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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 02, 2017

1. New Weather Satellite

The first in a series of highly developed weather satellites has been launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by America’s NASA space agency. The geostationary satellite was designed to boost weather observation capabilities and provide more accurate and timely forecasts. “The next generation of weather satellites is finally here,” says NOAA’s administrator. A geostationary satellite orbits the Earth once a day in the same time frame as the Earth’s rotation. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite known as GOES-16 includes the first mapping system for lightning in a geostationary orbit. Satellites and other technology play big roles in tracking and forecasting the weather. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about weather technology or forecasting that is based on technology. Then use the Internet or the website of the newspaper to study information or maps made possible by satellites or technology. Use what you find to write a paragraph detailing how information gathered through technology makes it possible for people to better understand the weather.

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. Afghanistan Roads Ruined

Thirteen years ago, the United States called reconstruction of the Kabul-Kandahar highway “the most visible sign” of efforts by the U.S. and other nations to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan in central Asia. Today, however, that highway built by the United States is scarred by bomb craters, loaded with hostile checkpoints and “beyond repair,” according to one Afghan official. The office of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports that 95 percent of the roads it has inspected have been damaged or destroyed, and 85 percent were either poorly maintained or not at all after being paid for by the United States or other nations. Replacing the roads now could cost more than $8 billion, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The war in Afghanistan was launched as part of the “war on terror” begun after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Use what you read to write an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump giving your opinion about what the next steps should be for the U.S. and Afghanistan.

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.

3. On Hold? Here’s Some Mozart

Callers put on hold at the town hall in Greenwich, Connecticut, can now enjoy some Mozart, compliments of the Greenwich High School Orchestra. The classical music played by the orchestra has replaced the music that came with a new phone system, which many callers didn’t like. Responding to callers’ complaints, the town’s information director contacted the high school orchestra’s director, who suggested substituting a student performance. The string ensemble recording was made at a concert in the school. In every community students do a wide variety of creative things — music, theater, art, dance, writing, poetry and more. As a class, discuss some of the creative things you and your classmates do, or things other students in your school do that show their creativity. Then show your creativity by creating an artwork, poem rap or rhyme celebrating all the ways students are creative. Share your creations with the class.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

4. Bad Outlook, Bad for Heart

A negative, pessimistic attitude increases the risk of death from heart disease, a new study reports, while an optimistic attitude seems to have no effect at all. Researchers from the European nation of Finland report in the BMC Public Health journal that the most pessimistic one-quarter of people in a survey on positive and negative attitudes were more than twice as likely as those with more positive attitudes to die from heart disease. A lead researcher noted that the findings indicate that “your personality traits can make physical health worse,” and “if you’re pessimistic, it’s even more important to take care of your physical health.” The attitude and outlook people have often can have an effect on health or success. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about attitude having an effect on health or success. Use what you read to write an essay or opinion column detailing how attitude affects people for good or bad. Include personal examples of how your attitude has affected your health or success at different times.

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.

5. Art Forgery Ring Busted

Criminal intelligence investigators in the European nation of Austria have broken up a group selling forgeries of high-profile art, including fakes attributed to the famous artists Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. Officers posing as art buyers arrested six suspects at an airport hotel in the city of Vienna in a sting operation late last year. They were trying to sell five “Picasso originals” for about 10 million euros ($11 million) each. The suspects — five Austrians and a Slovenian — had more than a dozen forgeries in their possession. Reportedly, 60 more were at one suspect’s home in Slovenia. The breakup of the Austrian art forgery ring is an example of a law enforcement agency investigating a case and stopping people from breaking the law. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about police or law enforcement agencies solving a case in your community or state. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video, detailing how the case was cracked. Write the opening scene for your film, including images you would use.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.