For Grades 5-8 , week of Apr 03, 2023

1. Historic Visit

Vice President Kamala Harris made history when she was elected in 2020 because she is the first woman, first African American and first person of South Asian ancestry to hold the office. In the last two weeks she has made history again by making her first trip to the continent of Africa as vice president. Harris visited the countries of Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia in an effort to show U.S. support for African nations, strengthen relationships and blunt the growing influence in Africa from the Asian nation of China. She is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Africa since the election of President Biden. During her visit, Harris met with government leaders to discuss economic growth and regional security. She also made time to visit a skate park and a music studio in an effort to connect with young people in Africa, where the median age is just 19. Though her trip was her first as vice president, Harris had been to Zambia as a child to visit her grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, who had been deputized by the Zambian government to help manage refugees from neighboring Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe). The trip to Africa by Vice President Harris showcased America’s role as a leader in the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about other ways the United States shows world leadership. Use what you read to write a political column outlining what you think are the most important challenges facing the United States as a world leader, and how America should respond to them.

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.

2. Live Sports Are Good for You

This is a great time of year to be a sports fan. The NCAA basketball tournaments are wrapping up, Major League Baseball is starting and pro hockey and pro basketball are heading into their playoffs. Millions of fans will be filling arenas and stadiums to cheer for their favorite teams. That is good news for the teams, but also good for the fans. New research has found that attending live sporting events can improve emotional health, lower levels of loneliness and promote greater satisfaction with life, the Washington Post newspaper reports. The researchers suggest that the social interaction at sporting events can make people feel as if they belong, and less lonely as a result. The researchers were careful to point out that the data from the study of 16- to 85-year-old people in the European nation of England doesn’t mean watching live sports causes better emotional health directly. But because there appears to be a connection, they say the association should be studied further. “Our findings could be useful for shaping future public health strategies,” the lead author said. Spectator sports are hugely popular in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about two spectator sports that are popular. Use what you read to create a chart or graphic organizer comparing the appeal of the two sports.

Common Core State Standards: Organizing data using lists, concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. ‘Fairy Robots’

Bees and other insects play a hugely important role in agriculture, because they pollinate the flowers of fruits and vegetables and allow them to grow and produce. In many places, however, natural pollinators are declining in number, and some honeybee colonies have collapsed and died out entirely. In the European nation of Finland, scientists have come up with an invention that could provide a future solution. They have developed tiny “Fairy Robots” that can be controlled by light to fly from flower to flower and perform the functions of natural pollinators. The robots can move through the air like fluffy dandelion seeds and be directed toward plants and trees that need pollinating, the Bee Culture website reports. “This would have a huge impact on agriculture globally, since the loss of pollinators due to global warming has become a serious threat to biodiversity and food production,” said one of the scientists involved in the project. The development of “Fairy Robots” is an example of people using technology in new ways to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about another use of technology that is helping people in new ways. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor telling how this new use is an improvement over methods used in the past.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing.

4. Monarchs at Risk

The migration of monarch butterflies is one of the great wonders of the nature world. Each year, the famous black-and-orange insects migrate from northern North America to the American South to the forests of Mexico, where they stay in the winter months. Then flocks of monarchs turn around and go back. At every stage of their migration, monarchs face dangers and risks. And now climate change and human activities are shrinking their winter home. Trees they rely on for shelter have died from heat or lack of rain, and forests have been thinned by loggers who cut down trees for business purposes. In just one year, the population of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexican forests dropped 22 percent, according to a World Wildlife Fund report released in March. On the positive side, monarchs may be shifting their winter home to California as the Mexican forests decline. Global warming and climate change are affecting wildlife species all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a wildlife species being affected in this way. Use what you read to design a poster showing how this species is being affected and what could be done to help it. Share posters as a class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement.

5. Some Good Water News

The state of California has suffered from a water shortage for years, and dry conditions have fueled everything from failed farms to wildfires. This winter, however, the state received overwhelming amounts of rain and snow, and that is good news for California residents. As a result of the wet winter weather, Governor Gavin Newsom has eased restrictions for homeowners and businesses that had been put in place to conserve water. The past three years have been the driest in recorded history in California, the New York Times newspaper reported. Last spring, state water officials reported that California’s largest reservoirs were at half of their historical averages. Now, however, only about a third of the state is experiencing drought, and only about 8.5 percent is in severe drought. Some reservoirs are so full that water is being released to make way for water that will be created by the melting of record levels of snow in mountain areas. While the loosening of restrictions is good news, the governor is still encouraging Californians to use less water, because underground aquifer storage areas have not yet been refilled. Droughts and lack of rain have had great impact on many areas in the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one area that has been affected. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper detailing how long the area has been affected, the impact that has had on people and wildlife and what can be done to lessen the impact.

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.