for Grades 5-8
, week of
Oct. 04, 2021
1. Children’s Vaccine
As schools re-open around the country, one of the biggest questions for parents is: When will a coronavirus vaccine be available for young children? Those parents got a partial answer last week, when the makers of the Pfizer vaccine said its trial testing had shown it was safe for children ages 5 to 11 and had demonstrated strong production of antibodies against the virus. The vaccine would be delivered in two doses at about one-third the strength of vaccines approved for people 15 to 25 years old, the company said. Next step for Pfizer will be to formally apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of the children’s vaccine, but a decision is not expected until Halloween at the earliest. With about 28 million children ages 5 to 11 in the United States, approval could affect families and schools across the nation. Getting students vaccinated against the coronavirus is a key to keeping schools safe and healthy, doctors and government leaders say. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about plans to vaccinate younger students and efforts to vaccinate students 12 and older. Use what you read to write a short editorial assessing the success of vaccinating older students and how communities could learn from that effort when vaccinating younger children.
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.
2. Instagram Kids
Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites on the Internet, with more than 1.2-billion active users. Owned by Facebook, it allows users to share photos and videos, tell stories and communicate easily with others. It was created for adults but since many underage users simply ignore the age limits Facebook has been working to develop an Instagram Kids service for children 13 or younger. Those plans have been put on hold, however, after Facebook received wide criticism for the negative effects Instagram can have on young users, especially teenage girls. Internal Facebook research leaked to the Wall Street Journal newspaper had found that Instagram caused teen girls to feel worse about their bodies and led to increased rates of anxiety and depression. The Instagram Kids service was intended for ages 10 to 12 and would require parental permission to join, the New York Times newspaper reported. Facebook still wants to develop the kids’ service but will delay its launch to “work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns,” a spokesperson said. Overuse of social media can have negative effects on mental health and social interactions, according to medical and mental health experts. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these effects. Use what you read to write an advice column offering tips on how to avoid negative effects of social media. Share with friends and discuss.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.
3. Big Bezos Gift
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s second richest man, and last year he announced he would be spending a big chunk of his wealth to protect the environment. Now the Bezos Earth Fund has gotten more specific about how the money will be spent. The Earth Fund announced last week that it would use $1-billion of the fund’s $10-billion endowment to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent extinctions of wildlife and plant life. The fund said it would focus on the Congo Basin in Africa, the Tropical Andes region in South America and the tropical Pacific Ocean. According to an Earth Fund statement, the targeted areas could protect up to 80 percent of plant and animal species and sustain two-thirds of the Earth’s clean water. The Bezos Earth Fund is investing in efforts to protect wildlife and plant life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about plants or animals that are endangered or at risk. Pretend you are head of the Bezos Fund. Write a plan to help one or more of these species. Be sure to include evidence from your reading to support your plan.
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.
4. Bears Ears
The Bears Ears National Monument in the state of Utah was created by former President Barack Obama in 2016 to protect its desert landscape, sandstone canyons, cliff dwellings, rock art and dinosaur fossils. Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump, reduced the boundaries of the protected area by 85 percent, but President Biden vowed to reverse Trump’s actions when he was running for the White House. Now, a coalition of Native American tribes has called on President Biden to take “immediate action” to restore protections to prevent damage to former Indigenous settlements, sacred sites and the natural environment. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who is Native American, has recommended to the White House that the Bears Ears boundaries be expanded, but Biden has not yet made a decision. Protection of natural areas can often cause controversy. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effort or proposal that has caused controversy or debate. Use what you read to write a political column analyzing the arguments of the different sides and recommending what should be done.
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; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
5. For ‘Women Only’
To protect women from harassment and assaults, the Bolt rideshare company recently introduced a “women-only” service providing female drivers to female passengers in the African city of Nairobi, Kenya. Women who have had bad experiences with male drivers welcomed the move. Their happiness was short-lived, however, when they discovered the new service was more expensive than regular Bolt rides, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The price differences are small but enough to send women riders to social media to complain. “We are being charged more to feel safer,” one female rider said. “It seems like we are being punished for complaining.” A Bolt spokesperson said the company tries to make the pricing comparable, but is hampered by a limited number of female drivers in Nairobi. Companies often are criticized for the way they offer new services or products. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one company that is drawing such criticism. Write a letter to the editor, offering suggestions on what the company should do in response to the criticism.
Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.