For Grades 5-8 , week of Aug. 09, 2021

1. Concert for the Vaccinated

As New York City seeks to get more people vaccinated against the coronavirus, city officials are offering a star-studded incentive. A mega-concert featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jennifer Hudson, LL Cool J, the Killers, Paul Simon, Patti Smith and others will be offered free on the Great Lawn in Central Park on August 21 — but only for people who can show proof of vaccination. The concert, titled “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert,” was initially planned to celebrate New York’s re-opening after the virus shutdown that lasted more than a year. Now it’s serving as an incentive for people who haven’t been vaccinated to get their shots. “We want this to be a concert for the people,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a video news conference announcing the name of the event. “But I also want to be clear: It has to be a safe concert. It has to be a concert that helps us keep moving forward our recovery. So, if you want to go to this concert, you need to show proof of vaccination.” Cities and states are offering many different incentives to get people vaccinated. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about different approaches. Use what you read to write a personal opinion column assessing the different incentives and which you think are the best ideas. Add some ideas of your own, if you like.

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. Obama in Africa

The continent of Africa is a growing market for the National Basketball Association, with 55 players who were born there or have a parent with roots there. Now the NBA is looking to create stronger ties with the continent with the formation of NBA Africa — and it has signed up one of the world’s most prominent fans to do it. Former President Barack Obama has agreed to join NBA Africa as a strategic partner and minority stakeholder in the operation that will run basketball academies across the continent and help operate the Basketball Africa League. At least five former NBA players — Congo native Dikembe Mutombo, South Sudan native Luol Deng, Grant Hill, Joakim Noah and Junior Bridgeman — are investors in the venture. Obama, whose father was born in the African nation of Kenya, “will help advance the league's social responsibility efforts across the continent, including programs and partnerships that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion,” according to a news release from the NBA. Organizations often bring in famous people like Barack Obama to increase interest and support for their activities. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about organizations that are doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to a friend analyzing how such partnerships benefit the organizations and benefit the celebrities. Include an idea for a partnership that would benefit an organization in your community or state.

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.

3. ‘Spiritual Opium’?

The Chinese company Tencent is the world’s largest video game provider. But even it can feel the pressure when government officials target the gaming industry. This month, Tencent announced new limits on the amount of time minors in China can spend playing the company’s online games, after a government newspaper published a sharply worded analysis that called video games an “electronic drug” and “spiritual opium.” It’s not the first time Chinese officials have targeted online gaming. In 2019, China announced a curfew for online gaming that would ban gaming platforms from providing services to minors between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and limited the amount of time minors could play online games to 90 minutes a day on weekdays and three hours per day on weekends and holidays. After the latest government criticism, Tencent went even further: limiting the ability for minors to play its popular “Honor of Kings” game to an hour on non-holidays and two hours on holidays, CNN News reported. All over the world, parents, health leaders and government officials are concerned that too much gaming can lead to video game addiction, which has now been classified as a health disorder. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about steps that are being taken or proposed to reduce gaming among young people. Use what you read to prepare a TV news report on different approaches and which you think would be most effective.

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.

4.Tightrope Record

It takes balance, strength and nerves of steel to be a tightrope walker. It takes courage, too, when you are 1,969 feet in the air, trying to cross a 1.3-mile ropeline with wind blowing all around you. And did we mention the ropeline is suspended between two snowy mountain peaks? Despite such obstacles, that is what a team of four tightrope walkers from the European nation of Germany did this summer, setting a new world record for distance while “highlining.” The team made their historic crossing in the European nation of Sweden, crossing between two peaks north of the Arctic Circle in the Lapporten valley. “This is hard because it’s really exposed, it’s 600 metres high, it’s 2,150 metres [long] and it’s really windy here sometimes,” said the project manager of the crossing. People set world records in many odd and unusual ways. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of them. Pick several and brainstorm an idea for a documentary film exploring why people choose to set unusual or odd records. Write out questions you would ask these record-holders. Then write an outline for your documentary, including images you would use. With family or friends, discuss which record-holder you would focus on in the opening scene of your documentary — and why.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Getting Better

Environmentalists have many ways to measure the health of ecosystems and wildlife in the world. Many, like the Endangered Species List, record the threats to wildlife and prospects for survival. Now, an international conservation group is taking another approach. The Union for Conservation of Nature is launching a Green Status of Species List that will measure how well conservation efforts are helping plants and animals recover from past threats. The list will rank species on a scale of 0 to 100, with zero indicating that a species is extinct in the wild, and 100 indicating that it is “fully recovered.” The new list also will evaluate the impact of past conservation efforts; what would happen if conservation efforts stopped; as well as future potential for conservation gains and species recovery, the Washington Post newspaper reports. “Conservation has been dominated by a lot of doom and gloom,” said the co-chair of the IUCN task force that developed the Green Status List. “[This] is a useful metric to see what conservation has done and what conservation can do.” Conservation groups have tried many things to help wildlife and habitats survive and succeed. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one effort. Use what you read to create a poster or PowerPoint presentation explaining the effort and detailing how successful it has been (or will be). Use images from the newspaper or Internet to illustrate your poster/PowerPoint.

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.