1. Big-Time Giving

Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $164-billion from his Amazon company and other enterprises. Now he and his wife MacKenzie are giving back to communities in a big way. The couple have pledged to donate $2-billion to a new fund that will start preschools for children and help homeless families. The donation to the Day 1 Fund is the biggest ever made by Bezos for a charity activity. The money will be used to start a network of nonprofit preschools for underserved communities and help organizations that provide food and shelter for homeless families. In addition to his online Amazon business, Bezos owns the Washington Post newspaper, Whole Foods supermarkets and the Blue Origin spaceflight company. Wealthy people like Jeff Bezos often make large donations to help solve problems that communities face. With a partner, read stories in the newspaper or online about problems facing your community or state. Use what you read to write a proposal seeking a donation from a wealthy person for money to deal with the problem. In your proposal, outline specific ways the money would be used, why that is important and why you think the effort would be effective.

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. Dreadlock Battle

In the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, dreadlocks are a common and popular hairstyle. But when a 5-year-old girl tried to wear them at her new school, she sparked a controversy that has gone all the way to Jamaica’s Supreme Court. At issue is the public school’s policy that bans dreadlocks for fear they could increase the risk of health problems such as head lice. When the girl’s mother protested that her daughter had been wearing dreadlocks in good health since she was one year old, she was told she could go to another school instead of the highly rated one her daughter wanted to attend outside the city of Kingston. With the support of a human rights group, the mother challenged the ban on the grounds it violates her daughter’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom from discrimination and the right to an education. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court in January. In the meantime, the High Court has issued an injunction that allows the girl to attend the school while the court case goes forward. Most schools have dress and appearance codes, and sometimes they cause controversy. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a controversy over a dress code. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your views on the issue. Support your views with facts from the story.

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.

3. Deep-Sea Discovery

In the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Atacama Trench is so deep it takes four hours for an observation device to sink to the bottom. But scientists are now celebrating that one did this summer. When it got to the bottom it discovered three new species of snailfish living nearly five miles beneath the surface off the coasts of Chile and Peru in South America. The discovery excited scientists because much remains to be learned about how creatures survive the intense pressure, darkness and low temperatures of the deepest parts of the world’s oceans. The snailfish appeared to be soft bodied and “gelatinous” in videos shot of them, with translucent skin and a wavy style of moving. “Their gelatinous structure means they are perfectly adapted to living at extreme pressure,” said Thomas Linley, a lead researcher on the expedition. They appeared much larger than other sea creatures in their environment, indicating “the snailfish are the top predator,” Linley said. The newly discovered snailfish have bodies that help them survive in their deep-sea environment. Many other wildlife species also have bodies or physical features that help them live in their environment. In the newspaper or online, find and study photos of wildlife species whose bodies are well-suited for where they live. Pick two and write a paragraph for each explaining how their bodies or physical features help them survive.

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.

4. Helping the Environment

In an effort to fight plastic pollution and global warming, the mayor of the biggest city in Germany is trying to get people to use less bottled water. And he’s hoping installation of public drinking fountains around the city of Berlin will help change people’s behavior. Germany is one of the top five nations for consuming bottled water, and the Number 1 nation for consuming bubbly, carbonated bottled water. All those plastic bottles have an environmental impact that goes beyond trash pollution, scientists say, because the plastics industry creates billions of tons of carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. Getting people to use public drinking fountains is “an environmentally friendly choice because it avoids the production of plastic and transport costs,” Mayor Michael Müller said when announcing the plan for more fountains. Protecting the environment is a top concern for many government leaders. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a government leader taking action to help the environment. Write a letter to the editor urging readers to support the action — or to oppose it. Support your arguments with evidence from your reading or other research.

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.

5. The Right Thing

“Character,” a congressman once said, “is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.” A teenager in Santa Barbara, California, did that this summer — and now EVERYONE is looking at Rhami Zeini and praising his character. Zeini, a 16-year-old junior in high school, got national attention for doing the right thing when he found a purse in the street that contained $10,000 in cash. There was no phone number in the purse, so Zeini asked his parents to take him to the county sheriff’s office. An officer there was able to use a residence database to locate the owner, and the money was soon returned. “I figured this is the right thing to do,” Zeini told a local TV station. “If … I had lost something with a significant sum of money inside, I know I would want it back.” The owner of the purse said she believed she had left it on the roof of her car and lost it when she started driving. People often make news for doing the right thing when faced with a choice. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone acting this way. Design a public service ad for the newspaper, publicly thanking this person for his/her actions. Give your ad an eye-catching headline and write a paragraph detailing how the person’s actions could be a role model for others.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.