For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 10, 2020

1. Great Traits

Perseverance and Ingenuity are two character traits that help people be successful in careers or life. America’s NASA space agency hope that they will also lead to success on the nation’s latest mission to the planet Mars. Perseverance is the name of a rover spacecraft that will explore for signs of ancient life. Ingenuity is the name of a helicopter that is the first ever sent to Mars. The two groundbreaking spacecraft are now winging their way to Mars after being launched July 30 at Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida. Their journey will take between 6.5 and 7 months to reach the planet next out from Earth in the solar system. The two craft will do things no U.S. mission has done before. The landing site in the Jezero Crater is the most challenging ever for a Mars mission, and Perseverance will use new navigation equipment to maneuver around the sand dunes, boulders and small craters it will find there. Ingenuity, of course, will make the first helicopter flights in the Mars atmosphere to explore the landscape. Many nations are targeting Mars with space missions this year. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these missions. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor highlighting the most important things these missions could teach scientists in the coming months.

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. Buffalo Blue Jays

Home, the poet Robert Frost wrote, is the place that “when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” For baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays this season, however, home has turned out to be a place that tells you to go somewhere else. Due to coronavirus restrictions in the nation of Canada, the Blue Jays were denied permission to play in in their home city of Toronto because their schedule would require back and forth travel to the United States. Canada has limited travel outside the country to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, so the team had to find a new “home” for the season. After a search of major league sites, it turned out to be the stadium of their minor league affiliate in Buffalo, New York. The Blue Jays will play “home games” at Sahlen Field, home of the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and a place where many of the Blue Jays players had played when coming up from the minor leagues. Major League Baseball teams have had to make many adjustments due to the coronavirus epidemic. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of those adjustments. Use what you read to write a sports column exploring how the changes are affecting the game — and whether any of them could become permanent.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them.

3. Rare Yellow Turtle

A yellow turtle that looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book has caused a buzz in the Asian nation of India this summer — and among wildlife lovers around the world. The turtle was discovered by a farmer working his fields in eastern India and identified as an albino version of an Indian flapshell turtle. Flapshell turtles are usually grayish-green, but a genetic mutation left the newly discovered turtle without the pigments that would give it its natural color. Without those pigments it turned a bright yellow, which made it a rare reptile find. Albinism can affect every species, including humans, and often turns animals a bright white. As rare as it was, India’s yellow turtle was not put on display or given to a zoo. After studying it, wildlife officials returned it to the wild. Rare animals often make news when they are discovered. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about the discovery of a rare animal, bird, reptile or other species. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation for family or friends, explaining why this animal is rare and what it can teach scientists.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Under the Sea

Fabien Cousteau comes from a family of deep-sea adventurers. He is the son of ocean explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and the grandson of the famed ocean scientist and photographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Now Fabien Cousteau wants to have his family’s biggest adventure yet, creating a permanent underwater ocean research station where scientists could live and work for extended periods of time. The research station called Proteus, would be the largest in the world and sit on the ocean floor off the coast of Curacao in the southern Caribbean Sea. With co-founder Yves Béhar, Cousteau envisions a facility that would operate like the International Space Station, CNN News reports, with scientists and researchers from around the world collaborating and sharing information. Cousteau notes that there is still much to be learned about the world’s oceans. Though they cover 71 percent of the world's surface, humans have only explored about 5 percent and mapped less than 20 percent, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Oceans play a huge role in people’s lives. They provide food, transportation, materials for medicine and places to have fun with family or friends. With the newspaper or Internet, find examples of ways that oceans provide benefits to people. Use what you find to brainstorm a short video highlighting the benefits of oceans. Remember that some benefits may be indirect, not direct.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

5. Island Opens Up

With white beaches, tidal inlets and dozens of ponds, the Cape Cod region in the state of Massachusetts is one of the most popular vacation spots on America’s East Coast. And now Cape Cod has gotten a new public attraction. For the first time in more than 300 years a privately owned island on the Cape’s eastern edge has become open to the public. Sipson Island, which is located near the “elbow” of Cape Cod on the Atlantic Ocean, has been purchased by a non-profit land trust and opened up for public recreation. The island has been privately owned since 1711, when local Native Americans sold it to white settlers. The Sipson Island Trust group plans to restore its natural areas, create education programs that acknowledge Native American history and promote recreation opportunities. Many states, communities and even the national government take steps to preserve natural areas so that people can enjoy them. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one or more of these efforts. Use what you read to write an editorial for the newspaper telling why such efforts are important and what benefits people will get from them now and in the future.

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.